I am learning Arabic and wonder if signage at the airport/train station/official buildings use Moroccan Arabic words or Modern Standard Arabic. I saw that both فندق (funduq) and أوطيل (ʔuṭil) are used on hotel buildings.

The train station محطة الدار البيضاء المسافرين (Gare Casa-Voyageurs) uses محطة while I've heard that a Moroccan version of 'gare' also exists...

Would طوموبيل (tumobil) or سيارة (sayyara) be used in advertisments for cars?

1 Answer 1


Signs in all Arabic speaking countries are in MSA. Signs in airports, streets, train stations, official buildings, etc. are usually in a form of MSA that can be understood by any Arabic speaker regardless of the dialect they are native to.

However, MSA is rich in words, and sometimes the word choice while it is in MSA, it is just new to the reader. For example, almost all Arab countries use the word "تأجير" for "Rentals", in Morocco, they use the word "كراء", when I read it the first time, I thought it's a word in the local dialect only to find out later that it's a word in MSA that I simply never heard of before. Same goes for "birth date", all Arabs use "تاريخ الميلاد" while Moroccans used "تاريخ الإزدياد", it is a perfect MSA word, it's just not commonly used, and the common Arabic speaker would never guess what it means.

Having said that, knowing MSA would definitely be more than enough to understand all signs, read newspapers, and all books. If your Arabic listening skills are good, you would also understand all official media, news, official speeches, etc., as all of these are done in MSA.

As for the advertisements, that's a whole different story. Where I live (I am a native Arabic speaker living in an Arabic country) we use the local dialects for most of the advertisements, especially the video advertisements. The same goes for all Arab countries, the local dialect(s) are usually used. I myself had a hard time understanding the advertisement boards in Morocco.

To answer your question regarding سيارة or طوموبيل, a quick search shows that both words are used equally. Things like cars, planes, phones, or any other device or machine that was invented in the past 100 years or so are usually the ones with different names in different Arabic dialects, usually the English or French word with a twist, while in MSA it will be word that describes the function of the device. For example, car in MSA is "سيارة", if translated literally to English it means "the thing that moves", airplane "طيارة" means "the thing that flies", phone "هاتف" means "the caller", etc. while in local dialects these things can be anything, phone can be "تلفون" or "موبايل" and car can be "موتر" or "طوموبيل".

Finally, if you have a plan to visit only Morocco, learn the local dialect as it will be more useful to you when communicating with people. But if you have plans to visit other Arabic speaking countries, learn MSA. You will always find a way to communicate using MSA with any Arab, but a local dialect will never be useful outside the area that uses it, and maybe the close areas due to the "dialect continuum" concept.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .