Would you rather clean the bathroom than do your Arabic textbook assignments?
That’s a problem.
But I’m willing to bet that you won’t actually clean your bathroom.
You’ll procrastinate your Arabic studies by doing something far more entertaining and far less productive.
Like chilling out and watching your favorite TV shows.
It’s alright, we all do it.
Thankfully, sitting down to study over a bulky Arabic textbook isn’t the only way to learn the language.
Now is the perfect time for you to develop an addiction to Arabic TV. There’s a huge diversity of programs from all corners of the Arabic-speaking world.
In my own learning journey, TV shows have played a tremendously significant role.
They’re enjoyable, so I never procrastinate watching them. They’re informative, so no matter what else happens, I’m getting some language and culture knowledge—depending on the show itself, maybe I’m gaining knowledge on other topics too. There’s a ton of shows out there, so they’ve helped me to explore the nuts and bolts of different Arabic-speaking cultures.
All of this, and they take less effort to use than other, more traditional learning tools. You can choose to watch passively by just learning back and following along, or you can watch actively by taking notes and looking up words you missed.
Regardless of how or what you’ll learn, here are seven of the best Arabic TV shows for your language studies.
And, of course, every TV show has its own perspective and message. Pay attention to religious, cultural and political messages, and use this perspective to further your understanding of the Arabic languages and the people who speak it.
The 7 Best Arabic TV Shows for Language Learners
Imagine leaving your home, family, cat and friends for a trip around the world.
That’s what “Khawatir” is about. You’ll follow a well-educated Saudi Arabian man and his team traveling the world to explore the similarities and differences between Arabic and foreign (especially Asian and Western European) communities.
The show’s creator—and a winner of the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Award—Ahmed Al Shugairi, aims to spotlight the positive aspects of cultures all around the world and present them as an example for Middle Easterners and Arabic-speakers in general.
He speaks in Gulf Arabic throughout the series, so it’s understandable for advanced Modern Standard Arabic and Gulf Arabic learners.
Luckily, all episodes of “Khawatir” are published on YouTube, and they broadcast on several TV channels such as Arrissala, Iqra, MBC, Shariqa channel and For Shabab. Some of the YouTube videos have English subtitles, so don’t forget to switch them on if you need them.
If you’re wondering where to start, I recommend the most popular season which takes place in Japan, available on the main YouTube channel.
Morocco is famous for its cuisine. WorldSIM ranked Morocco as the second-best travel destination in the world for food lovers after Poland. A competitive culinary Moroccan TV show is therefore indispensable.
Professional and home chefs are eligible to apply for “Master Chef Morocco” and compete for the top prize of about $40,000 and a free internship at a prestigious culinary institution. The participants travel to destinations all over Morocco, connecting locations and the recipes they’re challenged with, which will help you learn more about Morocco, its food and its culture.
Alongside Moroccan Arabic, having a good grasp of French cooking terms is a plus, as jury members and participants frequently use both languages.
“The Victorious” gathers outstandingly talented Arabic-speaking athletes for a yearly soccer competition in Dubai, held by the Dubai Channels Network.
With a jury of world-class retired football players such as Luís Figo, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, Alessandro Del Piero and Diego Maradona, and a prize of $100,000, competition is fierce.
For you, the Arabic learner, the upside of “The Victorious” is the availability of translation subtitles in Modern Standard Arabic most of the time. Be warned, “The Victorious” frequently dips into a mix of Arabic dialects from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean, which can be difficult for non-advanced learners.
All episodes are broadcast on Dubai TV and Dubai Sport, then uploaded to YouTube.
The Berber word amouddou means “voyage” in English, and it’s the title of a documentary TV series produced by the first Moroccan TV channel, Al Aoula.
The award-winning commentator, Hassan Boufous, is one of the most famous and prolific producers in the the Arabic world, adding a great touch of art to the show. With his charismatic voice and flawless Modern Standard Arabic, the show is a doozy for Arabic students.
“Amouddou” is mix of a developed version of travel vlogging and National Geographic documentaries. It takes you on an adventure to discover the wonderful nature around Morocco and beyond. I recommend it for advanced Arabic learners, but anyone can enjoy the scenery.
“من سيربح المليون” is an Arabic equivalent of the top-rated international show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which has been broadcast in more than 120 countries around the globe.
What’s most exciting about this show is the presenter, George Kurdahi, whose influence has carried it to the highest ratings in Arab Television. You might see him as the Arab version of Larry King: talented, intelligent and self-motivated.
After a long absence from the Arabic screen, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” has re-emerged with a bigger prize: Two million Saudi Arabian Riyals are up for grabs, rather than one million, for any contestant who can answer all 15 questions correctly.
Jargon in a variety of fields and topics such as sports, literature, music and science sometimes makes the show quasi-impossible to grasp for beginner and intermediate learners. Also, expect a mix of Modern Standard Arabic (in subtitles when translating Moorish dialects) and Levantine Arabic (George Kurdahi’s native language).
You can find some of the episodes of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” on YouTube. You also can watch it on two Arabic TV channels: Orbit Showtime Network (OSN) and CBC.
Frankly, this is the craziest show I’ve ever watched.
You can describe it as a total mess or an adventurous copy of WWA.
“Treasure Island” gathers a group of five Moroccan actors, singers, athletes, presenters and other celebrities each episode for a competition to raise money for Moroccan associations.
The show is filmed in France, India and the Caucasus, and it’s divided into three rounds. Contestants spend the first round gathering keys to the treasure, the second round collecting symbols and the last round decoding the cipher of the treasure and gathering as much money as possible in the specified time.
For example, some keys and symbols in the first two rounds are hidden in boxes containing snakes, forcing contestants to risk themselves to achieve their goal.
All participants in “Treasure Island” talk in Moroccan Arabic, which makes the show a perfect choice for Moroccan Arabic enthusiasts.
“Arabs Got Talent” is a talent show based in Lebanon. It gathers gifted young people from the Middle East and North Africa to compete for a prize of a brand new car, 500,000 Saudi Arabian Riyals and a contract with MBC—the channel the TV is broadcasted on.
The judges—singer Najwa Karam, university dean Ali Jaber, comedian Nasser Al Qasabi and actor Ahmed Helmy—select participants for the semi-finals based on their performance. Thereafter, the audience votes for the contestant they love.
Participants have a variety of talents, ranging from the worst comedian to the best break-dancer.
The show combines all Arabic dialects and provides Modern Standard Arabic subtitles for English-speaking performers. You can watch it on MBC4, the official TV channel of the show, or the “Arabs Got Talent” YouTube channel.
Now that we’ve explored seven of the best Arabic TV shows on a variety of topics, the ball is in your court.
Only you can decide which TV programs to watch based on the type, level, dialect and culture of each show.
What better way to learn than to enjoy Arabic television?
So, start procrastinating in the most productive way possible.
Yassir Sahnoun is a freelance writer, polyglot and translator living in Morocco. He loves learning about other languages, peoples and cultures. You can learn more about Yassir at his website.
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