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Most Arabic speakers will know both Quranic (Classical) Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), especially among Muslims who study the Quran. However, Classical Arabic is mostly used in religious literature and writing and not in modern language. MSA is the standardised and literary variety of Arabic used in writing and in most formal speech. MSA is basedon the Classical Arabic, but structural influence from foreign languages has also affected MSA according to the modern needs. Furthermore, MSA is the standard taught in schools.

To conclude: for translation, MSA is always recommended, unless the content that needs to be translated refers to religious texts/old writings.

The Arabic dialects are quite varied and they can be grouped as follows:

  • Maghrebi group (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, WesternSahara, Mauritania)
  • Sudanese group (Anseba Region, Gash-Barka Region, Sudan)
  • Egyptian group (Egypt)
  • Arabian Peninsula group (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Southern Iraq, native Jordanians)
  • Mesopotamian group (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Cyprus, Kuwait, Bahrain, Khuzestan  – Iran – , Eastern Province – Saudi Arabia – , Qatar)
  • Levantine group (Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Turkey)
  • Andalusian group

As the name suggests, Modern Standard Arabic is a standard that all of the above groups use in writing – a universal writing system to which all Arabic countries adhere, while the above groups refer to Arabic dialects, which are primarily spoken.

It has been the topic of long debates which Arabic dialect is closest to MSA (some believe Levantine, others consider Saudi Arabia to be closest). While all dialects (Egyptian included) come with specific grammar, sentence structure, passive voice, local words and pronunciation, the major differences are mostly spoken, not written ones.

To put it simply, while hearing/speaking MSA might sound weird to native Egyptians, they would have no issue reading it as Egypt applies the same standard.

Here at Lingo24 we have a selected database of Arabic linguists, so if you are looking for translations from or into MSA or Classical Arabic, please get in touch with us.


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