Update From Nubia + Early Access To The Epic Arabic Language Project

Update From Nubia + Early Access To The Epic Arabic Language Project

G’day! 🙂

How’s your language learning going?

I’ve finally arrived back in Cairo after an amazing journey down to Nubia in the far south of Egypt along the border of Sudan (hence the lack of updates the last few weeks!).

I had originally hoped to go into Sudan as well but I’ve decided to postpone that for a later trip.

Although I’ve stayed in Egypt several times over the last 12 years, this was actually the first chance I’ve had to venture down this close to the Sudanese border and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Abu Simbel, Egypt

The hospitality and friendliness of the Nubians left such a good impression on me that I’ve decided to look into moving my “office” there for a while from Cairo. 🙂

Not only is the area stunningly beautiful (much more than Cairo) but it will give me a good chance to experience and learn a very different ‘flavour’ of Egyptian Arabic as well.

The accent the people speak south of Aswan was more of a challenge for me even at my level in Egyptian but I found it so incredibly fun and interesting to listen to. Hopefully next time I’m down there I’ll be able to collect some sample recordings for you so you can hear the difference (Nubians actually have their own native languages so of course their Arabic is influenced by them as well).

I had zero time to do any Arabic study on my trip unfortunately but the enormous amount of speaking practice with locals made up for it anyway. 🙂

Now it’s back to work!

Early, alpha stage access to our epic Arabic language project!

I gave it a lot of thought on my trip and made an important decision today.

The Arabic project that I’ve talk about quite a lot this year was ideally meant to be finished and announced back in June but due to all the moving around I’ve done and some other distractions, it’s unfortunately faced quite a few delays in getting finished.

So I’ve decided to do something special for you…

Since I get questions each week asking about resources for spoken Arabic and I know for a fact that what we’ve already put together will be extremely useful for a lot of you, I’ve decided to announce the project and share it with you earlywhile it’s being developed.

This basically means that you can make use of it while it’s being worked on and also help us steer it in the right direction at the same time.

I’m confident that what’s been put together so far will impress you and help you a lot even in its unfinished state. It’ll also give us a chance to hear what you think (feedback, suggestions and so on) so we know what to focus our energy on as a top priority.

If you’re learning a spoken dialect of Arabic then this will help you.

When will it be announced?

I’m only going to share it with those of you on the mailing list sometime around the end of next week.

I won’t be posting anything about it here on the blog for sometime so if you’re interested and want to be informed then you need join at the top of this page (select the language you’re learning, enter your email and click ‘Join’).

I’ll send out an email next week explaining in detail what it’s all about.

UPDATE: I announced it and it’s been a huge success. The project’s called TalkInArabic.com (here’s a learner’s review).

شكرا 🙂

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Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Icelandic


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Pllllease say this isn't just for Egyptian arabic!

Donovan Nagel

Nope. :)

Most spoken dialects are covered.


Fun fact: you posted this just a day after I decided to study Levantine Arabic and realized I was going to stumble into a lot of walls. Coincidence? I think not.

Looking forward to hearing about it on the mailing list!

Donovan Nagel

Great :)

Can't wait to share it with you.

Donovan Nagel

Can I ask why you want conversational material for MSA though?

There isn't a single person on the planet who speaks MSA as a native, first language. If you want conversation then you really need to learn a colloquial dialect.


I'm seeking proficiency in MSA, then use that as a launching pad to a dialects. I've been using the NaturalArabic.com, to improve reading, listening and vocabulary skills, however, I was looking for something to supplement the conversational piece. I've been trying to find movies and music in fusha to no avail, I've been told its too archaic to capture the flavor of today.


Dang !!! I guess no fuhsa at all.

Donovan Nagel

Nope. No fus7a.

There's plenty of fus7a material already available and most courses/books cater for it specifically.


Hmmm. I guess I view it from the context of an experience I had. I live in NYC, and was in an Arabic bookstore. There were two Syrians and two Moroccans and one of the Syrians told the Moroccans in English, we are Arabs, lets speaks Arabic and the Moroccans laughed and stated they were. The Moroccans then explained to me how their dialect is indecipherable, than the other Arabic dialects. They then communicated through MSA and English.

To be honest, the MSA material I have are generally from textbooks and is dry. I also been in classes with the stuffy type, whose first 20 lessons are tajweed and grammatical and basically intimidate you before you even learn a variety of greetings. I have resorted to NaturalArabic.com, going through 1001 tales (Shay’an Fa Shay’an) and I’m finding it very enjoyable and retaining a lot. But I always feel like I’m lacking the basic conversational piece precisely for the reason you indicated.

My goal is to benefit from Arabic Literature (classical) and at the same time have the broadest experience in communication will Arabs from a variety of regions and I thought MSA would be the best route. I’m kind of nervous to learn MSA and Dialect at the same time being that I don’t have the proper grounding in either one and will mix it up.
You have far more knowledge and experience than me in the language and on the Arab street:

Are my goals realistic? Is there a more efficient manner you can recommend? I plan to be in the Middle East a year from now (hajj) and possibly a visit to North Africa, so I’m really going in hard, but anything to help and I would appreciate immensely. (oh yea any interesting MSA conversational sources). Lastly, you have peaked my interest in your up and coming project.


Donovan Nagel

Since you're interested in literature and obviously religion is important to you, MSA/Classical is important.

For conversation however it's not practical at all. To give you an example, I live with a guy here in Egypt who studied MSA for a few years and speaks it well but he can't communicate properly with anyone here. He doesn't understand Egyptians and most Egyptians either find it very awkward to communicate in MSA or can't at all. I've seen him struggling a lot with this - even very basic conversation.

So basically years of MSA study have proven almost useless for communicating with ordinary people in the Mid East (yes they understand it when they hear it on the news but nobody speaks like this naturally).

I would recommend you learn Saudi honestly since you're planning Hajj. It would be far more practical for you and you'll have a much more enjoyable experience when you go to Saudi and can make friends with locals.


First, I appreciate this interaction and look forward to your up and coming project.
Ok, last question, as it seems I will have to supplement my MSA with a dialect. Did you study MSA and Egyptian at the same time and did you mix them up?

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."
- Ludwig Wittgenstein