With over 300 million native speakers, Arabic is the fifth most-spoken language worldwide. It’s also the official or co-official language of 26 countries in Asia and Africa. Yet despite its prevalence, Arabic isn’t commonly taught in the Western world, leaving people uninformed about its many wonders.
For example, did you know that some dialects of Arabic are so distinct that speakers can’t understand each other? That’s why it is always better to localize rather than merely translate into the language. Read on to learn more about the most widely spoken language in the Middle East, and let us know what you think of number 5!
1. Arabic has no capital letters
When Germans put Pen to Paper, they capitalize every Noun from “Apple” and “Banana” to “Xylophone” and “Zebra”. Arabic chucks the whole thing out the window. Instead of capital letters, Arabic uses quotation marks for emphasis.
2. Related words share the same three-letter root
Arabic built up its rich vocabulary by constructing similar words from a common root consisting of three consonants. Other letters and vowels are added around this root to create different words. For instance, the root K-T-B conveys the idea “writing”. But “he wrote”? kataba. Writer? katib. And you can check out the kataba’s kutub (books) from the maktaba (library).
3. You already speak more Arabic than you realize
Arabic words have found new homes in countless languages around the world. If you keep your candy and sugar in separate jars, thank Arabic. If you enjoy your preferred alcoholic beverage with a twist of lemon, thank Arabic. If you ever tore your hair out in your algebra class because you couldn’t calculate the average using an algorithm, then you need to calm down. And thank Arabic.
4. Arabic has sounds that don’t exist in other languages
Non-native speakers have trouble pronouncing some Arabic words because the sounds are uncommon in other widely spoken languages. For instance, “ح” is an “h” sound found only in Arabic. “ع” is a strong “a,” but not being able to pronounce it can create confusion between the male name Alaa (علاء) and the female name Alaa (الاء).
5. Arabic has 14 words that describe different kinds of love
Depending on whom you ask, the Greeks have between three and seven words for love. Arabic beats it by double, with a word for each of the stages of falling in love. For example, “hawa” describes the initial attraction towards someone, “huyam” the loss of reason that follows, and “ishq” a blind desire. Which of the 14 have you experienced?
This article was researched and written by our intern Joud Mohamed.