6 Fun Facts about the Arabic Language
- Arabic is written using an alphabet just like English!
العربية يُكتَب بأبجدية كما الإنجليزية
There are 28 letters in the Arabic alphabet. Just like English, each letter represents a different sound used in the language. Unlike English, Arabic is read from right to left, and it is always written in “cursive,” meaning the letters always connect within words.
- Arabic isn’t just one language.
العربية ليست فقط لغة واحدة
There are three basic types of Arabic: Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), Qur’anic Arabic, and Colloquial Arabic. MSA and Qur’anic Arabic are the same no matter where you go. That’s why it’s called Modern Standard Arabic. Qur’anic Arabic does not vary either because it is the language used in the Holy Qur’an, and this text never changes. Colloquial Arabic, on the other hand, varies drastically from place to place. Each country has its own version of Colloquial Arabic, but dialects can be extremely different between regions or even cities.
- Written Arabic Usually Does Not Include Vowels.
عادةً، العربية المكتوبة لا توجد فيها حروف العلة
Arabic has six vowels – three short vowels and their three long equivalents. Usually, only consonants and long vowels are written in Arabic, as the long vowels are three of the 28 letters of the alphabet. Short vowels are represented by small diacritics (markings) above or below the letters that precede them. Short vowels are usually only written in texts for second-language-learners and children, and are always included in the Qur’an.
- Arabic is Not Only Spoken in the Middle East!
العربية ليست كلامية فقط في الشرق الأوسط
Millions of people across every continent speak Arabic. Many of these people are either members of the Arabic Diaspora or are Muslims who learned the language in order to read the Holy Qur’an in its original language.
- Arabic is in the Family of Semitic Languages.
العربية من أسرة اللغات السامية
The Semitic Language family includes languages like Arabic, Hebrew, and Amharic. This family of languages originated in the Middle East and its members share many features and words.
- Roots are Extremely Important in Arabic.
الجذور مهمة جداً للعربية
Every word in Arabic is constructed in the same way; a root is placed into a pattern, and voilà, a word is born! Each root has a central meaning, and words created with the root have meanings related to that of the root. There are 10 patterns that can be used to form verbs and many patterns that may form nouns, adjectives, and adverbs, though these parts of speech do not always follow patterns. Patterns usually carry some meaning which mixes with the root’s meaning. Here’s an example of a common root and some of its possible incarnations:
D – R – S Learning Root
Darasa he learned Pattern I (to do) (past)
Yadroso he learns Pattern I (to do) (present)
Yudarris he teaches Pattern II (to make someone do)
Dars lesson No pattern
Madrasa school Ism Makaan (Pattern for locations)
Modaris teacher Ism Faaعil (Pattern for things that do)
Madroos thoughtful Ism Mafعool (Pattern for things that are done to)
Arabic, like the other Semitic languages, shows discontinuous morphology and introflection. Languages like English form words by attaching morphemes to each other as seen in the following example:
run (to travel quickly on foot) + ing (present progressive) à
running (currently traveling quickly on foot).
Instead of this type of morphology, Semitic languages take a root and modify it using different vowels and syllable structures.
Have you learned a language with a different alphabet? What is the hardest thing about it? Join the conversation in the comments below!