What language do the Egyptians speak? What is the official language in Egypt? You might be surprised, but these are two different languages. Will it be comfortable on vacation in Egyptian resorts with knowledge of English? And will there be any difficulties for those tourists who do not know foreign languages at all? Read the answers in our article.
Official language of Egypt
The official language of the Arab Republic of Egypt is MSA (Modern Standard Arabic). It is the official language in almost all Arab countries. And as in all Arab countries, no one speaks it in everyday life. Egyptians speak their own dialects.
Most media outlets go out (broadcast) on MSA. All country laws are written in MSA. All official statements by the authorities are published only on MSA. About 70% of Egyptians read and understand MSA fluently. However, many speak and write in it rather poorly, they simply do not need it.
MSA is part of the school curriculum in Egypt. Local dialects are not taught in schools.
Two dialects in Egypt
In everyday life, there are two main dialects of Arabic – Egyptian Arabic and Upper Egyptian Arabic. They are so different from MSA that they should be recognized as separate languages. However, they have no official status.
Egyptian Arabic is the world’s most widespread dialect of Arabic, as the Egyptians are the largest Arab nation. Also, this dialect is called “Masri”, which translates as “Egyptian”. Egyptian is spoken by about 65 million people.
The Masri dialect differs in that it has not only an oral form, but also its own writing. Recall that most dialects of Arabic are oral only. Masri even has a separate version of Wikipedia –
Most movies, some newspapers and magazines are published in Egyptian. We can say that all entertainment media operate in Egypt in the Egyptian dialect.
Upper Egyptian dialect , also known as “sayidi”. This dialect is spoken in Upper Egypt (in the southern part of the country, along the Nile) by about 19 million people.
These two dialects have grown far apart over the centuries. Their speakers do not always understand each other. Usually phrases are understood only in general terms. Not only words are different here, but also some sounds and grammar.
How do Egyptians and other Arabs understand each other?
They understand only in general. Different dialects of Arabic have slightly different grammar and word composition. This is what MSA is for – so that the Arab nations have a common language and understand each other.
Do Egyptians know English well?
Okay. Recall that until 1952 Egypt was under British control. Ever since that time, one of the hallmarks of an educated Egyptian has been fluency in English. Now English is compulsory taught in school.
Many English words have already entered the Egyptian Arabic dialect. All road signs are now in Arabic and English. Some media work in two languages at once. The main inscriptions on the banknotes of the Egyptian currency are duplicated in English.
There are three universities in Egypt that teach only in English: the British University of Egypt, the American University of Egypt, and the University of the Future of Egypt.
Is it convenient to use translators on smartphones?
You can use it, but there is little sense from this. No translator can translate directly between English and Egyptian Arabic. Usually this is done according to the scheme “English Arabic”, and often it turns out to be complete rubbish.
You can successfully translate only individual words and phrases and only the text (without dubbing). For example, you need to explain to the taxi driver what you need to go to the airport. Then you can use the translator on your smartphone and show the taxi driver the word “airport” on the screen.
And do not forget that most translators work only when the Internet is turned on.
What other languages are spoken in Egypt
There is the Coptic language, which is no longer used at the everyday level. But it is the official language of the Coptic Orthodox Church. It is believed that Coptic is closest to the ancient Egyptian language. However, even he does not shed light on what the ancient Egyptians said.
In western Egypt, they speak their own dialect of Arabic, which is closer to Maghreb dialects than to Egyptian.
In the south, in the area of Aswan, the Nubians are native and speak the Nubian language “Nobiin”. In total, there are about 300 thousand native speakers of the Nubian language in Egypt.
The Sinai Bedouins speak a northwestern dialect of Arabic. The number of these people has not been calculated accurately, it is approximately believed that there are about 100,000 of them.
– If you speak English, then there won’t be any difficulties at all. You can explain yourself about any problem;
– If you speak only English, then there will be no difficulties in the resort areas. If you go inland, it will be difficult to communicate. But in this case, do not be discouraged. As practice shows, in most cases you can explain yourself on the fingers, and you can bargain on the calculator scoreboard;
– You don’t need to learn any phrases in Arabic before going to Egypt. First, the pronunciation is likely to be terrible. Second, even if you say hello in Arabic, what’s next? You won’t be able to continue the conversation anyway.
Important and useful to know
– To use translators on smartphones, you need to have the Internet. Read our detailed article “The Internet is cheap in Egypt”.
– The consider the inhabitants of modern Egypt to be Arabs. But in reality, this is not entirely true.