We have divided common questions about Arabic into two sections. The first are general questions about the Arabic language and the second section includes questions about learning Arabic. Regardless if you’re interested in learning Arabic or just interested in the language from a linguistic point of view, this article should hopefully answer some common questions about the Arabic language.
About the Arabic language
What type of language is Arabic?
Arabic is a semitic language. Other semitic languages include: Amharic, Tigrinya, and Hebrew.
How many people speak Arabic?
Arabic has approximately 422 million speakers, making it the 5th most spoken language in the world.
Which countries speak Arabic?
The Arabic language has an incredibly large reach. Arabic is an official language in 25 different countries:
Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Tunisia, UAE, Yemen
However, it also recognised as a minority language in the following countries:
Cyprus, Iran, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Turkey
Arabic is a very widely spoken language and learning it opens up all of these countries to the speaker.
What writing system does Arabic use?
The type of writing system Arabic uses is called an abjad. An abjad is an alphabet system that has a concentration on consonants. Often there will be letters to represent each consonant but not each vowel.
This might sound confusing but most languages have a narrow range of which vowels they use, and tend to use more consonant sounds.
The Arabic writing system is written in cursive and goes from right to left rather than left to right like our writing system. It consists of 28 letters.
Can different types of Arabic speakers understand each other
Most Arabic speakers can understand modern standard arabic, however the dialects vary so greatly that someone from Morocco might have troubles being understood in Egypt and vice versa. Countries close together tend to have more similar dialects and can often understand each other better.
This may influence your decision if you’re going to learn Arabic which dialect you choose to learn.
About learning Arabic
Why learn Arabic?
Here are some of the most important reasons to learn Arabic:
- Arabic is an official language of the UN
- The writing system is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world
- Learning Arabic opens up over 25 countries to you
- It is a highly sought after language, meaning you’ll be very attractive in the job market
- Arabic is a gateway language to other semitic languages
But if you’re still looking at reasons to learn Arabic, then check out our article here on why learn Arabic for more information.
Which type of Arabic should I learn
That’s really up to you. You need to think about why you want to learn Arabic? Is it because your spouse speaks Arabic? In which case I would learn the dialect that they speak. Is it because you want to live in a foreign country? In which case I would learn the Arabic of the region you want to live in.
If you can’t decide then you can learn modern standard arabic, which is understood in most countries and you might find most useful for you. Then once you’ve mastered that if you want to learn a specific dialect you still have that option. The problem with this is that although you will likely be understood, many Arabic speakers don’t use MSA when they’re talking to each other so you might miss out on a lot.
If you want to learn a specific dialect but you don’t have a reason to choose like a spouse or job opportunity, then try and have a listen and see which sound you like the most. Egyptian Arabic is a very popular dialect to learn, and there are more resources for this type of Arabic than for others.
This is a difficult decision that you really need to make. Listen to the different types of Arabic, think about why you’re learning Arabic and work you way through to your decision. And remember, whatever you choose, there’s always an opportunity to change your mind.
What is the official Arabic exam
The official Arabic exam is the ALPT (Arabic Language Proficiency Test).
The ALPT consists of five parts: speaking, listening, writing, reading and grammar.
What resources can you use to learn Arabic?
The great thing about Talk in Arabic is that it includes lots of different Arabic dialects so you can choose which one you want to learn and practise with, rather than just listening to one standard form of Arabic in the course.
Italki is a great platform to use to speak with natives. You can search for language partners who are learning English and speak Arabic and arrange skype sessions with them. The good news is, because English is so popular and Arabic is so widely spoken, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find a partner. There’s always an Arabic speaker looking for a language partner.
Books to practise your Arabic
The Arabic Media site is an online resource where you can find Arabic newspapers to read online. Of course this might be a bit tricky for beginners so maybe you’ll want to start out a bit smaller.
If you prefer stories then you should try out some graded readers. Incase you haven’t come across graded readers before, they’re books that have been written for a specific proficiency level. Arabic small wonders have a great collection of graded readers, which have three levels including; beginner, upper beginner and intermediate.
Once you’re at an advanced level, maybe you could try reading some proper Arabic fiction? If you do let us know how you get on!
Movies to watch to practise your Arabic
Here are some of our favourite movies to watch to help you practise your Arabic:
Hassan Al Imam
Man of Ashes
Music to listen to, to practise your Arabic
Here are our favourite bands that you can listen to for your Arabic:
We hope you’ve found our common questions about Arabic useful. If you have any other questions or you would have answered differently to use then please let us know in the comments below.