Saturday 18th December 2021 marks World Arabic Language Day – an official commemoration of the day that the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Arabic as its sixth official language. This year, the UN’s theme is “Arabic Language, a bridge between civilisations” – a call to reaffirm the important role in connecting people through culture, science, literature and many more domains.
There is no doubt that Arabic is not one of the easiest languages to learn, with the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) placing it in category 4 of the world’s languages. However, with more than 400 million speakers and recent identification as one of the ten most important languages for the UK’s future, we explore the reasons why now is a great time to learn Arabic.
Arabic is the second-fastest growing language
Second only to Portuguese, Arabic is the second-fastest growing language in the world, increasing in 276% more speakers within the last century. This speed of growth is only expected to continue exponentially, as the Middle East and Africa have been identified as the fastest-growing regions in terms of internet use – suggesting that we may start to see a significant rise in internet Arabic in the near future.
Learn Arabic to become a global citizen
Due to politics and military intervention in recent decades, there has been a loss of trust between Arabic communities and those from more westernised environments – fuelled even more by media-propagated, one-dimensional stereotypes. Learning Arabic can help individuals gain a deeper understanding of such communities and their culture, while the ability to communicate with others will help the learner to develop true global citizenship as we strive to move to a better connected and respectful human population.
Gain a deeper understanding of Islam
Islam is the second-largest religion in the world, making up just under a quarter of the world’s population. The majority of Islamic teachings are in Arabic, including the Qu’ran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Learning Arabic therefore not only brings the advantage of being able to speak another language but also gives the learner better insight and a deeper understanding of the religious texts and teachings that are at the core of Islam and Islamic culture.
Learn Arabic to conduct business trade
The Arab region (i.e. 22 countries mostly spread across Western Asia and Northern Africa) has a GDP of more than $600 billion a year, meaning it has much to offer the world trade market. In many countries, Arabic is the main language of commerce. The ability to speak Arabic as a Westerner poses a significant advantage in the world of trade, making it much easier to negotiate and communicate with other individuals and businesses while fostering deeper professional relationships.
Demonstrate positive hospitality
Only 38% of Brits can speak a language other than English – and that’s not a secret, as our nation is known worldwide for not being very forthcoming when it comes to learning new languages – and only 1% of the UK’s adult population can reportedly hold a conversation in Arabic. It’s the official language in over 20 countries (including the United Arab Emirates, which has a footfall of about 1.5 million British tourists each year) and the importance of demonstrating warm hospitality is a well-known aspect of Arabic culture. The ability to speak Arabic in its native countries – even basic hospitality phrases, such as being able to say ‘please and ‘thank you’ – demonstrates genuine respect and is a small step Westerners can make towards re-establishing positive relations with the region.