“So when y’all meet, what do you speak?”

“So when y’all meet, what do you speak?” As a faculty who teaches Arabic, I always hear this question from my students in their attempt to shed light on the mysteries of the many dialects of Arabic (Arabic has a Standard form, mostly written. It also has many spoken dialects.)

Saturday, February the 21st I attended the winter conference for the New York Arabic Teachers council.The conference concentrated on using resources to teach Arabic. The sessions revolved around two main aspects (that may intersect in more than one way); using electronic resources and using authentic resources.

I was listening to the keynote speaker, Dr.Essa, trying to not miss what might prove to be a useful piece of information for teaching when it hit me: he was speaking in Modern Standard Arabic.


The conference was a formal professional setting involving the use of lots of pedagogical jargon. Some of the attendees were native in Arabic, some where heritage speakers and others studied it as a foreign language, and were now performing at superior levels.  Modern Standard Arabic (also known as MSA) was really the only option.

And to all students of the Arabic language I say: remember the old saying: لِكُلِّ مَقامٍ مَقال (roughly translated: context governs speech).


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