Monday, December 13

Shankaboot and Distinguishing Dialects (Focus on Lebanese)

If you're learning Egyptian Arabic, or a dialect of any language, part of your learning process will be trying to understand what seperates your chosen dialect from the others. You want to be able to hear a clip and say whether it's Egyptian or not - and as your knowledge of Arabic grows, you may be able to name a dialect upon hearing it. You won't understand everything in every dialect even if you're fluent in Egyptian Arabic, not even native speakers can do that - but some dialects are closer to others and you will pick up words in different dialects as you learn. In this post, I'll go over some of the main features of Lebanese Arabic in this post as it is one of the most popular and understandable dialects, and how to distinguish it from other dialects.
 You can use the brilliant Lebanese Youtube series Shankaboot to see if you can recognize a couple of differences in the dialect, and you might be able to follow along since a lot of the words used are very similar to words in MSA and Egyptian.

Some Simple Features of Lebanese Arabic

  • Lebanese is a type of Levantine Arabic, the name for the group of dialects spoken in the area called the Levant. The Levant is the Mediterranean coastal regions of Lebanon, Palestine & Israel, Syria and Jordan. Levantine is called شامي (shaamy, shami) in Arabic.
  • Like Egyptian, the q (ق) is usually replaced by a glottal stop (2, ء). So like Egyptian, most Lebanese pronounce قلب (qalb, heart) as ('alb, 2alb). 
  • Another feature, which might be the biggest giveaway that you're listening to the Lebanese dialect, is the pronunciation of a final (ة) ta marbouta. While in Egyptian, it is pronounced -ah, or -a, it is pronounced as -eh or -e (as in wet) in Lebanese. Take the word for Coffee in Arabic, قهوة.  In MSA, it would be pronounced qahwa, in Egyptian it would be 2ahwa, and in Lebanese it would be 2ahwe. 
I always find interrogatives (why, when, how, what etc.) to be quite useful in trying to recognise dialects, because they are used commonly and often are used in different combinations in different countries. Here's a quick comparison of interrogatives in Egyptian and Lebanese.

Egyptian - eih? ايه؟
Lebanese - shou? شو؟

Egyptian and Lebanese - meen? مين؟

Egyptian - ezzay? ازاي؟
Lebanese - keef? كيف؟

Egyptian - leeh? ليه؟
Lebanese - leeh? ليه؟ or lesh? ليش؟

Egyptian - emta? امتى
Lebanese - eymtan? ايمتا

Egyptian - feen? فين
Lebanese - wayn? وين

Let's move on to Shankaboot, I absolutely LOOOVE this web series. It's about a delivery boy called Suleiman who rides about on his moped (the Shankaboot), he gets into lots of adventures on the streets of Beiruit and in this first episode meets a pretty runaway girl. It's really addictive, well made and interactive. Use the red CC button to enable English subtitles. A new episode comes out every Monday - and there's 32 episodes up currently. They'll really help you understand the variety of the Arabic language!