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Levantine Arabic resources guide

This is Lingo Arabico’s best Levantine Arabic Resources guide. So if you are learning spoken Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian, or Jordanian Arabic, then this is for you!

Note: anything marked with ($) is a paid-for service, but we do not have any affiliations currently with these organisations.

This list is a work in progress. We’d love to hear if you think there are better resources out there. If so, please contact us here.

Contents

Alphabet and pronunciation

Of course we’re biased on this one but it’s because we created it purely because we couldn’t find anything similar out there! If you are a total beginner and you want to speak Levantine Arabic, we therefore recommend that you check out our (free!) Levantine Arabic Alphabet Course. This course teaches you the Arabic Alphabet using the Levantine pronunciation. This distinguishes it from most courses that focus on Classical or Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).

At the end of the course you will be able to slowly speak and read the Arabic Alphabet with a Levantine accent, specifically one from the northern Levant, i.e. Lebanon and Syria. This accent will allow you to understand and speak to most Palestinians and Jordanians too in the future.

The best primer: Learn Arabic Alphabet by Yusef Estes

A primer for total beginners. This series of 8 old videos is a fun primer for learning the Arabic alphabet with a jolly Texan fella.

Best overiew for MSA students switching to dialect: Lebanese Arabic Institute’s guide

For those who are already familiar with the Arabic alphabet through their study of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), this guide from the Lebanese Arabic Institute offers a comprehensive comparison of the differences between the phonology and orthography of Lebanese and MSA (systems of speech sounds and spelling).

Most helpful videos on letter pronunciation: Learn Arabic YouTube channel

Still struggling with the harder to pronounce letters that are distinct to the Arabic language like the ق ع غ ? These YouTube pronunciation videos do a great job of showing the cut out of the mouth to show you how to reproduce these sounds (and a great biology lesson!).

Finding teachers

Best platform to find an online teacher: Italki ($)

Italki is a platform that allows you to find an online tutor. There are two options, qualified teachers or community tutors. The teachers are more expensive but provide more structured lessons, while the community tutors tend to be better for conversation or practice or if you know what you want from a lesson already. Their system for booking lessons across time zones is well done. They have a group lesson function, but that function doesn’t cover Levantine Arabic.

Supporting displaced persons and host community members as tutors: NaTakallam ($)

NaTakallam allows you to book online tuition with displaced persons and their host community members. The Levantine lessons cost $25 per hour, with reductions for bulk booking.

Textbooks

Best basic MSA to Levantine conversion textbook: Shou fi ma fi? ($) | شو في ما في؟

This textbook is a conventional dialogue based textbook aimed at Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) students looking to get a head start before they study in the Levant. It does a decent job on the basic grammar differences between MSA and dialect. 

Vocab & phrasebooks

Best free online vocab lists: Lingualism

If you want an classic themed online vocab lists, which are helpful for focused study around a particular theme, Lingualism provide these for free.

Best print edition vocab and phrasebook: Lingualism’s vocab books ($)

If you want a more extensive offline reference book for vocabulary and phrases, Lingualism produces a decent option which is available for Levantine Arabic. More specifically they have Lebanese/Syrian and Palestinian, but I could not see Jordanian. 

Best app-based vocab course online: Mango Languages ($)

There are many vocab apps out there for popular languages – Duolingo being the most popular – that focus on learning individual vocabularies or chunks of language in a gamified environment. Unfortunately, few modern language apps support Levantine Arabic, any that do include Arabic, centre on MSA. Mango Languages is an exception and our recommendation if you want an app to spend 15-minutes a day learning or reviewing Levantine vocabulary and core phrases.

Video

Video is a crucial source of comprehensible input. If you want more detail on how to best use video, see our blog.

Best source of videos with live Arabic/English subtitles: Playaling ($)

If you want a range of curated video content with both Arabic and English transcripts, this is an excellent website. You can filter by difficulty, topic and dialect.

It’s quite pricey at $11.99 a month, but definitley worth testing out with a monthly subscription and using intensively to see if it works for you.

Broad array of transcribed interviews: CultureTalk Arab Levant

This free resouce has a large range of interviews on many different topics. It may not have the production variety or shine you may be used to with YouTube/Tiktok, but they are accompanied by full Arabic transcription and English translations as PDF/Word docs.

However, these interviews are mostly for intermediate or advanced learners.

The best source of medium length video: YouTube

YouTube is an invaulable source of video content. The difficulty is finding videos at your level and that interest you.

We will shortly be writing a post on the best channels on YouTube…

Best source of addictive short video content: TikTok

If you’re looking for an entertaining and addictive distraction, try opening a new Tiktok account and training it only to feed you Levantine Arabic content.

You can do this by systematically ignoring all English content, searching for Levantine content, and changing the language to Arabic. If you know how you can use VPN to put your location to a Levantine country. Benny Lewis covers this in this video.

Insta Reels could also fill this gap, but TikTok generally leads the market with a better algorithm and more content.

Further paid videos: Talk in Arabic ($)

Talk in Arabic is a subscription-based service that offers a range of subtitled and transcribed videos. It’s pricey but maybe worth checking out for a month’s rolling subscription to see if it is for you.

Audio

Free podcasts with graded content

All these podcasts provide graded content for beginners and intermediate learners. We’d suggest trying them all and see if any work for you.

  • Real Arabic tends to be a structured dialogue between the show’s Irish and Syrian hosts in both English and Levantine Arabic.
  • The Arabic We Speak has many minutes-long coventionally topic-themed lessons.
  • Learn Levantine with Livi is a Levantine only dialogue between a native English and a native Arabic speaker, discussing interesting and important topics, and providing clear overviews of Levantine vocabularies for review.
  • Deewan Arabic Podcast has three seasons and covers a broad range of topics.

Most comprehensive sources of transcribed audio: Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC)

By far the most comprehensive source of free transcribed audio files comes from the USA’s Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC).

Their user interfaces are a retro and but it’s a great free resource! You can filter for level, topic, and dialect type. The main portals to take note of are:

 

 

Global Language Online Support System(Gl LOSS) is the largest portal of the three with 257 lessons in Levantine Arabic as of January 2024.

This portal has less “lessons” in total, but each one has been re-recorded in all the major Arabic dialect groups. So it is a very useful resource if you want to compare dialectical differences.

In this portal the conversations are done as phone conversations. If you have more practical and day to day goals this the focus, this is great place to start.

High quality transcribed Lebanese podcast: Language Wave ($)

Language Wave is a paid podcast that provides nearly a hundred episodes on mainly Lebanese issues. The quality of the recordings and the usability of the interface is high. There are four tester episodes before you decide on a monthly subscription.

Best source of authenic material for higher-intermediate or advanced learners: Radio Garden 

Radio Garden is a great idea. You simply click anywhere on the globe and then choose to listen to a huge range of radio stations in that area. There are both web and app versions.

It would make sense to focus on talk-radio type channels, but it is also great if you just want some Levantine music on in the background!

Grammar

Most comprehensive MSA to dialect conversion resource: Team Nisreen’s Fusha to Shami

This free pdf provides a comprehensive discussion of both the differences between Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and dialect, and between the different Levantine dialects. This really is a resource for the language nerds and linguists; it’s very detailed and provides many examples.

Best conventional verb tables book: Lingualism’s Levantine Arabic Verbs

Lingualism leads the market in the range of conventional language learning resources. These verb tables do what they say on the tin (mainly Lebanese).

Dictionaries

Best all rounder: Living Arabic

The Living Arabic Project has a great Levantine Arabic dictionary, and is hands down our favourite. It also has other dialects and MSA built into the search function together and most words are covered, with plentiful translated examples marked by national dialect.

If you don’t know how to spell an Arabic word: Yamli and Fuzzy Arabic Dictionary

Yamli can convert romanised approximations of Arabic into Arabic script. Using Yamli, the Fuzzy Arabic dictionary can show you a range options from romanised script as well.

For slang and informal words: Mo3jam

This monolingual Arabic-only dictionary is aimed at informal language and slang. One for the intermediate and advanced learners only!

Blogs & Advice

Though we may not agree with all the advice in these blogs, it helps to get a range of perspectives in!

Decent all rounder: LevanTongue

One of the best general blogs on Levantine (Jordanian-orientation) Arabic learning on the internet. The author’s post on whether to focus on MSA vs dialect debate is one of the most balanced we’ve seen. The website hasn’t been updated for a couple of years but still worth checking out!

For those who are keen to speak: Mezzofanti Guild

For those who are keen to speak from day one, The Mezzofanti Guild’s blog posts, including this alternative resources list or introduction to “chunking“, are a good place to start. His advice in a similar camp to the more well-known Fluent in 3 Months site – but note that Fluent in 3 Months creator’s experiences come from Egyptian, not Levantine Arabic.

For the translators, interpreters and language nerds among us: Team Nisreen

Written by two translators, this is a detailed grammatically-oriented blog on different expressions and usages in dialect (#Team Nisreen for the Levant/Syria, #Team Maha for Egypt – the name comes from an in-joke about the widely used USA textbook: Al-Kitaab).

How to learn Arabic

For MSA students aiming high: Master Arabic ($)

Alex Strick van Linschoten’s Master Arabic is the most detailed and thoughtful book we have found that looks in detail at different ideas on how to learn languages and in the context of Arabic-specific challenges (Some credit for this list goes to him!).

Want to improve your speaking quickly: How To Improve Your Foreign Language Immediately ($)

Boris Shektman’s click baity titled – How To Improve Your Foreign Language Immediately – is one of the best short reads that gives you clear strategies to use alone with tutors to speak better.

Typing

Learning to type on the computer: Touch Typing Practice Online

Although you can get away with typing Arabic on your phone, at some point you may want to access the internet through a keyboard. If so, this website is a good starting point. You may want to supplement this with Arabic key stickers or a keyboard overlay, but neither of these are necessary.

Can’t type Arabic yet but need Arabic script: Yamli

This text converter takes roman script and turns it into an approximation of Arabic script. Though be warned, if you don’t know what you are looking for, you many end up with alot of errors. For a quick overview of the issues here, see this.

Handwriting

Want to write authentically? Mastering Arabic Script

Mastering Arabic Script: A Guide to Handwriting is the best straightforward guide to Arabic handwriting (which often imitates a calligraphic style called Ruq’ah), rather than imitating the printed standard form (Naskh).

For a more old school book, see Writing Arabic: A Practical Introduction to Ruq’ah Script

Struggling to decipher Handwritten Arabic: see this blog…

The cursive script of Arabic handwriting and its different forms can be overwhelming. This blog post clarifies some of these issues with multiple ligatures (new shape when two letters join) and stacked letters.

Online tools

Struggling to read small script online? Wudooh | وضوح

These browser plugins change the size and font of Arabic script to make it larger and more legible. Depending on your browser choice:

This list is a work in progress. We’d love to hear if you think there are better resources out there. If so, please contact us here.