The Arabic language is over 1600 years old. It is a Semitic language that is spoken by over 200 million people all around the world. The spread of the Arabic language coincides with the spread of Islam across the Middle East, predominantly during the 6th and 7th centuries. Even though the language is old, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the Arabic we speak today is the same Arabic that was spoken 1600 years ago. In today’s linguistic world, when someone speaks of “Arabic” they are probably referring to Modern Standard Arabic, not Classical Arabic. Let’s talk about a few of the differences.
Classical Arabic is also referred to as Quranic Arabic as it is the written language of the Quaran, the main spiritual text of Islam. While there are many ancient forms of Arabic, Classical Arabic is the only surviving language of a group of Arabic dialects known as Old North Arabian. Classical Arabic is no longer a spoken language and is primarily used for religious purposes. If one desires to read the Quaran in its original language, then a thorough study of Classical Arabic would be needed.
Modern Standard Arabic is the opposite end of the spectrum. As ancient as Classical Arabic presents itself, Modern Standard Arabic is the primary form of the Arabic language that is spoken and studied today. When someone is learning “Arabic”, unless they differentiate, they are learning Modern Standard Arabic. While there are many dialects of Arabic that are spoken throughout the Middle East and Africa, Modern Standard Arabic is the foundational language upon which each dialect is based.
All that being said, Modern Standard Arabic is rooted in Classical Arabic. If one lives in the Middle East, Horn of Africa, or North Africa (or is planning on visiting, relocating, conducting business, etc.) Modern Standard Arabic would be the language of choice.
When traveling in the Middle East or Arabic speaking Africa, you will hear and see Modern Standard Arabic in various situations. Here are just a few:
- Street Signs
- Television News Shows
- University studies
- Shop Signs
Even if you are studying a regional dialect, it will serve you well to learn as much Modern Standard Arabic as possible. If nothing else, it will assist in traveling and meeting new people. Even among Arabic speaking people, Modern Standard Arabic is what unites speakers of various dialects.
Arabic is truly a beautiful language that continues to be in demand in public, private and government sectors. If you are interested in learning Modern Standard Arabic, please give us a call. We would enjoy the opportunity to see if our language program fits your Arabic language goals.