Learn Arabic

Why Learn Arabic?

Cairo, Egypt - February 28, 2008: Portrait of a camel man on his camel in front of the Pyramid of Khafre on the Giza Plateau in Cairo, Egypt.
Man on his camel in front of the Pyramid of Khafre on the Giza Plateau in Cairo, Egypt.

Arabic is one of the world's major languages, and proficiency in Arabic is a skill that's in high demand. With the ongoing importance of the Middle East for both strategic reasons and for its oil resources, the Western world will continue to have interests and interaction with the region for a long time.

But Arabic is not limited to the Arab countries of the Middle East. It is also spoken throughout North Africa, and some parts of east Africa and even subsaharan Africa.

Arabic speakers are in demand by many companies dealing with the Middle East, by militaries, and by intelligence services. Proficiency in Arabic opens up some special career opportunities not open to others, so it is worthwhile to learn Arabic. Not to mention that the people of the Arab world are warm and hospitable and love to communicate. Being able to speak their language will turn a nice trip into an incredible one!

Additional facts include:

  • Arabic is the 5th most commonly spoken native language in the world.

  • There is a high demand and low supply of Arabic-speakers in the Western world.

  • There are financial incentives for learning Arabic.

  • Arabic-speaking nations are a fast growing market for trade.

  • Arabic-speaking peoples have made significant contributions to world civilization.

  • The Arab-speaking world has a rich cultural heritage.

  • Knowing Arabic can promote intercultural understanding.

  • Arabic influence is evident in many other languages.

Where is Arabic spoken?

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Image credit: "Arabic speaking world" by Keteracel at English Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

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What does Arabic look like?


What does Arabic sound like?

Did you know these words come from Arabic?

  • Admiral. amīr al-bihār, "commander [emir] of the seas", a title in use in Arabic Sicily and continued by the Normans in Sicily in a Latinized form, and adopted successively by Genoese and French. Modern French is "amiral". An English form under King Edward III (14th century) was "Amyrel of the Se". Insertion of the 'd' was doubtless influenced by allusion to common Latin "admire".

  • Adobe, the brick. Arabic entered medieval Spanish. Entered English from Mexico.

  • Algebra, al-jabr, completing, or restoring missing parts. The mathematical sense comes from the title of the book al-kitāb al-mukhtaṣar fī ḥisāb al-jabr wa-l-muqābala, "The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing" by the 9th century mathematician al-Khwarizmi.

  • Assassin, ḥashāshīn, Arabic designation of the Nizari branch of Ismailism during the Middle Ages, literally 'users of hashish'. In the Crusades era in the Levant, this sect carried out assassinations against chiefs of other sects, including Christians.

  • Candy, qandi, sugared. Arabic is from Persian qand = "cane (sugar)", and possibly from Sanskrit before that, since cane sugar developed in India.

  • Carat, qirat, carat, which in medieval Arabic was a very small unit of weight, defined by reference to a small seed or grain. The Arabic word had an ancient Greek root keration, literally "carob seed", also denoting a small unit of weight.

  • Checkmate, check, exchequer, chess, chequered, unchecked, checkout, checkbox ...  The many uses of the word "check" in English are all descended from Persian shah = king and the use of this word in the game of chess. Chess was introduced to Europe by Arabs, who pronounced the last h in shah hard, giving rise to the Old French form eschac, which the English is derived from. (Similarly Persian burah > Arabic buraq > French borax)

  • Coffee, café, qahwa = coffee, itself possibly from Kaffa Province, Ethiopia, where the plant originated. Cafe is from the French spelling of coffee. Cafe mocha, a type of coffee, is named after the city of Mocha, Yemen, which was an early coffee exporter.

  • Giraffe, zarāfa. Entered Italian and French in the late 13th century.

  • Guitar, qītāra. "The name reached English several times, including 14th century giterne from Old French. The modern word is directly from Spanish guittara, from Arabic qitar." (Harper (2001)). The Arabic is descended from ancient Greek kithara (which might be connected to ancient Persian Tar meaning string, and string instrument).

  • Orange, naranj, orange, which descends from Sanskrit nāraṅga = orange, and perhaps a Dravidian language before that. The orange tree came from India.

  • Serendipity from Serendip, a fairy tale place, from Sarandib, an old Arab word for Sri Lanka. Fortified by its resemblance to the etymologically unrelated Latin word "serenity".

  • Sofasuffah, a sofa, a couch or bench. This word was adopted into Turkish and entered Western Europe from Turkish in the 16th century.

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