It’s no secret that when you’re learning a language, you’re also learning a culture. Thus, you’re also learning about Arab culture while you’re learning Arabic. So, why don’t you use the culture of Arab TV to learn to speak Arabic better?
We’ve talked before about the amazing Egyptian film industry. If you are watching films in Arabic, this can help you better learn Arabic language skills. However, people living in Arabic speaking countries have also enjoyed watching quality Arabic shows on their Arab TV box for decades.
Here’s our list to get you started. But beware – you may get addicted once you start watching:
01 Khawatir \ خواطر
Khawatir (Arabic for “thoughts”) was an annual TV show that aired during Ramadan from 2005 to 2015. It follows the well-educated Saudi Arabian activist and media figure Ahmed Al Shugairi and his team. They are traveling around the world to explore the similarities and differences between Arabic and foreign communities.
You’re in luck if you’re learning Gulf Arabic. Al Shugairi speaks in the Gulf Arabic dialect. However, those of you studying Modern Standard Arabic should be able to follow him with little difficulty as well. In addition, you’ll get the bonus of both practicing your MSA AND learning Gulf Arabic at the same time. How cool is that?).
Yes, the series did end in 2015, but don’t fret as you can binge watch the entire series on YouTube.
02 MBC’s Top Chef
Fifteen contestants from places all over the Arab world compete for each week for 13 arduous weeks. They come from countries like Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Morocco, and Oman. The Arabian version of Top Chef follows the tried and true format of eliminating one chef each week until one contestant is crowned Top Chef.
Contestants will explain what they’re cooking, how they’re cooking it and you’ll actually watch them in action. You’ll see three world-renowned chefs – Bobby Chinn, Mona Mosly, and Moroun Chedid – judge both the flavor and presentation. They will also listen to their interpretation of every dish the contestants make.
Since the contestants come from all over the Middle East, you get a good mix of Arabic dialects. And because it’s a cooking show, you’ll have plenty of great opportunities to learn the names of dishes, their ingredients, and how to prepare them.
03 Amouddou \ أمودو
Amouddou (Berber for “voyage”) was created and produced by Al Aoula, the first Moroccan TV channel. It is a documentary TV series starring Hassan Boufous. He is an awarded Moroccan director, commentator, editor and cameraman. The show takes you on an adventure inside Morocco to discover the kingdom’s wonderful world of nature and stunning scenery.
Boufous’ Modern Standard Arabic is impeccable. This is a big win for Arabic language learners who can watch the show via Al Aoula TV or catch replays on YouTube.
04 Arabs Got Talent
Arabs Got Talent is a talent show based in Lebanon. It brings together gifted young people from the Middle East and North Africa. The grand prize is a brand new car valued at $133,250 USD and. In addition to that, the contestant receives a contract with MBC—the Arabic TV channel that host the Arabic TV series
The judges Najwa Karam, Ali Jaber, Nasser Al Qasabi and Ahmed Helmy choose contestants with a variety of talents who will move on to the semi-finals based on their performance. Once they reach the semi-finals, their fates are in the hands of the audience.
Once again, because contestants are from all over the Arab world, Arabic language learners will be exposed to a wide variety of Arabic dialects. Modern Standard Arabic subtitles are used for English-speaking performers.
05 Iftah Ya SimSim \ افتح يا سمسم
Iftah Ya SimSim (“Open Sesame”) might seem familiar to those who grew up watching Sesame Street, but don’t let that fool you. This is in no way an Arabic copycat of the beloved American TV show. Rather, this show was built from the ground up solely for young Arab viewers. However, now even non-native Arab language learners (and especially beginners) can use it, too, due to its simple yet far-reaching nature. It’s also great if you have children who are learning Arabic as a second language.
It was originally produced in Kuwait from the late 70s until the 1990. Unfortunately, the Gulf War brought it to a screeching halt. Iftah Ya SimSim was revived in 2015 with the same educational and language goals. They hoped to bring literacy and basic education to the underserved population. Also, they want to help young kids all over the Arab world grow into educated and moral adults.
When it was first developed, the producers took a big chance by deciding to have the show made using only Modern Standard Arabic. This was done in order to promote cultural literacy and pan-Arab collaboration. Some educators believed that MSA might confuse kids. Also, they worried that MSA would become filled with colloquial speech. Thus, becoming a cheaper, more colloquial version if itself. However, none of those ever happened and the show became a beloved part of childhood for many young Arabs.
06 Minute to Win It
Minute to Win It is an the Egyptian version of international game show franchise where contestants take part in a series of 60-second challenges that use objects that are commonly available around the house. If you watch this for no other reason, watch it for the language and we don’t mean the Egyptian dialect. What we mean, rather, is watch it for the repetitive Arabic commentary while the contestants are playing the nose whistle with a drinking straw or stacking cards for the world’s largest playing card pyramid (yes, the show is THAT weird, but in a good way, mostly).
Commentaries like “He’s going to drop it. He’s going to drop it!” or “Ten seconds left. Five seconds left. Four. Three. Two. One.” is repeated throughout the show, but not only does that make it easier for you to follow as an Arabic language learner, but you’ll also learn new basic Arabic words that every native speaker uses every single day like stack up, balance, fall, arrange, and find – words in Arabic you won’t find in textbooks.
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