link I found about choosing an arabic dialect and a helpful alphabet course
I've been pretty sure I want to learn MSA but after reading this I'm starting to lean towards Egyptian Arabic.
Also I wanted to point out there's a link to a course on learning the arabic alphabet in the first paragraph. I did day one earlier and have been writing ال in google translate (on my phone so I can use the touch screen) all day, so amazed to be able to write my first word.
It’s generally reccomended to do standard first for many reasons: 1) Without fus7a you will be functionally illiterate (newspapers, books, news on tv etc are all written in standard. Even the Qu’ranic Arabic is closest to fus7a) 2) Dialects don’t use the accents (بَ، تِ، مُ) etc., so you won’t understand the vowel sounds or where they’re placed. When beginning fus7a, you use these which helps become familiar with writing. 3) In dialects, there’s often no agreed spelling/pronunciation for a word. The Egyptian you hear in Cairo, and the Egyptian in the deep countryside for example, are completley different. When dialects are written, usually they’re written in arabish, which is the Latin script and numbers (again, these numbers and letters vary even down to the village). 4) People in different countries generally can’t understand other dialects. However, any educated Arab will read fus7a, even if it’s somewhat unnatural to speak. Yet a Moroccan and Egyptian speaking only dialects won’t understand most of what the other says. 5) A lot of dialects have influence from other languages spoken in the country. In Beriut, hello is “bonjourak,” coming from French Bonjour, and the you ending -ak. Compared to something like “ahlan اهلا” in standard.
There’s many more reasons, but it’s long enough already. If your purpose is learning Arabic for the short term, to visit Egypt on a trip or watch Egyptian soap operas, sure learning a dialect is better.
If you plan to seriously learn Arabic, for visiting more than one country, reading books, newspapers, etc, or simply to translate etc, it’s best to start with fus7a. Even if you start with Egyptian and work backwards, you’re likely to hold onto Egyptian spellings when trying to write standard, and it’s going to be harder.
I understand that at least those who have been to school can understand MSA, but speaking it is another matter. Even if they can, it's not natural. So knowing only MSA you're in a situation where maybe you can talk to people, but you can't understand the reply. I hope Duolingo will add courses for some of the major "dialects," although I'm certainly not holding my breath.