As the language of the Qu’ran, Arabic is the liturgical language of Islam and is understood by Muslims worldwide. Arabic is also one of the official languages of the United Nations.
Arabic is a great modern language with deep historical roots spanning centuries. While much of Europe intellectually languished during the Middle Ages, the Arab-Islamic civilization was in full-flower. During this period, the Arab world achieved great advancements in Mathematics, Science, Medicine, Philosophy, Literature and Architecture. Contact with the Arab-speaking world introduced Westerners to new concepts, customs, and products. These new goods, along with their respective Arabic vocabulary, have long since been woven into everyday life of the West: coffee, sugar, cotton, lemon, muslin, macramé, and jasmine to name just a few.
Arabic, originally descended from a Proto-Semitic language, is rather unique among the major modern world languages in that it is characterized by diglossia. This term refers to the fact that Arabic essentially consists of two languages: Modern Standard Arabic and colloquial Arabic. Modern Standard Arabic is used in reading, writing, and formal speech. Modern Standard Arabic is directly related to the Classical language derived from the Qu’ran. Colloquial Arabic, on the other hand, is spoken and generally not written. Colloquial Arabic will vary from region to region across the Arab world, so much so that it is in fact not uncommon for one regional dialect to be mutually unintelligible to a speaker of another regional dialect. Arabs will use their colloquial language in daily interactions but when a situation arises that calls for greater formality, the use of Modern Standard Arabic is called upon. Modern Standard Arabic is not a mother-tongue, or first language, among the Arab-speaking peoples; it is a learned as a second language. Due to its standardization, its characteristics are more or less consistent throughout the Arab–speaking world.
Are you considering learning Arabic? To do so is to enable oneself to have a deeper, more profound understanding of the Arabic cultural values, products, and practices. Knowledge of Arabic is also fundamental to study of Islam and Muslim culture.
There, too, are practical benefits and applications to acquiring this language. The rapidly growing population in Arab regions and the integration of the Arab world in the global economy has created numerous opportunities to expand business and exports into these lands. The business opportunities along with the importance of the Middle East in international affairs has created a high demand Arabic–speakers in the Western world. Conversely, there is a low supply of Westerners fluent in Arabic as it is a relatively uncommon language for Westerners to study. Those who acquire Arabic will find many career opportunities in a variety of fields spanning business, education, and government.