Ironically, this is the first correct audio Arabic pronunciation of ج in the course so far (correctly: a hard J as in Jim)
Only, this is one of those rare words where it is not pronounced standardly as it should, because it is a non-native word, so it should be pronounced just as the g in English
not just classical Arabic - MSA has only one pronunciation for ج which is a hard J as in Jim.
The soft j adopted generally in this course (this one sentence is an exception) is a distinct error. It is specifically: Levantine dialect, which is not MSA (Arabic). One can even argue that each Arabic dialect is a language in its own right. Actually, less than 10% of Arabs speak this dialect and as such pronounce it like that, and most other dialects have an entirely different pronunciation for this letter.
Which is why the MSA pronunciation is the only one valid when teaching 'Arabic' rather than a dialect, which makes this audio file inaccurate.
I disagree, especially the bold claim that "we always teach it as dʒ in MSA" and calling the audio in this case outright incorrect. I've certainly heard it taught and used, but never alone as the standard. I've heard from native speakers from a few areas, including Egypt, Kuwait and Lebanon who all heavily use ʒ despite differences in pronunciation in local dialect. I've seen it taught in courses as ʒ as well as dʒ.
The fact of the matter though, is that if your pronounce it either way, you will be understood without issue.
After some more reading though, I do agree that dʒ seems to be used in larger geographic areas.
native speakers in Egypt use an entirely different sound for ج which is like a g in goal.
Native speakers in the Arabian Gulf (like Kuwait) have another sound for ج which is a y as in yodel with the exception of bedouin traditions who use a ج similar to j in Jim, the MSA one. I am native to both Egypt and Bahrain.
it really is not a bold claim, it is just - Arabic. There are a thousand references for MSA, and in the mother tongue itself, ma3aajim if you may, and they all concur on the pronunciation of the ج in Arabic.
Pretty much the only ones who pronounce a soft j as in bonjour, are Levantines, who have a beautiful dialect in their own right, but it is what it is - a dialect, or even a language in its own right, but not standard Arabic.
It is not an issue of being understood - many dialects are being understood. But to teach without bias, means one would teach atleast four different varying pronunciations of the same letter, expand that to every dialect's rules of grammar, structure, vocabulary... they are all different.
This is basically why MSA exists - it is the standard Arabic. If one wants to learn a specific dialect, then that itself is another road, and an easier road than learning Arabic.
My critique is that the course here is strongly biased towards Levantine dialect under a pretext of 'usability' but: that is not the identity of Arabic. It is not made to be a language of just usability, it is strongly a language of aesthetic and pattern. It is almost MEANT to be impractical (which is why dialect exists).
Even though say Egyptians pronounce an entirely different ج than MSA, and the Gulf has a whole other one, they will all agree and tell you - this is their dialect, it is not correct Arabic.
The issue is: a dialectical pronunciation of ج is presented in this course AS Arabic, not as a local dialect which it is, and that is wrong.
I'm aware of differences in dialect, which is why I told you what they teach despite having differences on dialect. E.g. just cause the teacher was from Egypt, it didn't mean he taught "g" but rather he taught ˈʒˈ.
MSA isn't representative of Arabic as a whole, it is something that came into existence to fill a need. That need was for widely understood literature, so a common way of reading and writing was adapted, most likely originating from existing literature that was widespread such as holy literature. It's not there to be impractical, I assure you if that were the case it would have died out quickly as humans do not communicate to be impractical. I would say it's existence is hyper-practical, in that it assists in communication between highly disparate speech such as the dialects we collectively call Arabic.
This course though does not presume to teach MSA or to assume it's teachings are "The Arabic". In fact as it was released the contributers made a post that detailed some of their decisions in striking a balance between teaching MSA and spoken language. The way they described it was something like "not the way a newscaster would speak when reading the teleprompter but the way he would speak to an interviewee", so they do present it as a dialect even if that post is not commonly seen.
I can see that your concern is likely that the name of the course would make others think this is "the one true Arabic", and maybe it will. Maybe it won't. Time will tell. I don't personally think anyone who learns the language and intends to use it would be ignorant enough to not know of how much variety exists between Arabic dialects. There isn't a place they would visit with this language that isn't heavily influenced by such things.
I feel so arabsplained :D jk
before I respond just a few elaborations on your words, should you wish to.
'The contributors made a post that detailed some of their decisions in striking a balance between teaching MSA and a spoken language' As you know - there is no universal Arabic spoken language - it is widely varying dialects. So 1) which dialect do they mean by 'spoken language' and 2) why? what are the criteria for choosing that dialect to represent 'Arabic'? 3) should the definition of what 'Arabic' means be decided by Duo or what 22+ countries who formally use Arabic and the holders of the identity of the language, decided to define 'Arabic' as? 4) As you know each dialect has its own rules and vocabulary and usage. What are the new rules of this new language between 'MSA and whichever 'spoken language' they chose?
I'll respond in detail following your elaborations, this is a useful discussion for readers :)
Thank you for you detailed responses.
I am not defending their choices, but I was just pointing out that they specifically had stated that they aren't teaching standard MSA.
I want to go back to ج for a second though. I mentioned this as it's not the first or even 4th time it's been taught to me by various people including natives of Kuwait, Lebanon and Egypt (and even a Palastinian girl), all of them have taught at least 3 basic sounds as correct (dʒ ʒ ɡ). Unfortunately as most of them are just friends who immigrated here from those countries I can't link them as references but I do have something to reference for this type of phenomena.
Professor Ahmed El Eissawa, instructer who teaches Arabic as a second language for the United Nations and who has made videos for the YouTube channel "Arab American Cultural TV", he teaches ج as all 3 of the mentioned sounds and adds the specific note saying "Anyone who tells you that any of these sounds are wrong, is just wrong"
I completely understood why you said 'arabsplained', I genuinely liked that. I am only able to convey my experiences though which are small, but of them you are the first person to say that the only correct way to pronounce it is dʒ. From my small anecdotal experience, that makes that advice come from less than 10% of natives to middle eastern countries that I have learned from or spoken to.
I am sure that this course had errors and I believe you in that it may lead me down the wrong path, in fact I honestly expect that from all language courses no matter who teaches them. All I can do about that is ensure I learn from multiple sources and encourage that other learners will do the same. This course is also in beta and is expected to have errors due to that as well, to fix those we need people with adequate fluency to identify and report them or to contribute to the course directly if possible.
I am optimistic that it will get better. :)
As an aside, for the 'who defines a language' thing, if we speakers defined the language entirely then we wouldn't even consider some of these things the same language. For example I am a native English speaker who often does international work, and there are very specific cultures who have many English speakers with a dialect so different that I often cannot understand them, plus not many people want to spend time ensuring they are understood. The point being that if it were really up to all the native speakers rather than people who professionally identify language features, grammar and differences then the languages of the world would be presented in a far different manner IMO. These cultures drive the languages development but it is observers who must differentiate them into categories like "language" and "dialect" to keep things somewhat uniform or at least agreed upon.
Okay, first I love that you just made and used the word "arabsplained" and second I thank you for hanging in there with me as we discuss this.
I will try to answer these the best I can, but keep in mind I'm not a contributer.
By spoken language they mean "an informal spoken version of MSA"
Because they think it will be the most widely understood version they can teach, they believe it will allow the learner to communicate with more speakers this way.
This is a large question. Firstly, you are contrasting Duo and native speakers which aren't different things. Duo's courses come from speakers who display adequete fluency in both the source and Target language and the model works best when there are native speakers from both languages with excellent fluency in the other languages contributing. So these options are the same to me and honestly are both pretty well inaccurate as the responsible party. Ideally linguists, who spend years learning and categorizing languages would define there terms. But even then, we'd still be where we are now as having a bunch of dialects which can be quite distant from each other yet still referred to as the same language. That all said, they aren't trying to define Arabic, they are just trying to teach it well enough for people to communicate with as many other speakers as possible.
I can't answer this due to lack of knowledge in formal MSA as well as what they consider informal MSA
Edit: oh here's their article https://making.duolingo.com/what-makes-arabic-hard-and-why-that-shouldnt-stop-you-from-learning-it
i'll just comment on the sounds.
actually, the 'g (as in goat) pronunciation that Egyptians use for ج is DEFINITELY incorrect, because it is accepted as a whole other letter in MSA - (a Yemeni ق ), a less known variant within MSA of pronouncing qaaf.
Again: when I say 'incorrect' I say incorrect relative to MSA. In dialect, it is 'correct' after all Egyptians speak like that.
I had a quick look for sources, here is wikipedia https://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D8%AC الجيم (ج) هو خامس حروف الأبجدية العربية، وقيمتها 3 في حساب الجمل، وينطق كالتالي:<pre>
الجيم تلفظ [dʒ] في العربية الفصحى وفي أغلب لهجات وسط وشمال وغرب شبه الجزيرة عربية والسودان وبعض مناطق اليمن وبعض لهجات البدو الشامية. تلفظ [g] في المصرية وباقي مناطق اليمن. تلفظ [ʒ] في اللهجات المغربية وأغلب اللهجات الشامية. تلفظ [j] في مناطق شرق شبه الجزيرة عربية والعراق.</pre>
First line: dʒ in standard Arabic (fus7a) and in most dialects of Arabia and the Gulf and Sudan and some parts of Yemen and Levantine bedouin.
The rest three lines show how it is pronounced in various dialects.
Hey StephieRice, thanks for engaging, have a lingot :)
I will answer you in detail, as objectively as I can then.
1) There is no informal spoken version of MSA. There is MSA, and there is informal dialects. MSA is one version - the exact same version in a textbook in Morocco as would be in a textbook in Bahrain, the same grammar, the same pronunciation, the same vocabulary, the same rules. If you see any trans-Arab broadcast say the BBC Arabic or MBC or Al Arabiyyah, they are speaking MSA, proper MSA. (note I said 'trans-Arab' as in watched across the Middle East and Arabs abroad. This also applies to most national broadcasts that hire qualified staff. Local town broadcasts may speak dialect, or BAD (incorrect) MSA - they are TRYING to speak MSA but failing uncomfortably. There is no word even in Arabic for 'spoken MSA' - there are words for each dialect, or MSA. Infact, 'MSA' is more a teaching term for Arabic as a second language, which is what applies here. In Arabic, there is no real difference in terminology between MSA and Classical, Classical is considered highly advanced Arabic skill (as far as linguistic skills are concerned) This is why I specifically asked the question - what the makers specifically called as 'an informal spoken version of MSA' is nonexistent, Arabs have no such recognition. Therefore what effectively happened is 'an inaccurate grammar in MSA' or 'a strong bias in Levantine dialect in MSA' both of which are not Arabic.
2) Secondly, I will answer this question. In what I am seeing so far from the course (pronunciation, vocabulary and general manner of Arabic), is a strong bias towards Levantine dialect (I say 'Levantine' because you can sort of combine small dialectical differences between nations of the Levant, such that you consider this one language or atleast one dialect family). Now, note I asked you 'what are the criteria of choosing this dialect to represent Arabic'. This dialect is spoken by around 10% of Arabs. I also asked this question to one of Duolingo's administrators. The answer I got was 'this is how newscasters speak' and 'Levantine is closest to MSA' - either of which are inaccurate (you will likely come across this exchange in one of the threads). this is neither how transnational Arab broadcasters speak, nor is Levantine closest to MSA (that is a completely arbitrary statement) Why, for instance, not Egyptian Arabic? I can give you bbetter criteria for choosing Egyptian Arabic. It is spoken by one out of every three Arabs, and it is the most widely understood dialect of Arabic. And actually, it has its own grammar rules and references as well. Why not Gulf/Arabian Arabic? Here are the criteria: Arabians are the first Arabs, they exported the language. Their dialect has a historical identity core to the language, it emerged from their environment. Why not Hassaniyya Arabic dialect? The criteria: this actually IS very close to MSA, even classical Arabic. It sounds beautiful to hear. As you see, there are no real criteria for choosing Levantine Arabic, no objective ones, just arbitrary ones. Because the assumptions are wrong, the product is coming out wrong. And I say 'wrong' - there are some critical mistakes in this course so far. Even those who have studied Arabic as a second language are detecting it. They are not 'overlooks' they are 'mistakes. Mistakes in grammar, mistakes in pronunciation. These two are key in Arabic.
- I talked about this in an earlier blog as well. I specifically used the word 'arabsplaining' for a reason. Let us translate language identity into gender identity for a second, to draw a parallel. I am a man. For me to presume what is best and not for a woman on how to organize childcare and maternity, makes me a mansplainer. Even if I am a lawmaker, the onus of deciding on these things that affects women's lives, comes from women, period. I do not even have an opinion on that - mine is to implement, if I am in a position of implementing. Duo is in this position when it comes to language identity. The identity of the Arabic language is owned by native Arabic speakers - that is 22+ countries. They decided what that word 'Arabic' means and the identity of this language. And they have decided that there is no such thing as 'halfway between MSA and dialect' and they have decided to adopt an 'impractical language' and teach it. This is exactly why you have MSA taught side-by-side with local dialects in many language centers that teach Arabic across the mdieast, but: for public schools it is almost always MSA. There is a reason why Arabs decided, collectively, to adopt an impractical language as a formal language, and choose to communicate in dialect. Because: Arab is in its very essence, born of poetry and aesthetics and formalities, not strictly practicality. Who were the holders and definers of this identity in antiquity? poets. Then: clergy. Then: politicians and clergymen and poets again. Can anyone study it now? yes. But: let us take Egyptian Arabic for instance because it is the single dialect with the most speakers: Every egyptian pronounces a ج wrong (relative to MSA) - they say g as in gift. But: they ALL acknowledge that this is 'wrong' in Arabic (note the word: 'wrong') and that this is solely their dialect. When they teach it in school or to teach a non native they go 'j'. When they talk to an Arab from a different nationality who's name has the letter they pronounce it correctly 'Jaasim'. This tells you the language identity: That Egyptians (as 1 out of every 3 Arab speakers) CHOSE the language identity of Arabic to be different than their own dialectical identity, and concur to it. That it is an advanced language and too elaborate to use for daily communication.
The onus of choosing this language identity, rest with Arabs, and it trumps whatever identity Duo chooses for a language (I say this and I love Duo). And this applies to any language really. If Duo wants to teach Japanese, then it should teach what Japanese people define to constitute Japanese, not what Duo decides will be Japanese. And this is exactly what is happening here - Duo has decided that some phantom 'mix between MSA and spoken dialect (in this case Levantine)' will be what constitutes 'Arabic'. And it isnt. Arabs do not recognize this language, it is nonexistent. There is Arabic, and there is Levantine dialect.
And this is unfair to both the learner, and the language. As a learner, you are learning Arabic littered with mistakes, one that only 10% of Arabs speak, with a strong cultural bias. And this is not the identity of the language, and it does rid it of its essential aesthetic quality.
Is Arabic (MSA) hard to learn? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. But - Duo can teach other languages (or say: dialects). Egyptian Arabic. Levantine Arabic. So much easier, with their own rules, with their own systems. But to teach a nonexistent language and call it 'Arabic' (for what is a language of rules and systems VERY clearly defined) is arabsplaining. And it eventually will lead to MANY complications.
Infact there was one learner I was talking to, a second year Arabic language learner - who is using Duo in a whole different way, to use Duo's sentences and instructions to test his own Arabic skills, by detecting errors! It is a pretty out-of-the-box learning method, but it does tell you how making assumptions that are inherently wrong and unfair to the language, results in critical errors.
Thanks again for the great engagement :) Lingots for you!
Here is a video I found online for skills in ‘tajweed’ (classical readings of Arabic)
It specifically says: the breath must be stopped by the tongue on the roof of the mouth.
Then it goes on to say (3:23 onwards) that ‘just constricting the breath without completely stopping it makes for a wrong ج
The interesting thing is: the one making the video is most likely Levantine (from his tonations), and he himself slips into making the mistake he warns against in several pronunciations of the letter...
:-) it really is just one pronunciation in Arabic.