What's it all about?
This site is an effort to show Arabic as a living language by allowing users to search in both a Classical Arabic dictionary and a dialect dictionary at the same time. Often Classical Arabic, or Modern Standard Arabic or اللغة العربية الفصحى , is the only aspect of Arabic that is taught, and the dialects are often ignored or only taught minimally. There are reasons for that, some practical, some not. The dialects are not as well studied, what dialects can be taught depend on what faculty is available to teach it, etc. Some see the dialects as not being real languages and not deserving to be taught and "formal" Classical Arabic is the only real Arabic. However, because of these reasons and others, often only Classical Arabic is taught. And in the Arab countries, it is seen as an abomination to teach dialects. Because of this, though, Classical Arabic is often criticized as being a "dead language."
I don't want to get into the argument about whether Classical Arabic is a dead language or not. I do want to show how alive Arabic, as both the dialects and formal language, really is, and I want to show a more complete picture of it. I love the Arabic language. I love the literature, I love speaking it, I love poetry and music, I love the way it all sounds. And every Arab that I know, no matter how die-hard they are about "proper" Arabic and how much they hate the dialects, loves listening to an old person speak. An elder who is often largely illiterate and knows little to no formal Arabic except perhaps some quotes from the Qur'an and Hadith. But they all love hearing her speak and tell stories, and after listening to one such as her they will say, "I love how this woman spoke, she reminded me of my grandmother."
This site is dedicated to all the people who showed me how Arabic is a living language, and most prominent amongst are the professors I had while at university. And most prominent amongst them is the late Dr. Waheed Samy. He is the one who sparked the interest in me to learn Arabic. Without him I probably would not have continued with Arabic. He said to see Classical Arabic as the sun, with all the dialects as planets revolving around it. It was that description that planted the seed for this site. I wish he were here to see it, I wish he could give me feedback, I wish he could feel proud as a teacher that because of him I have tried to not simply create a whole new kind of online Arabic dictionary, but to change how Arabic is conceived.
If I had to make a "Thanks to" list, it would go for a long time. On a day to day basis this is site is mainly one nerd sitting at a computer inputing data, trying to teach himself coding and database work, and trying to imagine what Arabic can really be.
None of this would have happened, though, without the research of others, without great teachers, without bad teachers from whom I learned what not to do, without a lot of music (especially Iron Maiden, who is my most loyal companion during long hours of data entry), the support and patience of my family, all the free online resources for learning about coding and databases like Stack Overflow and Learn Python the Hard Way, and and and and.
Who works on this site?
A lot of people have asked, some even have been brave enough to contact me through the contact page, who are you. At some level, it's a fair question. In this day and age, it is essential to know who your sources are, where the information is coming from, to help you discover the credibility of it and if there is a bias in it. At another level, it is an odd question. As is pointed out in the introduction to Lane's Lexicon, a good dictionary gives very little information about the author, because the writer is just a recorder (although a close reading can reveal more than you would think --- trust me, I read a lot of dictionaries). At a time when people make their success through social media and building a public persona, and when readers talk about the public persona as though they know them personally, I really don't want to fall into that. My name is Hossam Abouzahr, if that helps. As one professor said, I've been privileged enough in life to study at good universities and work at a variety of jobs, and I value that privilege even as I realize it is a privilege not everyone has.
You can read more about the project through these published externally.
A Website Seeks to Show ‘How Alive Arabic Is’ on Al-Fanar, 21 June 2018
Preserving Syria's linguistic heritage internationally with new dictionary on The New Arab, 1 February 2017
A Tool to Change How We Learn Arabic on Arab America, 24 January 2017
Anyhow, this site isn't about me. Those of you who are curious can figure it out if you want to now, there is enough information here, or you can contact me through the contact page. The rest of you, I hope you enjoy the site.
I'm always looking for feedback, and I'm trying to get this site shared as much as possible so that users can start to tell me what they would find useful. Also, if someone has a word they would like to add, or an example they think is useful, please send it along through the contact page and include the context you heard it under and how you confirmed the meaning (if it's not in a dictionary or easily findable online). The help is much appreciated.