Is Arabic even a language?
Have you ever wondered if Arabic is really a language? As an Arabic Language student, you might have been struggling with those ‘weird symbols’ and phonetics which are undeniably beautiful but can be very frustrating and complicated when you delve in.
The broad phrase ‘Arabic Language’ usually refers to one of three terms: Classical Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and dialectal Arabic.
Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), also known as Literary Arabic, Standard Arabic or Fusha, is the literary language which is the ONLY official form of Arabic. That’s a massive plus because people around the word speak Arabic in all forms of dialects.
So, it’s definitely relieving to know that there exists a single official form.
MSA is used in most written documents as well as in formal speaking. MSA is distinct from and more conservative than all forms of the spoken varieties.
But watch out! You really don’t want to speak MSA if it happens that you go to any Arabic country as you might sound a little funny to the locals so before travelling, get ready to learn a little bit of that country’s dialect!
Nobody speaks MSA on the streets or in everyday life. It is of course understood but it is not used. Like if you went to Egypt and tried to speak Modern Standard Arabic with the person behind the desk at your hotel they would find it hard and strange to reply back in MSA.
Getting the basics of MSA is important but it is also important to study a widely used and understood ¨dialect¨ like Egyptian Arabic (it´s technically called a dialect but it is so widely used that it deserves to be called a language!) Egyptian Arabic has spread all over the Arabic speaking world because Egypt has a massive movie industry.
Although Arabic is considered to be a complicated language, what makes it fun and useful to learn is that it’s spoken in a wide arc stretching across Western Asia, North Africa as well as the African Horn, making it one of the six most spoken languages in the world, so it’s definitely worth it!
MSA is derived from the language of the Quran (also known as Classical Arabic or Quranic Arabic) and is widely taught in schools and universities. MSA largely follows the grammatical standards of Quranic Arabic and uses much of the same vocabulary and has also added more of the modern vocabulary.
Arabic is written with the Arabic alphabet, which is an Abjad script and is written from right to left.
The Islamic nation, once being the most advanced on Earth, has exported its science, culture and language to vast, diffuse areas on the world. Accordingly, the Arabic language has influenced many languages around the globe throughout its history and many European languages have borrowed many words from the Arabic Language. Naturally, Arabic has also borrowed words from many languages as well!
According to the UNESCO, it’s a language spoken by as many as 422 million native and non-native speakers in the Arab world.
So yeah, Arabic is more than a language!