- Why is World Arabic Language Day celebrated?
- Where did Arabic come from?
- What are some interesting and fun facts about Arabic?
A language that’s used by around 270 million native speakers, Arabic is the fifth most spoken language in the world with English being first and Mandarin Chinese second. On the 18th December, every year, the Arabic language celebrates its very-own special day. Why, you ask? Read on to find out…
Why is World Arabic Language Day celebrated?
World Arabic Language Day has been celebrated on 18th December since 2012 and marks a pivotal day in 1973 when the General Assembly of the United Nations included Arabic as the sixth official language of the organisation.
As quoted from the UNESCO website: “In the diversity of its forms, classic or dialectal, from oral expression to poetic calligraphy, the Arabic language has given rise to a fascinating aesthetic, in fields as varied as architecture, poetry, philosophy and song. It gives access to an incredible variety of identities and beliefs and its history reveals the richness of its links with other languages.”
Where did Arabic come from?
While the origin of Arabic has been researched for decades with debates continuing to this day, it is thought to have come from the Arabian Peninsula. If you’re not sure where that is, it’s in Southwest Asia and lies at the junction of Africa and Asia, now home to what we know as the UAE. 🌏
Arabic is a Semitic language and has been around for over 1000 years; it was first spoken by nomadic tribes in the aforementioned peninsula. Fun fact? “Arabic” means “nomadic” and is derived from the word “Arab” which means “nomad”.
What are some interesting and fun facts about Arabic?
- There are three major categories when it comes to Arabic:
- Classical Arabic, which is the language of Islamic holy book, the Qur’an.
- Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), based on Classical Arabic but simplified, is the variant taught in schools and is widely used throughout modern literature, TV, news (written and spoken), radio, internet, movies etc. While Arabs can understand MSA, they tend to communicate in…
- Colloquial Arabic, the term used to describe the many dialects that can be found throughout the world’s 25 Arabic-speaking countries. Despite stemming from Arabic, these contrasting dialects can be difficult to comprehend between nations; a Kuwaiti using their local vernacular may have a hard time understanding a Moroccan who’s using theirs.
- The Arabic alphabet features 28 letters, and when those characters are put to paper – or screen – their form can change depending on whether they appear at the start, the end or the middle of a word. Small dashes and shapes are also used above or below the letters to signify the sounds of short vowels, the stress of a letter or the doubling of a letter.
- Not only are Arabic words written and read from right to left on a page, but books start from what we know as the “back” and finish at our “front”. However, numbers are written from left to right. 🙃
- Arabic has influenced many languages, including English, French, Spanish and Turkish. Here are 12 English words that have been borrowed from Arabic (with a few international stops in between):
- Alcohol – from the Arabic “alkuhl”.
- Candy – from the Arabic word “qand” which means “crystallised sugar”.
Gazelle – from the Arabic “ghazal”.
- Magazine – this comes from the Arabic “makhazin” which originally means “storehouse” and after the word had passed through Italy and France along with a change in semantics, English speakers began using this word to mean a set of writings aimed at the general public because a magazine is where we also “store” things (ideas, articles, news etc.).
- Giraffe – from the Arabic “zarafa”.
- Alchemy – from the Arabic “alkemia”.
- Lemon – from the Arabic “laymoon”.
- Cotton – from the Arabic “qotton”.
- Mattress – this comes from the Arabic word “matrah”, a place where cushions or blanks are thrown on the ground.
- Sugar – from the Arabic “sukkar”.
- Safari – this is derived from the Arabic word “safar”, meaning to take a journey.
- Syrup – the Arabic word “sharab” is used for wine and after moving through France, arrived in England as “syrup” in the 14th century.
- To a learner, the Arabic sounds can be hard because they don’t appear in the English language at all. Here are some examples of those tough pronunciations and how you can sound them out yourself!
- ح = This is the letter “haa” and to make this sound, imagine you are breathing onto a pane of glass that you’re about to draw a smiley face on. ☺️ This breathing sound you make is used in words like “hub” which means “love”. When written in text messages using Roman letters instead of Arabic script, this letter can be replaced by the number 7.
- ع = Welcome to the letter “ayn”. Pronounced using a guttural sound from the back of your throat, this one isn’t easy and definitely takes some practice! In Arabic “text chat”, the number 3 is used to indicate this letter.
- ﺥ = The letter “kha” makes a sound like the “ch” in “Bach”, the German composer. Used in the word “kharouf” for “sheep”, the number 5 represents this letter when texting. 📱
And on that note, we’ll leave you to practice your Arabic alphabet because you know what they say – practice makes perfect. ⭐