*Today, 18th of December, the World Arabic Language Day, I have come with 20 interesting facts about Arabic Language you probably don't know.*
The United Nations Arabic Language Day is observed annually on December 18. The event was established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2010 to seeking "to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity as well as to promote equal use of all six of its official working languages throughout the organization." December 18 was chosen as the date for the Arabic language as it is "the day in 1973 when the General Assembly approved Arabic as an official UN language."
In celebration of such a beautiful and fascinating language, I decided to put together a list of 20 interesting fun facts about Arabic.
*1-It is among the most spoken languages in the world.*
The United Nations estimates that Arabic is the mother tongue of more than 290 million people in the world, most of them in the Arab world. Added to them are 130 million who speak it as a second language. The same statistics expect the number of speakers to become 647 million in 2050, which will constitute 6.94 percent of the world’s population.
*(2)The world’s fourth language.*
The Arabic language is currently ranked fourth in the rankings of the most prevalent languages in the world after English, French, and Spanish, thus Arabic is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world.
*3-One of the richest and most accurate languages of the world.*
This Arabic language is considered one of the richest languages in terms of words and meanings, the Arabic dictionary exceeds 12 million words according to the electronic dictionary of “meanings”.
*4-It is the official language in 26 countries.*
With more than 300 million speakers worldwide, it is the official language of 26 countries. Arabic is spoken in many countries, and it is also one of the 6 official languages of the United Nations.
*5-The words are written from right to left.*
This can be confusing if you are not a native speaker or you are not acquainted with this language.
*6-It is a Semitic Language*.
A Semitic Language is a name used to name a group of Asiatic and African languages like Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Ethiopic, and Assyrian. In regards to Arabic writing, many languages use the Arabic alphabet, like Persian/Farsi, Urdu, Pashto, and Kurdish. You will be able to read in any of these languages, even though you might not understand.
*7-It has no capitalization.*
There is no capitalization or abbreviation in Arabic.
No need to worry about writing proper nouns in Arabic because all letters are treated equally, whether at the start, middle, or end of a sentence. Arabic speakers do not use abbreviated or contracted words to shorten talking the way English speakers do with “don’t” or “legit”.
*8-Different dialects are markedly distinct.*
In English, most dialects are mutually intelligible, meaning that British English speaker can easily understand an American English speaker. Arabic, on the other hand, is pluricentric, meaning that individual dialects are so distinct that speakers of different dialects often times can’t understand each other.
*9-There are 3 types of Arabic.*
i-Classical Arabic (the form of Arabic in which the Quran is written)
Classical Arabic, otherwise known as Qu’ranic, dates back to the literary texts from Umayyad and Abbasid times; its the language of the Quran (the holy book of Islam).
ii-Modern Standard Arabic (MSA – used as a global, universal standard)
MSA is the Arabic of newspapers, novels, and textbooks. This literary variety is used in writing and in most formal speech and is pretty similar to Classical Arabic.
iii-Colloquial Arabic (varies according to the region and country)
Imagine having people in 26 countries with different geographical borders, cultures, cities, and groups, all speaking the same language…
The national or regional varieties of spoken Arabic differ significantly from Modern Standard Arabic and Classical Arabic, as well as from each other!
For example, Syrians, Palestinians, Saudi Arabians or Egyptians can communicate with each other easily, however, they would have more difficulty communicating with Moroccans or Algerians, with its greater influence from French.
*10- Arabic has heavily influenced many languages including English.*
You may not know it, but many Arabic words have found their way into the vocabulary of the English. 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, cotton, sugar, alcohol, lemon, gazelle, carat, guitar, algorithm, coffee, ghoul, loofa, magazine, sofa, tariff, racquet, sherbet, caravan, saffron, tarragon and many more.
On a related note, the “x” used as a variable in Algebra also originates from an Arabic word – “shayy”, meaning “thing” – which became “xay” in Spain and later “x” in algebra. And as long as we are talking math and numbers, remember that it is the Arabic numerals that replaced the Roman numerals centuries ago.
*11-It has a unique sound that does not exist in any other language.*
(Ḍād)[ض]: it is the fifteenth letter of the Arabic alphabet. It is very unusual to speakers of European languages. It can be described as a very strongly pronounced “D”. For this reason, Arabic is called “the language of the Ḍād”.
Similarly, it has throat sounds that don’t exist in other languages
Haa ح is a guttural breath that’s only found in Arabic.
Ayn ع and Ghayn غ are two of the most difficult letters for non-native speakers to pronounce because it’s not a common sound in English or other widely spoken languages.
Kha خ is the sound you make when clearing your throat, which is hard to do while speaking. This is another letter that non-native speakers have the most difficulty learning.
*12-In the Arabic language, there are at least 11 words for “love”.*
Each one conveys a different stage in the complex process of falling in love. “Hubb”, the most common word for “love” in Arabic comes from the same root as the word “seed”, which has the potential to grow into something beautiful. (Beautiful, isn’t it?)
*13-Arabic has more words than Latin languages.*
Lion in Arabic has more than 300 nouns, among those 300 nouns, there are adjective that are considered as nouns because it is commonly used to describe Lion. More than 100 words for Camel, 50 words for beautiful, and another 100 words for God.
It consists 16000 roots, against 700 roots in Latin: It is noteworthy that words in Arabic are derived from roots that are usually a combination of three letters. According to some sources, Arabic has 12.3 million words, while English consists of 600.000 English words.
*14-Verbs come first and adjectives come second* .
English is an SVO language, meaning that the typical word order is Subject, Verb, Object. Arabic, on the other hand, is a VSO language, meaning that the verb comes first. Thus, instead of saying “He ate the food ”, you would say (أكل الطعام) which is translates literally “Ate he the food”. Similarly, whereas in English adjectives come before nouns (e.g., “red car”), in Arabic, adjectives always come after. In Arabic, “red car” is السيارة الحمراء, which translates literally to “car red”.
*15- In the present tense, there is no verb ‘TO BE.*
For instance, (أنا عبد الرزاق) anaa Abdul Razaaq (I am Abdul Razaaq), which could be literarily translated as "I Abdul Razaaq".
*16-The oldest form of Arabic literature is poetry.*
Arabic literature has a great old history. The history of Arabic literature goes back to 16 centuries ago. It began in the Arabian Peninsula.
*17-Arabic is at least 1500 years old*.
Classic Arabic originated in the sixth century, but earlier versions of the language existed including the Safaitic dialect, an old Arabic dialect used by the pre Islamic nomadic inhabitants of the SyroArabian desert which dates back to the 1st century.
*18The uniqueness of each of its letter*.
Each Arabic alphabet letter can be written in four different ways when writing a word: (1) when it is stand-alone or isolated, (2) when it is at the beginning of the word, (3) when it is at the middle of the word, and (4) when it is at the end of the world. For instance, ب، بول، بول ،كلب
Arabic calligraphy started as a tool of communication, progressing to where it had been used for artistic expression such as construction, design, currency. In fact, modern artist consider Arabic calligraphy its own separate area of the arts.
*20- It is one of the languages that will not go into extinction*
Arabic is not among the endangered languages, it is the language of rituals for over billion Muslims around the world: prayer and other rituals in Islam are conducted in Arabic. Arabic words can be found in languages spoken by non-Arab Muslims. It is one of the most spread languages in the world because of being the language of the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book and divine revelation.
One of the main reasons for the preservation of Arabic is that Muslims hold the Quran and other Islamic texts in high regard. Therefore there has always been a conscious effort to learn and teach the classical Arabic in which they are written.
Start learning Arabic today and discover the mind-boggling beauty of this language.
Ahmad H. Zayyat (2019). The history of Arabic literature.
Hasan S. Ghazala(2012), Translation as problem and solution.
*Abdul Rasaq Adepoju*
*Department of Arabic,*
*University of Ilorin*