I’ve ranted before on how difficult it is to find resources related to learning Levantine Arabic, and how even when you do find them, they tend to be skimpy, disorganized and poorly updated.
But here at the Art of Arabic, we’re into helping you guys out.
And so, I’ve specially compiled for you a list of the most useful resources that yours truly has gathered over the course of a year, dealing specifically with the Levantine dialect.
Please note: I am not affiliated with any of these products in any way and do not receive any commission for recommending them. First and foremost, almost all of these are free and secondly, I’m providing you with this list because I firmly believe that they will add much value and help with your Levantine Arabic education, as they have with mine.
As such, here are my top picks! I hope you enjoy and benefit from them as much as I have.
#1. The Arabic Student: www.thearabicstudent.com
What Is It: I honestly consider this my Bible of Levantine Arabic learning. Set up by an American non-native speaker of Arabic, The Arabic Student has been creating content since 2010 specifically geared for students who want to make the jump from Fus-ha Arabic to Levantine dialect. Not only does he deal with Jordanian Arabic, but also with more popular ones like Lebanese and Egyptian dialects and also with lesser known ones like the Sudanese and Kuwaiti dialect. Whatever rocks your fancy, I consider him one of the leading online experts in the field of Arabic dialect.
Why I Like It: Bursting with clips from news channels, entertainment shows and Youtube videos, The Arabic Student is great at giving exact word-for-word transcriptions, translating them into English and breaking them down further into what they mean, in which context and how to use them. For example, did you know that من وين لوين / min wein lawein means to say What do you mean? And not actually From where to where?
The Arabic Student Knows. And that’s why I placed his blog at the top of the list. You might also want to check out his Youtube channel here, where he has some amazing resources, like Introduction to Levantine Arabic and shows you how to pronounce phrases with the right stresses and accents. And let me tell you, he’s got one of the best Levantine Arabic accents that I’ve come across.
Where You Can Get It: Simply click the link at the top and it will direct you to his blog. There’s loads of valuable content on there, and I usually go by the tag cloud that’s located on the right-hand column to search for posts related to what I’m looking for. For the Youtube Channel, I’ve included the link in the paragraph above.
#2. N2O Comedy Channel on Youtube
What Is It: A brilliant comedy series produced, directed, and acted by (mostly) Jordanians. Comprised of talented cast and crew like Rajae Qawas, Nikolas Khoury, Laith a-Sharie, Abu Nathara and more, it tackles social and political topics with such an amazingly comical touch, it will leave you belly-laughing like few other series can.
Why I Like It: It’s light-hearted, it’s entertaining, it’s well-produced, it’s got good-looking men in it, what more could you possibly want? Jokes aside, it’s great practice for getting used to the Jordanian accent, phrases that they use and gives you insight into Arabic humour. They also tend to go at a rapid clip, which will accustom you to hearing and understanding native speakers because let’s face it, no one speaks with two-second gaps between each word and not many will be prepared to repeat words three times over.
If you’re a beginner, I’d suggest starting with the Fe-Mail series, which has the first few episodes containing English subtitles and the Ex In The City series, which has Jordanian almost-native Brett Weiner explaining how to use expressions in Jordanian dialect.
Most of the episodes in the N2O series come in short, 10-minute like segments so you don’t get overwhelmed with the amount of content you’re consuming. They’re the comedic equivalent of macaroons – light, fluffy, they make you delightfully happy and they finish fast.
Where You Can Get it: Just click on the link above, or search for N2O comedy on YouTube and results are aplenty. If you want the Fe-Mail series in particular, enter it in the search box. Click around on the channel and I promise you’ll find something that will not only entertain you and tickle your funny bone, but will teach you loads about Levantine Arabic.
#3. Being a Fan of the Cast on Facebook
What Is It: It’s really quite straightforward – getting daily updates from members of the cast of N2O when you log into Facebook.
Why I Like It: Whenever the cast members post status updates on their pages, it shows up on your Facebook News Feed. This way, not only does it allow you the rare opportunity to see how Levantine Arabic words are written so you can write it down and refer to it for future reference, but keeps you updated each time a new video is posted.
By the way, the members don’t always post on things related to the show – oftentimes you will see posts related to the local economy, politics, social and cultural issues that will give you some great insight as to what’s happening on the ground in Jordan. Nikolas Khoury, for example, is one of my favourites because he always throws up interesting topics for discussion, like how to alleviate problems relating to poverty in Jordan.
Where You Can Get It: Simply search for any of the names of the cast on Facebook, like ‘Rajae Qawas’, ‘Nikolas Khoury’, or even ‘N2O Comedy’ and their official Facebook fan pages will show up in the search results. Click the ‘Like’ button and their updates will appear on your News Feed.
#4. Diwan Baladna – The Unprecendented Spoken Arabic Dictionary (CD included)
What is it: A book published by Jordanian Arabic teachers Ahmad Kamal Azban and Tony Michael Anqoud, its a fun dictionary that lists out ‘metaphors, metonymies, signs, and similes’ for learners of the Jordanian dialect. This book has served me many times, in providing me with useful phrases and expressions to use (and let’s face it, to impress native speakers with) and I had the pleasure of meeting Ahmad himself during my time in Jordan.
Why I Like It: I always find the more challenging things to understand when it comes to any foreign language are the expressions, metaphors and similes. Diwan Baladna plugs that gap with pages and pages of expressions, greetings and responses that are used in Jordanian dialect and more importantly includes the proper context to use it in and it’s equivalent expression in English.
It’s also divided into different categories, like Positive Characteristics for People, Negative Characteristics for People, What to Say at a Funeral, Common Dialect Verbs, Words Related to Medicine, and so on and so forth.
The book even comes with a handy CD guide, so you can listen to the proper way to pronounce the expressions. The only challenge is because there’s no digital copy and no glossary, it’s not as easy to look Arabic phrases and expressions up for the English equivalent, and instead you have to resort to flipping through the book page by page until you find what you’re looking for.
Where You Can Get It: If you are in Amman, you can purchase the book easily from several bookshops on Rainbow Street, like The Good Book Shop, Books@Cafe or Wild Jordan.
If you are in the United States, you’re in luck! They’ve just started making the books available within the Intercontinental US through US post. All you have to do is send an email to either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
If you are outside of the States and Jordan however, you might have some trouble getting your hands on a copy. At this point they’ve released an e-book version of Arab and Jordanian culture (which is available here on smashwords.com) so I would imagine they would be working on a similar version for the book on Levantine Arabic.
Keep an eye on this space and I’ll let you know the second I find out that they have an e-copy for Levantine Arabic as well.
#5. Colloquial Arabic by Leslie J. McLoughlin
What Is It: An introductory text on Levantine Arabic published by famous British English-Arabic translator and interpreter Leslie McLoughlin. He served as an interpreter for British ministers and Arab VIPs for 20 years and is the author behind books such as Confessions of an Arabic Interpreter, Ibn Saud: Founder of a Kingdom and British Arabists in the Twentieth Century. He’s always been a proponent in the push for the education of dialect Arabic in academic circles, which explains the decision behind the publication of this book.
Why I Like It: It outlines concepts for Levantine Arabic simply and clearly, without any of the dry academic dissertations you will find in most Arabic textbooks. It’s succinct, clearly outlined, easy to understand for the average Arabic learner and includes short and helpful exercises within each chapter. If you prefer a text to refer to in studying Levantine Arabic, this would be one of my recommendations.
The only trouble with this book is that it doesn’t come with an audio guide, unfortunately, so you’ll have to supplement it with another resource for listening.
Where You Can Get It: You can get it on Amazon here, in both the hard copy and the Kindle edition. You can even take peek inside it to see if it will be suitable for you.
What other resources have you come across that you’ve found to be crucial in learning Levantine Arabic? What has been your experience in using the resources listed above? Were they useful to you at all? Or do they need to be scratched off the list? Give us your opinion in the comments!