This storied history of the Arabic language includes more than a few fun and interesting facts. When a language is spoken in so many places by so many different people, it is simply going to develop some interesting characteristics and statistics along the way.
If you’re learning Arabic right now, some of these won’t be much of a surprise. If you’re considering getting on board with online Arabic lessons, you might find these elements of the language a little fascinating and even a little fun.
So, let’s take a look at some of these Arabic language facts and explore some of the history of the language.
1. There are several different forms of Arabic.
Every language has different dialects, but this is something a little more than that. Arabic is a Central Semitic language, which means it’s closely related to Aramaic and Hebrew, and a lot of those roots are still found in Classic or Quranic Arabic. This form of the language is used in various formal settings, and, of course, the Quran.
Modern Standard Arabic, on the other hand, is the language used in books, movies, newspapers, and everyday conversations. This is also the form that will have a lot of different dialects as you go from region to region.
Of these different dialects, though, the most commonly understood is Egyptian colloquial.
2. There are many sounds in Arabic that are not in other languages.
When you’re learning a new language, some of the trickiest bits are mastering the sounds that are not in your native language. Arabic certain has its share of those. One of the most common examples is the ‘ح’ , which has something of an “h” sound, but you could also just call it a “breathy” sound.
3. There are more than 20 countries in which Arabic is the official language.
We’re being a little vague with the number on this one because if you look around the internet for a moment, you’ll see websites citing anywhere from 22 to 26 different countries that fall into this category.
So, we’ll look to the infallible Wikipedia for the most current stats. Here, you’ll see that there are 22 sovereign states where Modern Standard Arabic is the official language. Some of these countries have two official languages, including everything from Kurdish and Somali to English and French.
There are also some other states and territories with limited recognition where Arabic is the official language. There are 4 of them listed here… so, yes, there are between 22 and 26 countries that use Arabic as their official language.
4. Arabic is the sixth most-spoken language worldwide.
There are more than 300 million Arabic speakers across the world, and it is one of the 6 official languages of the United Nations. The UN even made December 18th Arabic National Day because that was the day in 2010 when the language was officially included with the other 5.
5. There is no “to be” verb in the present tense.
The “to be” verbs in English include: am, are, is, was, were, been, and being. While these words exist in Arabic, they are not used in the present tense (so, were and was are still valid).
For example, you wouldn’t say something like: “My name is Bob.” You’d simply say: “My name Bob.”
6. There are no capital letters.
The Arabic alphabet does not include capital letters. Most often, in written form, quotation marks are used for emphasis instead.
7. Written Arabic uses an abjad instead of an alphabet.
An abjad writing system can be a little tricky for English speakers. Basically, it’s a form of writing in which each letter stands for a consonant and not a vowel. The vowels are indicated with vowel marks rather than a full letter.
8. Arabic is at least 1,500 years old.
We already said Arabic has a long history, right?
Well, Classic Arabic can be traced all the way back to the sixth century (although there are some who suggest that it could go back even further with slight variations on the language).
9. Arabic Words Get into English all the time.
When a language has been around this long, it’s only natural that it has some influence on other regions and languages as time and people move on.
Some of the most common English words that originated in Arabic include: algebra, algorithm, coffee, ghoul, loofa, magazine, sofa, tariff, racquet, sherbet, and many more.
On a related note, the “x” used as a variable in algebra also originates from an Arabic word – “shay”, meaning “thing” – which became “xay” in Spain and later “x” in algebra. And as long as we’re talking math and numbers, remember that it’s the Arabic numerals that replaced the Roman numerals centuries ago.
All these facts are, of course, just the start. Are you ready to dive more into this language? Check out our online Arabic courses to learn more.