5 Most Popular Places To Study Egyptian Arabic In Cairo Reviewed
If you are thinking of moving to Cairo, you might be wondering where you can study the Egyptian dialect.
Your search might feel overwhelming.
There are plenty of places in the Middle East’s largest city to beef up your speaking skills, and they all promise pretty much the same thing.
Good location. Good price.
Finding places to study Egyptian Arabic in Cairo isn’t the problem; choosing between them is.
Below are five honest reviews of some options. Four of them are centers/schools in Cairo, while one is an account of private lessons.
All are written by foreigners who have lived in Cairo and studied the dialect within the past year.
These five reviews for studying Egyptian Arabic rank three categories:
Effectiveness: Did you actually learn Egyptian Arabic?
Did it leave you confident and able to speak?
Convenience: Did these classes fit easily with your schedule?
Was booking classes an easy process? Was the location easy to get to?
Price: Was it affordable?
Do you think the overall experience justified the cost? (Note: with how cheap Egypt is, even “expensive” options are relatively cheap in comparison).
These three categories are ranked on the following scale:
4: Above average
2: Below average
While these are only five options out of many more, they represent some of the most well-known Arabic-learning centers in Cairo.
- Episcopal Training Centre (Jonathan)
ETC has its own material, so it avoids the “cookie cutter approach” I have heard about other schools. All teachers are experienced native speakers, and they speak good enough English to easily communicate ideas to you if needed.
I took two classes per week, and each class was two hours in length.
This wasn’t super intensive, but I definitely improved during my time there.
Sometimes they don’t have classes at a time that works for you, and they also only have two locations. This can be inconvenient depending on where you live in Cairo and what your other time commitments are. Other than these there are no problems.
It’s a bit expensive for Egypt, but quite cheap for anywhere else.
I ended up paying about seven dollars per hour of class. This might be some of the cheapest high quality Arabic instruction you can obtain in the world.
ETC is good because it has its own material in the Egyptian dialect which the teachers are familiar with.
This made classes both more interesting and “custom-tailored” than other schools might be.
For a learner who also has a job or other time commitments, this is the place I would recommend.
Having said this, I haven’t tried out other schools so I don’t have a good point of reference here.
- Arabeya Language Institute (Alex)
I believe my teachers at Arabeya did a solid job teaching the fundamentals of Egyptian slang.
Teaching methods were pretty standard - starting from basics like learning the alphabet, ending with holding basic conversations and ordering food or taxis.
By the end of my studies I didn’t feel like a master (I only studied there for a few months), but I felt confident in the basics.
Although the material I learned gave me a great base to build on, the schedule was too rigid. Most students studying at Arabeya lived close to the school, many in student accommodations within walking distance.
I, however, had a much longer commute.
This caused problems for me because I often arrived late when traffic was terrible.
On the days I did arrive late, my classmates were already partway through the day’s material. This meant I had to play “catch-up,” which is NOT easy to do with a brand new language.
Since this organization seemed to target westerners who are only in Egypt for a few months, they could get away with charging euros.
I paid 480 euros for 60 hours of group lessons, coming to eight euros per hour.
This is definitely expensive for Egypt, but I think it’s relatively average for such lessons.
Overall I would recommend Arabeya Institute to anyone interested in learning Egyptian Arabic.
By the end of my studies I felt confident accomplishing a few essential tasks in Egypt, and I knew a lot of extra words. I couldn’t really speak fluidly, but I think that was mainly due to my lack of commitment practicing with locals.
If you decide to study at Arabeya, make sure you are committed to studying a lot and practicing your Arabic daily.
Note: I would warn interested people to NOT try the “intensive” courses containing 20 hours of class time per week.
Classes seem geared towards students who were only in Cairo for a few months, so maybe it makes sense for them to cram in as much Arabic as possible into a short time frame.
However, if you’re like me, you should make sure you space out your lessons into two or three 4-hour days per week.
This learning style is much more sustainable.
- International Language Institute (Hammed)
I studied at ILI five days per week, two hours of class time every day.
Unfortunately I didn’t really learn anything that I couldn’t have learned somewhere else.
ILI is one of the biggest names in Cairo for learning the dialect, but I didn’t find my experience there to be all that special.
The standard “read from a book, talk about what you read” system.
The school is in a very good location, and with their in-house café you feel really comfortable studying there.
However, they have a very strict schedule to stick to.
They are a big business, so this is expected, but don’t expect any “freedom of planning.”
Maybe this would be different with private classes, but not so with a group course.
As a foreigner, you pay in dollars or euros.
This makes the school very expensive, more so if you tack on any extras like living in the ILI dorms or any special trips that the school offers.
I paid 480 dollars per month for my group class, but this price probably varies depending on what kind of class you take.
I believe studying Egyptian Arabic at ILI is a waste of time.
If you want to progress much faster, a private tutor can be much cheaper and more effective, since it’s only you.
Group classes at ILI are great to meet people, but not very good for your main goal: learning Egyptian Arabic.
The good thing about it? I got to meet some nice people (mainly westerners) from all around the world.
This was great for my social life outside of class.
- Private lessons (Ines)
I took two private lessons of 1.5 hours every week for six months.
My teacher and I met at a popular co-working space in downtown Cairo, and I experienced a lot of improvement during that time.
These private classes made me realize how crucial is to have personalized lessons for faster improvement of the Arabic language.
Regarding the lessons, we used to start every class by talking about how the week was going, the latest national and regional news, and the political and economical situation in Egypt.
We used numerous materials to find new topics and vocabulary for the lessons, as I was interested in improving my capacities to speak about current issues.
While most of the lessons were based on casual conversation, we also spent
time covering important grammatical concepts.
My teacher had a lot of students so he was very busy and had very little availability.
We decided to set a consistent schedule, but he was always asking me to change the day or time. This definitely became an issue for me.
Besides that, he would also ask me to pay for any cancelled lesson if I didn’t inform him two days in advance.
I found this very unfair given that he would ask me all the time to adapt to his availability. I have heard that this is a common problem with private teachers.
I am aware that for an Egyptian it would be a little expensive, given the exchange rates, but I paid the equivalent of six euros per hour.
This is quite cheap considering the quality of the lessons and the teacher’s skills.
I highly recommend private lessons for those students that have reached an intermediate level in Egyptian Arabic.
It is usually very hard to find other students with the exact same level and interests as you, and this can sometimes hurt your progress in group classes.
It’s also easy in Cairo to find private teachers.
That, together with the price of the classes and the life in general, makes it maybe the best method to study Arabic.
In my case, I really improved my skills to speak with Egyptians and to have more elaborate discussions.
- French Institute (Moumtaez)
The class was usually eight or nine people.
We worked with a book which was not too old but still in black and white.
It gave me the basics that I needed for simple tasks, but overall the class was pretty average.
The classes were the same day every week and followed the same general format, which helped with class expectations.
Not really a whole lot of room for changes to the schedule, besides maybe a thirty minute delay here and there if it suited both the teacher and the students.
The location is really nice, though, and also easy to get to.
French Institute is a bit pricey and that’s actually part of the reason I stopped studying there.
It did come with a reputation, though, and a diploma at the end for those who stuck around long enough. Still, neither the material nor the teacher justified the cost.
It was probably mostly the place that bumped up the price.
The French Institute is a good enough place if you push through.
I would say that learning a new language is also about finding your way in another culture, not just grammar and vocabulary.
The class is only a part of it, and you really have to work on the side.
My classes gave me enough skills to make basic interactions with Egyptians, but I didn’t study long enough to be able to speak confidently without making mistakes.
If you are serious about learning Egyptian Arabic in Cairo, you have plenty of options to choose from.
Both language centers and private lessons can help you with the dialect, and the main thing is deciding which one is right for you.
It pays to do your research.
Whatever you choose, living and learning in Cairo is a great experience that you won’t soon forget.
This post was contributed by Eric Schenck.