From MSA to CA: A Beginner’s Guide for Transitioning into Colloquial Arabic

From MSA to CA: A Beginner’s Guide for Transitioning into Colloquial Arabic

Editors note: This is a guest blog post by Lina Gomaa, Arabic Instructor in the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Portland State University, about the Creative Commons-licensed textbook she wrote, From MSA to CA: A Beginner’s Guide for Transitioning into Colloquial Arabic. 

At Portland State University (PSU), the Arabic program is designed to teach Modern Standard Arabic ( MSA) for at least one year, after which the students can learn Colloquial Arabic (CA). Because of how the Arabic program at PSU is designed (similar to many programs in the USA), the importance of this book arises. This transition can be challenging for some students. The book targets students in NM (Novice Mid) who have studied Arabic for a year or more and aims to help them advance to IL (Intermediate Low) according to the Oral Proficiency Interview standards by ACTFL, the American Council on The Teaching of Foreign Languages.

This book documents answers to questions from students in CA classes. Its goal is to transition students smoothly from MSA to CA, giving them confidence to explore both varieties while reaching the NH (Novice High) or IL level, navigate predictable social situations in CA, and utilize their previous knowledge in MSA to learn CA. The content and structure are based on my teaching experience and as an ACTFL OPI interviewer to assist students in their quest to speak CA with native speakers with relative ease.

The material, organization, topics and translations are based on comments, suggestions and ideas which students shared with me during teaching colloquial Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic. While creating the book, I wanted it to be a reference for students to “get a feel” for MSA and CA similarities and differences. This book introduces the Cairene Egyptian dialect; however, it also explains commonly used expressions in the Levant (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel). The goal is to introduce students to more varieties, allowing them to choose which dialect to specialize in and still be able to communicate with Arabic speakers. Although this book does not introduce Gulf dialects, many of the expressions and terms are frequently used in most of the Arab world, and many are derived from MSA I aim that this book will benefit students of Arabic at PSU and elsewhere, reduce their textbook expenses, and help them improve their CA speaking.

I also hope that the dialogues (recorded by PSU students of Arabic) will be enjoyable for learners and provide successful examples for others to follow.

The book is published on the PSU library page and the website of the Center for Open Education at the University of Minnesota. It has been downloaded over 1,000 times and counting all over the world by different universities, institutions, business and governmental bodies.

Professor Lina Gomaa is an Arabic instructor at Portland State University.

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