by Cam Cross
I recently gave a presentation for the Arabic Circle where I talked about different kinds of films one could watch to work on their Arabic. There are a few questions you can ask yourself to find a film that will fit perfectly with your goals:
1) Am I working on Fusha or ‘Ameyya?
2) Do I want to learn vocabulary and expressions, or focus on cultural content?
(Not that these questions are mutually exclusive, most films will have some formal Arabic in them, and cultural content and expressions can be extracted from all scenarios; however, think of it in terms of “weights” and ease of acquirement.)
Let’s say you want to work on ‘Ameyya. Now you can choose films or TV shows produced in the country whose dialect you want to practice. You’ll have the easiest time finding Syrian, Lebanese, and Egyptian productions online, although there are many resources for Maghrebi and Khaliji dialects as well.
Within that, however, you can then opt for a film that will either be more culturally “foreign,” which will be more difficult to understand, but more loaded with features specific to the place you’re learning about. An example of this is the very good Egyptian film بحب السيما (I Love Cinema), which starts with a little survey of the main character’s surroundings and the people he lives with:
Films like these are great for learning about social issues, sticking points, ways of interaction, and all kinds of things. It may be, depending on your Arabic, hard to follow at times. A second strategy is to pick films that are culturally very “local,” where you already know what is going on and can guess what the characters are saying. The most extreme of this kind are dubbed films, especially Disney cartoons. They hire great voice actors and do a good job localizing the script, and presuming you already know the plot and dialogue of the movie, you can focus entirely on how the characters say certain things in Arabic.
Aladdin (علاء الدين), is especially nice because they Arabize all the names.
Monsters Incorporated (شركة المرعبين المحدودة) the comedian Mohamed Henedi and some great dialogue. See if you can get the part where Shalaby names the girl “Boo” and how Marek says “I’ve had it!” (انا زهقت) after their little مسرحية.
DEFINITELY check out this user’s uploads list. They have the Arabic and English in translation written out, so you can follow word-for-word what is being said.
Watch, for example, this scene from the Lion King: