Here is my "Preface,", dated June 1982, to a brief book I wrote titled An Arabist's Guide to Egyptian Colloquial:
Arriving in Cairo for the first time in June 1971, I had two years of Arabic study to my credit, yet I was unable to say anything or understand more than a word here and there. Like so many other students of modern Written Arabic, I was unprepared to deal with the language that Arabs actually speak. To master the Cairene dialect, I acquired a battery of grammars and attended classes at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad [at the American University of Cairo]. Despite excellent teachers, I found the task a frustrating one, for all the manuals assumed no knowledge at all of Arabic and started at the beginning. But I already knew Written Arabic and needed only to learn what adjustments to make to speak the Egyptian colloquial.
How sensible it would be, I often reflected, if someone prepared a handbook of Egyptian colloquial for those of us already trained in Written Arabic. So often did I bemoan the absence of such a book that my friends eventually insisted that I undertake the project myself. I wrote the book during my final months in Cairo, in the spring of 1973. The grammar then languished for eight years in a back drawer, as I turned, my attention to other matters.
Then Dr. James A. Snow of the Foreign Service Institute at the Department of State expressed an interest in publishing this study; he also agreed to provide some editorial advice and assistance. Then, when no one else was available to prepare the manuscript for publication, he did this too. For his many efforts, I am very grateful and am much in his debt. Any errors that may yet remain are, of course, my responsibility alone.
For purposes of brevity, I assume a thorough knowledge of Written Arabic and only point out the ways in which the dialect differs; to do otherwise would defeat the purpose of this manual. "Egyptian" is shorthand for Egyptian colloquial Arabic as spoken in Cairo by persons with some education.
FSI published the grammar in 1983 and it carries Library of Congress number PJ6779.P56 1983. The book has had a small but steady readership over the decades so, taking advantage of modern technology, I am now making it freely available on this website to download, at http://www.danielpipes.org/books/an-arabists-guide-to-egyptian-colloquial.pdf. I posted my working copy, complete with corrections, and hope it helps my successors navigate the joys and perils of Arabic as it is spoken in Cairo. (December 29, 2009)
Jan. 1, 2010 update: Anne-Marie Delcambre writes about my little grammar book: "Voici pourquoi Daniel Pipes ne peut pas réagir comme Bat Ye'or ou comme le père Samuel, quand il s'agit du monde arabe. C'est un arabisant et un bon arabisant qui prononce bien." ("This is why Daniel Pipes does not respond to the Arab world as do Bat Ye'or or Father Samuel. He is a fine Arabist who pronounces Arabic well.")
Related Topics: Daniel Pipes autobiographical, Egypt
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