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Q: Before I got to Iraq, I studied a little bit of Arabic. I know that the Iraqi dialect is different than other Arabic dialects, but I was told it’d be like an American and a Brit trying to understand each others’ accents. But nobody understands what I say here. … What’s up with that?

A: It’s likely because the Iraqi dialect of Arabic is more different than you might think. Linguists have noted that even within Iraq, there are at least three different dialects, roughly corresponding to the northern, central and southern parts of the country.

The dialects can vary in everything from syntax to pronunciation to semantics. And while written Arabic is mainly the same, spoken dialects are a different matter. According to some social scientists, the Egyptian form of Arabic is the most widely recognizable in the Arab world because Egyptian movies have been the mostly widely distributed films in the region. Similarly, as regional travel has become cheaper and more convenient, people are being brought closer and bridging some of the language gaps.

The explosive growth of satellite television stations — like al Jazeera and al Arabiya — have also helped narrow the dialect gaps.

Got a question about goings-on in the Mideast? E-mail Stripes at: news@estripes.sd.mil

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