The field of teaching Arabic as a foreign language is dominated by the teaching of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), essentially a written language, while the teaching of the spoken varieties of Arabic plays a secondary role. In this paper, I challenge this status quo and aim to show that the spoken varieties of Arabic are necessary for learners to reach communicative competence in Arabic.
I will also explore Egyptian Arabic as the most widely recognised dialect of Arabic, and on this basis its suitability for learners of Arabic as a foreign language. Additionally, I shall be exploring recent developments in the Arabic language with the rise of the internet as a new medium for written Arabic hitherto unexplored in terms of language use. Preliminary indications show that rather than using formal MSA for writing, internet users are writing in everyday spoken Arabic – a groundbreaking development in terms of Arabic language use, since the spoken language has been regarded as unsuitable for writing up until now. Finally, using first hand research data collected from current learners of Arabic, I will explore the learner’s perspective of the Arabic language, and their experience of learning Arabic in the 21st century, with the aim of showing that outdated theory and practice regarding teaching MSA should be replaced with an up-to-date, learner-centred, communicative approach.