I want my child to learn Arabic, but which one?

Sometimes having bilingual kids isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. You think, “All I have to do is teach my child a second language” and like magic – they’re bilingual! Right?

It doesn’t always work out that way…

Let’s say your child is learning French. Okay, French, it is. What about Spanish. Sure, no problem. Now, let’s switch that second language pick to Arabic. Arabic is Arabic. Um, not really. With multiple dialects and different forms, adding this language to your child’s repertoire means understanding the differences between dialects and choosing which one (or ones) you want him to learn.

Why Learn Arabic?

Shouldn’t your child learn Spanish? Or French? Or some language that it seems like lots of people speak. Yes. But, don’t count out other languages that seem less common. Arabic is considered a “critical language.” That means there’s a bigger demand for Arabic speakers than the supply. Starting Arabic early on may be easier for your child to learn (that is – now vs. as a teen or adult) and it could give them an edge later in life. Critical language speakers (we’re talking about adults here) are in high demand when it comes to jobs in the government and with international businesses.

How Many Arabic Dialects Are There?

little-boy-reading-book_zpszgfpmzklWith over 250 million Arabic speakers worldwide, it’s no wonder that there’s more than one dialect. Arabic is most commonly spoken in the Middle East and North Africa and is the religious language of Muslims around the globe. Different dialects exist in different areas. The specific dialect depends on where the speaker lives.

The most commonly spoken form of this language is Modern Standard Arabic. You’ll find this version in many Arabic and religious texts, making it a top dialect that students learn. That said, many speakers mix it with their own regional dialects. These regional versions of the language include four primary types – Egyptian, Levantine (spoken primarily in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine), Iraqi/Gulf and North African (this includes Moroccan Arabic). With globalization and moving across countries (and continents) these dialects may at times blend and mix to create entirely new types of speech.

Which Dialect Should You Choose?

The specific dialect your child learns depends on what your language goals are. Are you planning to visit Northern Africa? Then the Moroccan dialect is for your family. Maybe your family is from the Sudan. Then Egyptian is probably the one to pick. If you want your child to have a base language that is spoken in more places than other dialects, Modern Standard Arabic is definitely an option to investigate. Modern Standard Arabic is also a top pick if you’re interested in getting your child into reading Arabic literature.

What Challenges Might My Child Face?

little-boy-reading-book_zpszgfpmzklNo one’s saying that Arabic is easy. Yes, it’s true that younger children tend to have an easier time picking up a second language (and becoming bilingual kids) than adults do. But, this language may seem beyond foreign to your little learner. Why? Unlike Spanish or French, your child will need to learn an entirely new alphabet. Gone are the A,B,C’s that they have been so intently studying at home or at preschool. The script is much more graphic than the English alphabet, making it harder for new students to understand and read. In addition to this, your child will need to switch from left to right to right to left reading. That said, with the proper teaching and a positive attitude, your child can pick up on Arabic and become bilingual!

What Arabic dialect will your child learn? Share your choice (and why) in the comments section below!


  1. Samah says:

    I am a native Arabic speaker. I grew up in the Sudan so when I had my daughter off course I taught her the Sudanese dialect. But as you mentioned in the blog above in order for her to read Arabic she will need to learn the Modern Standard Arabic. So if I weren’t a native Arabic speaker, I think I would choose the Egyptian dialect because most Arabs can understand this dialect. You mentioned in the blog above that if one were to visit North Africa, it’s best to learn the Moroccan dialect. I actually disagree, as I am a native Arabic speaker, I speak in the Sudanese, Saudi, Egyptian, Lebanese, & Syrian accent. I also read, write, & speak Modern Standard Arabic, but still I cannot understand most of the Moroccan dialect. I had a friend from Moroco & most of the time we talk to each other in English!!!..So again I suggest the Egyptian dialect, but definitely learning the Modern Standard Arabic is best for reading, writing & speaking the Language. Also I forgot to mention that even though there are different Arabic dialects, these dialects are only spoken, but people only write in the Modern Standard Arabic.

  2. Llacey says:

    Hi Samah, thank you so much for your post! This is very helpful to know. I am teaching my son Arabic and, you’re right, I was told by his Arabic tutor (who speaks the Egyptian dialect) that this is the best one to learn for him now. He also goes to a formal language program and the teacher is from Jordan, so she is teaching the Modern Standard form. But, thank you again for your insight 🙂

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