Arabic is a fascinating language with more than a thousand years of history, and continues to surprise and influence people today.
There are Two Arabics
More so than just about any other living language, Arabic is tied to religious writings. So much so that there are in fact two forms of Arabic – Classical Arabic, which is the language of the Qu’ran, and modern Arabic and its dialects. Classic Arabic is the language the Qur’an was written in and is considered sacred and unchangeable, and is today still taught and used widely among Islamic scholars and religious leaders. It is, however, considered mainly a written language, not a spoken one.
You Already Speak Arabic
Many, many Arabic words have been imported into other languages, and English is one of the leading thieves of the Arabic language. Words such as cotton, sugar, guitar, and alcohol are just a few quick examples of words in English that have their roots in Arabic. You would be amazed to discover how many words you use every day had their birth in the Arab world.
Arabic uses the same punctuation marks as in English – surprisingly, considering the vast differences in the alphabets and scripts used in each language. However, many of these marks are inverse from the English way of writing them, which can make them look a bit exotic when you’re unfamiliar with the language.
It’s a Study in Dialects
Arabic is spoken by over 200 million people in 22 countries (officially) but it is a language of regional dialects. Often these dialects are almost completely incomprehensible to each other, despite being the same language! Arabic is suspected of having lived as a spoken by unwritten language for centuries prior to the birth of Islam, which may explain some of this. As a translation services professional I know many scholars who have learned the frustration of becoming fluent in a dialect of Arabic and finding they cannot understand anyone from a nearby town!
Arabic is a Semitic language, and as such is written right to left, unlike the left to right we use in English. Books in Arabic are also opened in a way that would appear to be back to the front to Western eyes.
Arabic has influenced world culture and history for centuries and continues to be a vital and important language in the modern world. I’d recommend anyone with an interest in language to spend some time reading about this amazing language.