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Why Study Arabic?

Arabic is... One of the six official languages of the UN. Spoken by some 250 million people. The principal language in 22 countries in Africa and the Middle East...

‌the Language of the League of Arab States

Arabic is ranked #4 among the most widely spoken languages in the world. • Chinese Mandarin • Spanish • English • Arabic

885 million 332 322 235

By 2050, Arabic speakers could outnumber those in English worldwide!

‌the Language of Islam Arabic is the language of Scripture and prayer for 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide. That includes approximately six million Muslims in the US!

…a Language for Christians Arabic is also the language of Scripture and prayer for some 30 million Christians in Africa and the Middle East.

‌for Arab-Americans Arabic is the mother tongue of some three million people of Arab origin living in the US.

‌the fastest-growing spoken language of study at U.S. colleges and universities.

A survey of the Modern Language Association indicated that the number of students studying Arabic at U.S. colleges climbed 92.3% - to 10,584 – between 1998 and 2002. The number of undergraduate campuses teaching Arabic jumped 48%, to 233.

Arabic Literature There is a vast body of Arabic literature, both secular and sacred.

In 1988, Egypt’s Naguib Mahfouz became the first Arab-language author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Business Interests & International Trade According to the International Trade Commission, in 2007 US exports to the Middle East & North Africa World reached $55.6 billion! And US imports reached $102 billion!

International Affairs Diplomatic relations with the Arab world are an important aspect of US foreign policy.

From Arabic to Spanish Arabic words have made their way into many European languages. Some 4,000 words in Spanish, mostly nouns, were borrowed from Arabic • Aceite, Alfombra, Algodon, Arroz, etc.

From Arabic to Spanish to English From Spanish, many Arabic words passed into other languages, including English: • admiral, alcohol, algebra, algorithm, almanac • candy, chemistry, coffee, cotton, crimson • magazine, mascara, mattress, mocha • safari, sequin, sherbet, sofa, syrup • zenith and zero

Arabic Script


A number of other languages use or have used a version of the Arabic script. These include: • Persian or Farsi (Iran) • Pashto (Afghanistan, Iran, India) • Urdu (India & Pakistan) • Formerly Turkish

The Classification & History of Arabic

The Classification of Arabic Arabic is a Semitic language It is related to languages such as: Akkadian (ancient Mesopotamian language) Hebrew & Aramaic Ethiopic

Semitic Languages

Map of Semitic Languages

The History of Arabic ‫تاريخ العربية‬ Evidence for written Arabic before the advent of Islam is quite limited. The first inscription in a language recognized as Arabic dates from 328 CE. Arabic script is probably derived from a cursive form of Nabataean, which is itself derived from Aramaic.

The Origins of Arabic Script

Some Basic Features of Arabic An alphabet of 28 letters Written from right to left Three long & three short vowels (a, i, u) Short vowels are not normally written except in: The Qur’an, Bible, children’s books, dictionaries, etc.

Root and pattern system


Most verbs and nouns are derived from a 3-letter root For example from the root D R S come: • Darasa • Darrasa • Dars • Madrasa • Mudarris

to study to teach lesson, class school teacher

Varieties of Arabic Classical, Modern Standard & Colloquial

Classical Arabic The Qur’an represents the greatest example of Classical Arabic and set the standard for the language for centuries.

Diglossia Modern Arabic is characterized by what is called diglossia. This means that modern Arabic virtually comprises two languages: Modern Standard Arabic and Colloquial Arabic.

Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) Modern Standard Arabic (“fus-Ha�) is derived from Classical Arabic and was developed in the late 19th-early 20th centuries:

To guard the integrity of the Arabic language and preserve it from foreign influences To adapt the Arabic language to the needs of modern times, especially to express modern political ideas and technological terms To unite the Arab world under a common language

Modern Standard Arabic ‫الفصحى‬ MSA is used for: Print & electronic media Formal speeches TV and radio news

Colloquial Arabic (CA) ‫العامية‬ CA is the first language of Arabic-speakers. It’s the everyday dialect. CA is the ONLY language for many people.

Colloquial Arabic “is the mother tongue of the Arab & remains throughout his life the primary medium of interpersonal relationships.� -Mary Catherine Bateson,

Arabic Language Handbook (2003)

Colloquial Arabic There are over 30 varieties of CA in 5 groups: North African Egyptian Levantine Arabian Iraqi

(Morocco-Libya) (Egypt & the Sudan) (Palestine, Leb., Syr. & Jordan) (Saudi Arabia & the Gulf States)

They vary tremendously in grammar, vocabulary & pronunciation, even within a single country!

“How are you?” In Syria, someone may ask: shlonak? In Egypt, you will hear: izzayak? In Morocco: kee deir?

Differences may be so great, speakers from two different Arab countries may have to resort to MSA or another language (usually English or French) in order to communicate.

“There can be no doubt that those who want to have a real command of the Arabic language in all situations need to master both varieties.” – Woidich, Kulla Tamam! (2004)

The Goals of the Arabic Program at St. Bonaventure University

To introduce students to MSA for: Reading • signs, books, newspapers, etc.

Writing • correspondence, completing forms, etc.

Speaking & Listening • Formal addresses, news broadcasts, etc.

Introduce students to Colloquial Arabic for: everyday communication & conversation

But which colloquial? Primarily Egyptian Colloquial Why? It’s the most widely understood Colloquial Arabic due to Egyptian TV and movies broadcast throughout the Arab world.

However, through

the Institute of International Education (IIE), teaching assistants from the Arab world introduce students to other varieties of Colloquial Arab such as Lebanese and Moroccan Arabic.

It’s time to begin your journey to the Arabic-speaking world!

Or as we say in Arabic...

Ahlan wa sahlan



Why Study Arabic? One of the six official languages of the UN. Spoken by some 250 million people. The principal language in 22 countries in...


Why Study Arabic? One of the six official languages of the UN. Spoken by some 250 million people. The principal language in 22 countries in...