If you’ve ever fancied trying to learn some Arabic, then Arabic Language Day on December 18 is the day to start. Dating back more than a millennium, Arabic was born out of Proto-Semitic languages of the ancient Middle East. Today, it’s spoken by more than 400 million people in 25 countries.
Arabic speakers gave us some of civilization’s most important tools, including algebra, chemistry, and the toothbrush. Arabs had a strong influence on European music, culture, and science. Can’t live without coffee? You can thank the Yemenis of the 9th century for bringing it to you!
With an estimated 390 million speakers, Arabic is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. It is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations, as well as the liturgical language of 1.6 billion Muslims. Being one of the only modern languages to be written and read in a right-to-left form, Arabic is a fascinating language with a long history. For all of these reasons and many more, we can all agree that Arabic is more than deserving of its very own day.
History of Arabic Language Day
Although the Arabic language is the language of Islam, it dates back over one hundred years further than the religion. The earliest Arabic inscriptions were created in the early 6th century AD. Arabic was originally based mainly on the Aramaic alphabet that was then modified and adapted over many years to finally become its very own, distinct lanuguage. In 632, the year that Muslims believe the Quran was revealed to Muhammed, Muhammed’s language became the language of his new religion. The holy book of Islam, the Quran, was written in Classical Arabic and it is still used in religious ceremonies and sermons till this day.
By the 8thcentury, many poems and other works had been written in Arabic as well. Arabic has had an enormous influence on people all over the world, as the majority of countires in the world today officially use the Arabic numerical system. Furthermore, because of the countless wars waged in the Middle Ages especially, the Arabic language is an important source of vocabulary for many European languages, such as Portuguese, Spanish, English, French and Sicilian, as well as non-European languages such as Swahili and Uzbek. Many of the words that English-speakers use regularly come from Arabic, including cotton, coffee and guitar.
Arabic Language Day was established in 2010 by UNESCO to promote cultural understanding and to highlight Arabic as one of the most important languages in the world. Today, there are three different types of Arabic: Classical; Modern Standard Arabic, the last of which is used in publishing, education and the media across the Arab world. Colloquial Arabic, an everyday dialect, is also used in different regions and has numerous variations. Due to its elegant, flowing lines, thousands of people the world over have also chose to get tattoos in Arabic, singer Christina Perri and actors Colin Farrell and Zoe Saldana, to name but a few.
How to celebrate Arabic Language Day
The best way to celebrate this day would be to increase your knowledge of this language. Many people living in parts of North America or Europe may not even really know how it sounds. Of course, it is nearly impossible to learn to read even small fragments of this complex language during the course of just one day, but that shouldn’t stop you from discovering it. The Arabic language is especially beautiful when sung.
If you like opera, you could check out one of Sarah Brightman’s most acclaimed albums titled, “Harem”. The songs on it are a truly original mix of Arabian pop and opera, and are sung in several different languages, including Arabic. Listening to this album will not only allow you to become acquainted with what the language sounds like, but also introduce you to various instruments and sounds typical for Middle Eastern music that you may well fall in love with.
History of Arabic Language Day
One of the world’s most ancient languages and the sixth most commonly spoken in the world, Arabic originated in the Proto-Semitic languages of the Middle East in the 7th century. The word “Arab” means “nomad,” hinting at the language’s roots in the nomadic tribes of today’s Arabian Peninsula.
Most of our knowledge of Classical Arabic comes from the Qur’an, Islam’s holy book. The scripture is the first major record of the written Arabic language and provides valuable insight into the structure of the old language. Today, over one billion Muslims study Arabic in order to read the Qur’an in its original tongue.
Like other Semitic languages, Arabic is written from right to left and contains some sounds that don’t exist in English or other languages. Arabic’s beautiful “alphabet” isn’t an alphabet at all, at least not in the phonetic sense we’re used to. In the abjad writing system, each symbol stands for a consonant, with accents providing the vowel sounds. Instead of capital letters, emphasis is created through the use of quotation marks.
Most words are constructed from a basic, thematically related root. All words related to writing, for example, contain the letters “k, t, b,” augmented with additional word parts. In this way, you can understand a word’s category in the world by studying its root.
Although learning Arabic might challenge the average English speaker, we can thank Arabic for a number of important and useful English words: algebra, alcohol, coffee, loofah, tariff, cotton, and many more English words come from Arabic roots.
On December 18, 1993, the United Nations recognized Arabic as one of six official UN languages, acknowledging its importance and widespread use throughout the world.
Arabic Language Day timeline
Arabic Grammar Codified
Sibovayh, a Persian scholar, codifies Arabic grammar and writes the first Arabic dictionary.
Arabic is Formalized
The language is formalized and Arab scholars begin translating works from Greece, India, and China. They also acquire Chinese inventions like paper and gunpowder long before they make their way to Europe.
Birth of Islam
The Prophet Muhammad receives his first revelation, marking the birth of one of the world's largest religions. Today, almost two billion people practice Islam.
First Recorded Arabic Inscription
An inscription on a temple near Aleppo, Syria is the oldest known record of written Arabic.
Arabic Language Day FAQs
Who is the father of the Arabic language?
Ya’rab is widely regarded as the “Father” of the Arabic language.
How many words are in the Arabic language?
The total number of words in the Arabic language varies depending on the source, but it is estimated to be anywhere between 90 and 500 million words.
Is it worth it to learn Arabic?
Over 400 million people throughout the world speak Arabic, so if you enjoy communicating with others, and are a social person, then yes, it is.
5 Fascinating Facts About Arabic
There are no capital letters
Quotation marks are used to create emphasis instead.
Arabic has hundreds of words for "camel"
These include a word that means "a camel frightened of anything" and "a female camel that walks ahead of other camels."
Arabic is written right to left
Like all other Semitic languages, Arabic script is written right to left.
Arabic is only written in cursive
Arabic letters always connect to each other in both written and typed Arabic. There is no "print" type.
Arabic has no contractions
Unlike English, where contractions and abbreviations are common, Arabic does not combine words to shorten them.
How To Celebrate Arabic Language Day
Learn a few Arabic words
Use a language app to learn some basic Arabic words and phrases. Start with simple greetings and small talk phrases so you can try having a conversation with a friend.
Practice with an Arabic-speaking friend
Once you’ve got a few phrases under your belt, call up an Arabic-speaking friend and try them out.
Read some Arabic poetry
Sometimes called “the language of poetry,” Arabic was spoken (and written) by some of the world’s leading poets.
Why Arabic Language Day is important
Arabic is the language of science
Arabic speakers have played instrumental roles in the development of mathematics, chemistry, and medicine. Medieval Europeans brought back knowledge from the Middle East and North Africa, helping to bring Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment.
Arabic is one of the world’s oldest languages
Arabic has been around for more than a millennium and continues to gain new speakers. In addition to native speakers, more than a billion people worldwide learn Arabic to study the Qur’an.
Many English words derive from Arabic
Over 7,000 words in the English language have Arabic roots, with over 500 of them still in common usage today.