Arabic is a language with a rich cultural and historical background. As you delve deeper into the language, you may discover some surprising facts about it. Here are five of the most interesting facts about Arabic:
- One of the most difficult languages: According to Babel, there are approximately 313 million Arabic speakers in 25 countries. They also report that Arabic is the second most difficult language for English speakers to learn. Pronunciation can be particularly challenging for non-native speakers, as Arabic has many phonetic sounds that are not present in Latin-based languages. However, despite these difficulties, around four million Duolingo users chose to study Arabic last year, making it the 10th most learned language on the app.
- Arabic words in English: You might not realize it, but there are many English words that originate from Arabic. For example, the word “alcohol” comes from the Arabic word “al-kuhool,” which refers to the chemical powder mixture used as makeup in ancient Egypt. The term “algebra” also comes from the Arabic language, from the word “al-jabr” used by Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi in his book “Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing,” which was written around 820. Other common English words of Arabic origin include “hazard,” “giraffe,” “jar,” and “algebra.”
- The history of Arabic: Unlike other languages that have undergone significant changes over time, such as English, Arabic has remained largely unchanged for the past 1400 years. The most notable change in classical Arabic is the addition of symbols and dots to distinguish between similar letters in the alphabet, such as baa, taa, and thaa. The direction in which Arabic is written, from right to left, is known as dextrosinistral, and it is based on the Aramaic alphabet, which is shared by both Hebrew and Arabic.
- The language of the first university: Arabic was the language of instruction at the world’s first university, Al Qaraouiyine University in Fez, Morocco, which was founded by Fatima bint Muhammad Al-Fihriya. The classes at the university, which dates back to 859, focused on classical Arabic and grammar. The institution is still open today and is home to the oldest library in the world.
- Arabic and its dialects: Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) or Fousha is the standard form of Arabic that many dialects are based on. The most widely spoken dialects of Arabic are Egyptian (Masri), Gulf (Khaliji), Maghrebi (Darija), and Levantine (Shami), among others. Within each country, there is a further breakdown of dialects and accents. For example, in Morocco, the dialect of Darija spoken in the north of the country can be very different from that spoken in the south.
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