Arabic language is quickly gaining popularity as a second language in many world regions, as the Middle East is increasingly important for international stability. In the United States, Arabic was named one of several critical languages part of the National Security Language Initiative passed in 2006 to expand national capacity in critical languages. Dozens of programs for elementary, middle school, and high school students have been implemented both during the academic school year, as well as summer, making Arabic a second language studied by a growing number of Western students of all ages.
How to Learn Arabic
For individuals interested in learning Arabic for tourism purposes, professional goals, or from personal interest, find tools and materials for self study or to learn with a tutor using these links:
- Arabic Textbooks
- Software for Arabic Langauge
- Arabic Dictionaries
- Arabic Langauge Flashcards
- Business Arabic
- Language Tutors
In addition to these materials, note that there are now numerous college programs, study abroad programs, and distance courses for people interested in gaining basic skills to fluency in the Arabic language.
Reasons to Learn Arabic
Why learn Arabic language? There are many reasons. First, Arabic is an official language in over 27 nations. The only two languages that supersede Arabic in terms of the number of countries that recognize it as an official language are English and French. (English is official in 57 countries, and French in 29 countries.) In 18 of these countries, it is the only official language, whereas in 9, Arabic is a co-official language. It is estimated that over 420 million people speak Arabic language worldwide (UNESCO.org). It is also an official language of the United Nations. Like other major languages spread over broad geographic areas, Arabic has many dialects, many of which are not mutually intelligible. Of these dialects, Egyptian Arabic has the largest number of speakers at over 50 million.
In the West, Arabic is quickly making its way into the list of top languages studied due to the political climate worldwide. In the United States, Arabic has been deemed as a critical language by the National Security Agency, drawing millions of dollars in funding for K12, college, summer study programs, and scholarships nationwide to encourage students to pursue studies in the language.
Places Where Arabic Is Spoken
Arabic is spoken in the following countries as either an official or co-official language:
Dialects of Arabic are spoken in five regional forms. Of these, some of those spoken in Africa are not recognizable (or mutually intelligible) to speakers in parts of the Gulf region. Some dialects of Arabic differ so greatly from others that linguists compare them as different as Romance languages, such as a Spanish speaker talking to a speaker of French. There are many distinctions in varieties of Arabic other than dialect; these include certain uses of both Classic Arabic (or Quranic Arabic) and Modern Standard Arabic, using formal or informal speech, differences between words and structures used in the country or city, various nuances in the language depending on the religion or ethnicity of the speaker, educational level, social classes, differences in speech of males and females, differences in the language used by sedentary and nomadic groups, and many others.
Dialects of Arabic cannot be clearly divided among national borders, as they have their roots in over 1000 years of ethnic, cultural, and political development, as well as groups that move, groups that closely resemble one another despite geographic distance, enclaves within regions where a group speaks one variety surrounded by speakers of a different majority variety, plus complications such as regions where it is difficult or impossible to take accurate census records!
Nevertheless, each region and country where the language is used display unique traits that distinguish them from others. Generally, the five regional groups include the Arabian Peninsula (which includes dialects of Gulf Arabic, Yemeni Arabic, and several others), Mesopotamian group (which includes Iraqi Arabic and North Mesopotamian dialects), Syro-Palestinian group, Egyptian group, and Maghreb group (which includes the dialects along the coast of North Africa along the Mediterranean Sea).
Varieties of Arabic spoken in different countries include Algerian Arabic, Bahraini, Chadian, Egyptian, Emirati, Iraqi, Jordanian, Kuwaiti, Lebanese, Libyan, Hassaniya Arabic (Mauritanian Arabic), Moroccan Arabic, Nigerian, Omani, Palestinian, Qatari, Sahrawi, Saudi, Sudanese, Syrian, Tunisian, and Yemeni Arabic.
What Form of Arabic to Learn
New learners of the language should first decide what dialect or variety of Arabic to learn. Universities, colleges, high schools, software, and course books tend to teach Modern Standard Arabic or MSA, unless, of course, the course specifies another dialect, like Egyptian Arabic. However, note that this form isn’t spoken as the official language of any country. Speaking it in daily conversation would sound silly; however, because other dialects of Arabic stem from MSA, students learning this form get a solid foundation in the language.
If you want to learn Arabic to live in a particular region of the world, or to do business in a certain country, if you can find courses or software that teach the regional dialect (such as Egyptian Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, or Lebanese Arabic, for example), that particular dialect is the one likely to best meet your goals. Especially if you intend to use Arabic to live or work in North African countries like Morocco, where the form of Arabic differs greatly from varieties used in other countries.
People who are interested in learning Arabic, but have no goals based on any particular country or region, sometimes choose to learn Egyptian Arabic, because it is the dialect most widely spoken. It is understood in Arabic-speaking countries outside of Egypt too, because Egypt is heart of the song and motion picture industry, plus the dialect used in classical song lyrics, and other media. So, people in many nations are familiar with this dialect.
Whichever dialect you choose, it will unlock the doors to a whole new world. Good luck in your journey as you study, travel, speak, and sing in Arabic language! Start today.