My assignment in Khartoum was to learn to speak Sudanese Colloquial (spoken) Arabic. I needed to absorb as much of the language as possible, so it was important to start immediately. Let me clarify something about the Arabic language. Originally, the Qur’an was written in Arabic, and Muslims believe these are the very words of Allah. However, the Qur’an was written centuries ago, and no one actually speaks that way anymore. So, scholars have developed what is called literary Arabic, a standard that is used in published material. All persons literate in Arabic need to know literary Arabic, and any literate person in the Arabic-speaking world can read it. However, no one actually speaks literary Arabic. Each country and even regions of a country speak a local dialect which is called colloquial Arabic. This version of Arabic is almost never written and can differ considerably from literary or Qur’anic Arabic. In Sudan, people speak Khartoum Arabic; in the south, people speak a very different version known as Juba Arabic.
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