With approximately 300 million speakers around the world, the Arabic language is one of the six official languages of the United Nations and the official language of 24 African countries – Algeria, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Tanzania. In Asia, it is spoken in Bahrain, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestinian territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates.
Origin of the Arabic Language
Arabic is at least 1,500 years old and the history of its literature goes back 16 centuries ago. The oldest form of Arabic literature, which actually began in the Arabian Peninsula, is poetry. In the family tree of language, Arabic originated from the Afroasiatic family and is by far the most widely spoken Afroasiatic language. Comprising more or less 300 living languages and dialects and spoken by more than 350 million native speakers, the Afroasiatic language has six branches: Berber, Chadic, Cushitic, Egyptian, Omotic and Semitic.
Two Versions of the Arabic Language
Modern Arabic and Classical Arabic are the two versions of the 5th most common language in the world. Quran, which is the central religious text of Islam, uses the Classical Arabic version. Learning the language is considered as a requirement for Islam practitioners. (Islam is currently one of the fastest growing religions with a 1.6 billion population worldwide.) Language experts say that if you want to learn Arabic, you must learn it the classical way. The classical version is mostly used in written context (e.g. books, newspapers, and academic researches). On the other hand, Modern Arabic is used in the daily spoken contexts.
The Arabic Alphabet
Just like any other languages, the first step to learn the Arabic language is to be familiar with its alphabet. Unlike English, Arabic words are written in the cursive way from right to left. Arabic Alphabet has 28 letters; each Arabic letter consists of two parts: a shape and a number of dots. Basically, dots (which can only be above or below the shape) are used to differentiate a letter from another. If you added a single dot by mistake, you may give an Arabic word a completely different meaning.
A research in 2014 conducted by the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State shows that Arabic is one of the most difficult languages to learn for native English speakers. They say that a person who wants to learn the language needs an average of 1.69 years or 88 weeks.
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