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Lesson Transcript

Halla: السّلام عليكم
Simon: Simon here all about lesson 1, all about the history of the Arabic language.
Halla: Hello everyone and welcome to our first All About Arabic. Today, Simon and I will be talking about a very interesting topic.
Simon: Yes, the history of Arabic languages. Arabic comes from the language family called Semitic languages, and it’s related to…
Halla: Hebrew and Aramaic.
Simon: Correct. And this language has been spoken for over 1700 years. Amazing, isn’t it?
Halla: Yes, but let’s keep in mind, some changes has been done to it, but still the same language.
Simon: Because it comes from Semitic language family. It came from north of the Arabic peninsula.
Halla: Known today as the gulf area which contains Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and the other countries.
Simon: Now let’s talk about the country of origin. Because it came from Arabic peninsula 1500 years ago, it’s now spoken in all Arabic countries, Middle East, and North Africa, and there is 280 million that speak Arabic natively, but also is spoken in several different places in the world.
Halla: Simon, can you tell me more about where it’s spoken?
Simon: Arabic is now mainly spoken in Egypt, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Palestine…
Halla: Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Algeria, Mauritania…
Simon: Western Sahara, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan…
Halla: Also, Turkey, Chad, Senegal, and Mali speak Arabic. Arabic came to these countries because of the Islamic openings and the spread of Islamic Culture. All Arabic countries are Islamic countries, but it doesn’t mean that everyone who speaks Arabic is a Muslim. For example, in Egypt we have a majority 90% of Muslims, 8% Coptic Christians, and a handful of Jew.
Simon: Arabic in these countries is different to Arabic in the Middle East and North Africa.
Halla: The difference is mainly in vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar rules. You will still be able to recognize it or a lot of it as you will hear it, but it’s not the standard Arabic in this case.
Simon: What countries have Arabic as an official language, Halla?
Halla: Well, that would be Egypt, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Algeria, and Mauritania.
Simon: Also, Western Sahara, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan.
Halla: Plus, Arabic has 530 million speakers in the world, 280 million as first language, 250 million as a second language.
Simon: Halla, with all the dialects you have in the Arabic world, isn’t there one standard Arabic to learn?
Halla: Yes. In the western system, it’s classical Arabic, which is the language of the Holy Koran that’s very old, nearly the same as it has started with no changes, and the modern standard Arabic. This one is much easier when it comes to the vocabularies and even parts of the grammar. It’s much easier for the man of the street to understand.
Simon: Okay. But what if two people from Morocco and Iraq meet, for example, will they be able to understand each other, each one using his own dialect?
Halla: That’s not much likely to happen. Basically, people from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia use a really different and hard to understand dialect of Arabic. It’s a combination of verbal language, French, due to the French occupation, and at last Arabic. Plus, in Morocco, you get some Spanish effect as well. So you see how hard this will be to communicate in this case.
Simon: So what is it that people do to manage communicating with each other? I can hardly think you use English for that.
Halla: Oh, no, no, no. That’s why we have the standard Arabic. It’s kind of the universal Arabic that we all speak and understand easily, but it’s not the language the man of the street would use.
Simon: Okay, so which dialect in that case?
Halla: Egyptian dialect. It’s the most widely spoken and understood throughout the entire Arabic speaking world. Thanks to all the movies, TV shows, programs, songs, and drama series Egypt produces every year. I just saw three men from Algeria, Iraq and I think Lebanon, and they were speaking in Egyptian Arabic. I must admit it was very interesting to see.
Simon: So, either standard Arabic or Egyptian colloquial to be universally understood?
Halla: It depends why you need to learn it really. If it’s anything formal or official, I would definitely say standard Arabic. Anything other than that, then go with the Egyptian dialect.
Simon: What I noticed is that foreigners learn standard Arabic. Is that correct?
Halla: Yes, because they are interested in pursuing a future at the UN, foreign ministries or any career that is international, but after that, most of them actually seek to learn the Egyptian dialect to communicate with the people. Using standard is like using the Shakespeare English when talking to the man of the street. It sounds a bit funny and strange.
Simon: Tell me about it. I can’t forget the first time I spoke to people using the standard Arabic. I learned the looks in their faces and the realization and reaction.
Halla: So, you can give me the top reasons why Arabic is important.
Simon: Well, that’s a very good question. Why is it important? The top five reasons to learn this language are, number one, Arabic is the fifth most commonly spoken native language in the world; number two, Arabic is the official language of the UN; number three, there is a high demand and low supply of Arabic speakers in the western world; number four, there are financial incentives for learning Arabic as Arabic-speaking nations are a fast-growing market for trade; and, finally, Arabic is the liturgical language of Islam.
Halla: Completely true. Thanks Simon. This has been a lot of fun.
Simon: You’re welcome, Halla. Speaking about Arabic is as much fun as learning it. See you on our next lesson on Arabic Pod 101 guys. Have a great day.
Halla: مع السّلامة