Turkish melodrama and series have been a huge hit in the Arab world for a long time, even if you did not watch them personally, you will be able to list one or two of the 2000s Turkish hit shows. How is this relevant to the Syrian dialect? Well, most Turkish melodramas broadcasted in Arabic televisions were dubbed into the Syrian dialect, to the point that some viewers were not even aware that they were not Syrian shows!
Syrian Arabic is one of the Levantine Arabic variations. In Syria, most Syrians speak different dialects of Levantine Arabic, with Damascus Arabic used mainly in media being the dialect of the capital city of Syria.
Know the difference between the Syrian dialect and other Levantine Arabic variations:
Levantine Arabic consists mainly of 2 main variations: Northern Levantine which includes Syrian and Lebanese dialects, and Southern Levantine with Jordan and Palestine dialects. The difference between them may be minimal, concentrated in pronunciation, and some vocabulary here and there. These differences will not only be spotted from different countries within the Levant, but also regions, and you will find some differences between urban cities and rural villages. Although knowing one Levantine variation will help you understand any speaker from almost any region of the Levant, but if you wish to learn the Syrian dialect, understanding and differentiating between them is essential.
Let’s focus on the difference between Syrian and Lebanese accents:
When you hear or speak the common modern Damascus Arabic and the Lebanese dialect, you will find that they are almost the same since they fall under the category of Northern Levantine, but some of the distinctions in the accents would be:
- When using the negative particle “not,” Syrian dialect uses مُو (mu) while Lebanese has مُوش (mosh).
- When it comes to the phonological aspect, Lebanese dialect exhibits more إمَالة (imala) which is a vowel shift /e/ for example عَايِش (a’ayesh) in Syrian dialect would be عَايِش (a’eyesh) in Lebanese dialect. You should note that imala can be used in the Syrian dialect but not as heavily as Lebanese.
Syrian dialect online lessons:
You will find a lot of websites offering to teach Syrian Arabic online and some of them are for free! Having some general knowledge of the Arabic language will help you a lot, but you still need to start from the beginner level to familiarize yourself with this beautiful dialect’s details. Community of Babel provides Syrian Arabic lessons online starting from A1 (beginner level), once you make an account, you will get access to all texts and audios made by native Syrian speakers, lesson analysis which offers you a grammatical explanation, and a list of the vocabulary introduced in each lesson! Online lessons are sufficient especially if you can keep yourself motivated and grounded to reach your goal, and it has the perk of learning at your own pace.
Listen to native Syrians as much as possible!
Activating your listening and decoding skills will help you the most especially in the beginning. The first few times you hear a native Syrian speak, like any foreign language to you, will sound like random consonants and vowels packed with each other. However, the more you listen and analyze what you are listening to, the more you will feel comfortable with the Syrian dialect. Next step, try to shadow (repeat with the speaker is saying) even if you don’t understand what is being said. You are simply trying to train your mind to embrace the dialect to ease up and upgrade your Syrian dialect understanding level.
Now that you gained confidence from listening and shadowing, time for the real speaking!
Use all the vocabulary and phrases you gained from your Syrian dialect online lessons and all the audios you heard, mix them up! Do not overthink the grammar, try to play with the words, and focus on your pronunciation. Speak with Syrian natives, tell them that you are trying to learn their wonderful dialect, and ask them for feedback. Believe me, the more you practice speaking, the more confident you will feel, the higher the possibility to master the Syrian dialect in no time!