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Learning the Languages of Egypt

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Egypt is one of the most populated countries for both Africa and the Middle East. Because of its long and detailed history and different groups of people, there are several different languages spoken and written throughout Egypt. Most of the languages spoken in Egypt are some form of Arabic, which has been present in this region since the seventh century.

Egyptian Arabic

Egyptian Arabic is the most commonly spoken language in Egypt, particularly in and around Cairo. It is also written sometimes, especially in novels, plays and poems.

About 68% of people speak Egyptian Arabic. Because Egypt is the most prolific country in producing Arabic movies, many other people in the Arab-speaking world can understand Egyptian Arabic. This language is Semitic, and takes its roots from the Afro-asiatic language that had originated in the Nile Delta around Lower Egypt. Today, over 50 million people around the world speak Egyptian Arabic. It is written in both Arabic and Latin scripts.

Standard Arabic

Standard Arabic, or Literary Arabic, is the official language of Egypt. It is used in most written media and television news reporting.

English

English is a popular second language in Egypt, and is commonly used in the business world, as well as in educated circles. It is also popular for those who work in the tourist industry. French and German are also common second languages for Egyptians.

Sa’idi Arabic

Sa’idi Arabic has about 19 million speakers in Egypt. People who speak this language mostly live south of Cairo, and up to the border of Sudan. This language has similarities to Egyptian Arabic and Sudanese Arabic. People who speak Egyptian Arabic cannot always understand Sa’idi Arabic, especially if the people are speaking traditional versions that have not been influenced. Sa’idi Arabic is not a prestigious language to the rest of Egypt, and many people who move to cities like Cairo will begin using Egyptian Arabic.

Bedouin Arabic

Bedouin Arabic, which is also known as Bedawi, is spoken by the Bedouin minority in Egypt, which is mostly concentrated in the Sinai Peninsula and on the Red Sea coast.

Domari

Domari is spoken by many Muslim gypsies in Egypt, and is mostly north of Cairo. Domari is an Indo-Aryan language, and is also called “Luti” or “Middle Eastern Romani.” Though there is not a standard written form of this language, it is typically recorded in Arabic script. Many people who identify as Dom speak the language of their host country rather than Domari.

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