GLOSS now has Arabic dialects!

It's been a while since I visited the GLOSS website. For the past few months I've just been watching Arabic TV shows, but when I saw it yesterday I noticed that it now has Arabic dialect lessons! There are lessons for Levantine, Iraqi, Gulf, and Egyptian. When I looked at the Levantine lessons the first few I went to were all recorded by someone reading something that was written down. The way people read is a lot different than the way they talk off the top of their head with nothing to look at. Talking is a lot harder to understand than reading since talking is usually a bit jumbled and not so proper. Even natives make mistakes when they're talking. Things being read are great if you're starting out on a dialect because everything is really clear and spoken slowly so you can hear every syllable and learn new words, however if you only ever hear speech like that (slow, clear, meant for learners of the language) then you'll have a lot of trouble with fast everyday speech spoken between natives of the language.

There are also authentic materials from the media on GLOSS though, so you'll find something that suites you. And best of all there are transcripts of what is being said. That way you don't have to wonder if you're hearing the word correctly or not. Some of the audio is very distorted and low quality which is good for advanced learners in my opinion, but if you're just beginning it can be frustrating. If you find a clip where the audio quality is bad you can click the button at the bottom labeled "alternate audio" to get the audio of someone reading the text. I used GLOSS a lot when I was studying MSA and now that they have dialects I plan to go through all of those lessons too. I don't actually do the lessons. I just open the audio and transcript and go through it until I can hear and understand everything. If you want you can go through the questions they ask, but personally I haven't found them to be very useful. GLOSS is also starting to add videos with transcripts and they have 22 right now for MSA, but currently there are no videos for the dialects.


Jaz said...

Thanks for posting, love your blog. But this post is showing up in some kind of webdings font.. I have to copy it to notepad to read it.

The Arabic Student said...

Ok, it should be fixed now. I was trying a new font and I could read it in Firefox but Internet Explorer just made it gibberish. Thanks for letting me know :).

Linguist said...

Some Useful Ol’- Time Sources: BOOKS (!)

Although the trend in language learning is AWAY from books and into digital technology, the fact remains that books offer a language learner certain dimensions to learning that technology can never equal or surpass. 4 books I recommend for the serious student are:

1. Modern Arabic Short Stories : A Bilingual Reader (Husni & Newman) 2008.

This is the only source I know of that shows the original Arabic on one page with an English translation on the facing page. Level is high-intermediate and above. Available through

Of course, it uses MSA (the fusHa) so it’s not a source for spoken, colloquial Arabic. But if you want an introduction to the literary language beyond the language of TV and other media, this is a good place to start.

There are other bilingual texts, mostly of an elementary or low intermediate level available.

But these are translations FROM the original English INTO Arabic so the Arabic is not really what you might call “authentic”.

They’re mostly translations of the “classics” (usually very shortened forms of the classics) like Moby Dick, David Copperfield, The Red Badge of Courage and so on.

One big problem is that they’re not really available in the West, even thru Amazon. They’re in all the bookstores here in the Middle East, but I’ve never seen them in the US or Europe. (No tape or other audio equipment)

2. An Introduction to Egyptian Colloquial Arabic. (T.F.Mitchell) 1956, 1978.

Originally published over 60 years ago, this remains a standard for the colloquial, spoken Arabic of Egypt. It’s still available through Amazon and other outlets.

Its claim to fame is that it contains very detailed explanations of how Egyptian works (and why). The explanations use terminology that is a little “dated” or at least assumes you are familiar with grammatical terms (like: pronominal suffix), but he gives many examples so you immediately know what he’s talking about. His transliteration is a little odd too, but you get used to it real fast.

Neither his terminology nor transliteration was a problem for me at all.

It’s other claim to fame is that almost half the book contains short parables and stories in Egyptian colloquial so that you can “read” more than just a sentence and see how the language works. A “must have” for a student of spoken Egyptian Arabic. (No tape or other audio equipment)

3. and 4. Colloquial Arabic of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia. Clive Holes. and Breakthrough Arabic. Editor: Brian Hill.

Two modern products with very good examples of the colloquial dialects of the “Gulf” and “Trans-Jordan Arabic” (I like that term. I sorta made it up). Both available with recordings.


Neither Mitchell’s nor Hole’s books contain a single Arabic letter anywhere. This has advantages and disadvantages, but be aware of this.

A lot of people on Amazon, I’ve noticed, complain that “the book doesn’t teach the alphabet!” even when the book clearly states it is a spoken language course.

Also, be careful with “recordings”. And not just in Arabic.

Many language books supposedly “come with recordings” of one sort or another, but often, the recordings have to be ordered separately and they don’t always tell you have to do this and you end up with just the book arriving. So be aware of this too.

Finally, despite the title of Clive Holes book, the Arabic taught in the book is not really representative of the Arabic of Saudi Arabia.

I have a hard time accepting Saudi Arabia as a “Gulf” country anyway. It’s really very different from the rest of the Gulf.

Ditto with its language, especially the total lack of the “ch” sound for the “k” sound used almost everywhere else in the Gulf where it is a hallmark of the colloquial.

Ana said...

Hi, i love this link. I think it can really help me with my dialect problem, but how can I see the text of what is being said? Because as u said if you are beginner sometimes you don't understand all the words, and it can be very annoying:(( Thank you again for all your postings!

Ana said...

Hi again! I would like to point out to another resource you didn't mention, from the Defense Language Institute:

Still no transcripts..even though I am thinking of writing them :P I saw they have a link to request transcripts for the recordings, but I think they will laugh at me, but still it would be so useful to have the text also, even without translation...Cheers!

The Arabic Student said...

Ana, did you figure out how to view the transcript? At the top of each lesson you should see Glossary, Source, Info, Resources, Tutorial, and Feedback.

Click on Source and you can see the Arabic. At the bottom of that page click on View Translation to see the English along side it. Hope that helps.

Ana said...

Hey, thank you so much! Now with your help I figured it out. I think this is very good material for me to improve a bit. And it was very annoying, because I understand what they talk about, and some words, but sometimes its that word that u really cant get and u hear it more than once and its so bugging! Thank you very much! I love your blog so much!