What Language is Spoken in Egypt Today?

What Language is Spoken in Egypt Today?

If asked, not many can tell what language is spoken in Egypt today. People there speak dialects, most of which are vernacular. The most popular languages come from Arabian groups. Still, there are certain other spoken languages because this country is populated by many minorities, including immigrants from European countries. 

History of the Ancient Egyptian Language

Ancient Egyptian has a long and rich history which started about 3400 BC! This is one of the oldest spoken languages on Earth. Old Egyptians are famous for their hieroglyphs, where people drew simple images that indicated life phenomena. Ancient people could combine these symbols to form meaningful sentences. They even wrote historical recordings, literature, medical manuals. It was a language of pharaohs and archaic Egyptian religious books. Interesting fact: hieroglyphs did not always stand for objects they represented. In ancient Egyptian words, they were used for sounds. For example, a symbol of an owl represented sound “m.” 

Still, the hieroglyph system was much different from modern systems, so it’s impossible to make a modern alphabet out of it. Usually, hieroglyphs represented daily life objects or living creatures like plants or animals. Sometimes they were not obvious. Some were very confusing because pictograms weren’t like an object they meant to represent. For instance, there were two different kinds of snakes used for different sounds. There were also simple drawings of squares, lines, geometrical figures, so it’s hard to say what they represent without knowing Ancient Egyptian.

Status of Egyptian Language Today

Nowadays, a language similar to Ancient is still spoken in some communities. This spoken dialect managed to survive through centuries in isolated groups of people who are connected to Christianity. Egypt is mostly a Muslim country, and that’s why most of today’s population speak Arabic variations, which is a primary language in Egypt. However, Christian communities have preserved the late Ancient Egyptian dialect. Christianity entered this country by Saint Mark in 42 AD. As a result, there appeared Coptic dialect. It’s a late Ancient dialect that’s written using Greek alphabet. As Christianity came from Greece, people borrowed its symbols.

Later, it led to the formation of Coptic. This dialect was used in the countryside and for Orthodox as well as Catholic liturgies. This way, an ethnic and religious group called Copts appeared. They continue to speak Egyptian nowadays. Now Copts have language that’s very different from official one. Spoken official and unofficial lingos are Arabic, so Copts often need Arabic document translation services when they do business, travel, or marry. As for Ancient Egyptian, it remains a cultural and historical country heritage.

How Many Languages are Spoken in Egypt Now?

Over a long time, country was under the influence of different countries and communities. Egypt is a large country that borders many states both on the land as well as over the sea. Yet, one of the greatest influences was from the Arab world, so now, the biggest language group in Egypt refers to Arabic.

Modern Standard Arabic 

This dialect, also known as MSA for short, is a literary Arabic version which is the official language of Egypt. It serves as standard Arabic writing and pronunciation for TV, music, books. Official documents are also in this lingo. It’s based on the Qur’ran and has expanded vocabulary and streamlined grammar. Usually, this form is only for writing and formal situations, it isn’t spoken in everyday life. 

Bedawi (Bedouin) Arabic

This is the form spoken by Bedouin in Eastern Egypt, Cairo’s suburbs, Sinai peninsula. Bedouins are semi-nomads who live in Arabian and Syrian deserts. Bedawi is incredibly diverse, as it is from many dialects, like Eastern Egyptian, North Levantine, South Levantine Bedawi Egyptian.

Egyptian Arabic

This is a spoken, everyday language of Egypt. It’s an Arabic dialect, or, more exactly, a group of dialects. The most famous is Cairo dialect as it remains everywhere in popular culture, music, movies. One of fascinating Egypt language facts lies in Cairo’s popularity. It was long the largest entertainment industry centre in the whole Arab World, that’s why Egyptians use it the most. It’s mostly spoken among widely populated northern areas.

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Sa’idi Arabic

This spoken dialect is typical for southern areas. Sometimes people also call it Upper Egypt. Saidi dialect is similar to Sudanese and Arabic is spoken over the Red Sea and in Mecca. Sometimes, people from South and North Egypts do not understand each other’s words or phrases, especially in rural areas. They have to use the standard version to understand each other.  Only best transcription services companies or specialists could decode such writings.

Minority-spoken languages

There are languages spoken in Egypt by minorities. Many people speak Nubian, which differs from spoken Arabic a lot. More, the Siwa Oasis is famous for people speaking Siwi Berber. Finally, there’s Domari, which is a part of Indo-Aryan group. This is a spoken language, so people who use it can be related to Roma people.

European languages 

Egypt was once a British colony, that’s why it’s widely spoken. Most learned people studied it at school and know it well, so it’s great for travelers. Still, software or a human translator for language translation for legal documents would be best because not all people can use it on the level of natives. Egypt is a touristy place, but in less popular areas, people might not know it at all.

French is also widespread in Egypt. People who are over 40 remember it well because, at the time, French was the main education language. Today, you may also hear German, Spanish, Italian, and Russian, mostly from tourists.

12 Useful Phrases to Say in Egypt

These Egyptian written language phrases are worth remembering if you plan a visit to this country. Although pocket dictionaries and Google translate might help you, some phrases are better to know by heart. These are Arabic Egyptian, so most people will understand you in big cities or tourist places.

  1. Hello - salaam ‘aleikum

  2. Goodbye - ma’a salaameh

  3. Thanks - shukran

  4. Officer/sir! - HaDritak

  5. How much is this? - bikam dah?

  6. That’s too expensive! - ghaali ‘awwi!

  7. OK - maash

  8. I don’t understand - lā afaham

  9. Yes, of course - aywa, tab3an

  10. No, sorry - la, aasif

  11. May I [please]? - mumken [min faDlak]?

  12. I just want to look - ana 3ayiiz ashuuf bas

Useful information: If you need to translate your Hebrew documents please read our review of 10 Hebrew translation services.

Egypt: A Land of Many Languages

Some languages spoken in Egypt today relate to Arabic. Previously, people wrote hieroglyphs and spoke Egyptian, but today, only a minority of Copts speak it. Now, people speak Egyptian Arabic or Sa’idi Arabic instead. More, people from different minorities speak Bedawi Arabic, Domari, Siwi, and even English and French. If you have difficulties with this language or any other but want to travel the world or emigrate, use the best USCIS certified document translation services. Professional translators will help with localization of any document type and will make your transition abroad more smooth.