The first priority many foreign visitors who go to Egypt have to deal with is how to secure a perfect Arabic English translator. This is because of the widely held notion that Arabic is the language mostly spoken in the country. And that is a fact largely true, but only up to a specific situational context.
A closer scrutiny of the layers of dialects used across different demographics within the country indicates distinct differences in the type of Arabic used in several places. However, the two major forms in popular use are the Egyptian Arabic and the Modern Standard Arabic.
The latter is used mainly in documentations and for instructional purposes in leaning institutions. For that matter, if you wish to Learn Arabic language in Egypt, you will most certainly be exposed to the modern Arabic variety.
The Influences of Immigrants in Shaping Spoken Communication
Apart from the two variants of Arabic, there are other dialects in common use. An important fact to state at this point is that many forms of spoken communication in Egypt are heavily influenced by immigrant tongues.
Therefore, it would not be a misconception to conclude that there is a marked difference between the spoken and the written Arabic. Factors that might contribute to the differences are such as the intrusion of foreign dialects.
A Colloquial Cocktail of Languages
A notable exception is the Egyptian Arabic. Although it is not officially recognized, it is the commonest variant spoken throughout the country. It is a colloquial cocktail of French, Turkish, Armenian, Arabic, Italian, Ottoman, Amharic, Greek and Coptic languages. That is why it is treated as a street language popularly used by the common man.
Written Verses Spoken Languages
Egypt is a classic example of a country where the standard written version of Arabic is glaringly different from the spoken forms of the same language.
Spoken languages are often an accurate reflection of the regional and demographic disparities in a nation-state. It is the sole factor that contributes to the drastic variations and shades found within one language.
Luckily, the standard written form serves as the official lingua franca. It acts as a binding glue that unifies all the existing shades and dialects spoken in far-flung places. It is not surprising that a person searching for an Arabic interpreter for court usually prefers the written version of Arabic.
It is, however, not surprising that even the Modern Standard Arabic officially used in Egypt is made up of distinct dialects from many vernacular languages. Its roots are in the ancient Arabic used during the medieval times. But with the passage of time; and due to the heavy French and English influences, its original phrasings, styles, syntax and grammar have changed.
Which Other Languages are Spoken in Egypt?
Apart from Arabic, the English and the French languages are also commonly used in many Urban centers. These two foreign languages are sometimes viewed as the preserve of people who are highly cultured and educated. They use it as a second language.
Alongside the major languages, there are also other smaller and local language variants spoken in different parts of Egypt. If you are a traveler in this desert country, you are likely to be confronted by many varying dialects in several locations. Here is a list of some of these languages.
Sa’idi Arabic: This language is favored by many rural folks who live near the Sudanese border.
Sudanese Arabic: Is commonly used by immigrants from Sudan, Moroccans, Algerians etc.
The Nobiin: although not so widespread, this is a language mostly used by the Nubian people
The Bedawi: It is an Afro-Asiatic language from the Cushitic origin. The desert tribes, mostly the Beja and Bedouin speak this language. If you love the outdoors in the desert, learning a few words of Bedawi would be handy. The Siwi and Mattokki also speak it.
The Berber Language: This local language is a favorite of the tribes living in the western Egyptian deserts.
The Coptic Language: This is an ancient tongue that had deep religious associations. Presently, it is rarely used except as a language of liturgy incantation in the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Egypt Ancient Hieroglyphics: Linked to the emergence of modern writing, this special ancient language is used in situations of high anthropological significance.
If you are a tourist hoping to sample the delights of places far removed from the traditional tourist trails, knowing which language is spoken in a particular region can add to your sense of adventure. Depending on the historical and geographic factors, many of the vernacular languages are markedly different.
In metropolises like Cairo, the languages spoken are heavily influenced by the status of the cities. The influx of foreigners into many international hubs creates a melting-pot of cultures, dialects and languages. At first, the languages might sound similar to an untrained ear. So, instead of grappling with the differences, the best option is to stick to the Modern Standard Arabic.