The Importance of Arabic
not underestimate the significance of the Arabic language. It
is the native mother tongue of more than 250 million Arabs, the
majority to be found between Morocco in the west and Iraq in the
east. The classical Arabic language (Fus'ha) is seen by all Muslims
as sacred (amounting to one seventh of the world's population).
the world revere Arabic as the language of the Holy Qur'an. The
Holy Qur'an has preserved Arabic in its purest form in the eyes
changed little over the centuries. The Holy Qur'an therefore continues
to be an essential cohesive influence on the language. Consequently,
a well-educated Arab is quite capable of reading Arabic written
a thousand or more years ago.
It was due
to the spread of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries that the language
gained its importance. This was in part due to its religious importance
but also because it was the language of the civil service of the
Islamic Caliphate. It was at this time that Arabic came into contact
with European languages which it helped to enrich.
the Modern World
had to develop over the last century to incorporate new words
and idioms such as new technological terms. Translation of European
works of literature in particular accelerated the process. This
has created a battle between the purists who object to the absorption
of foreign words into the language and the modernists who have
been more than willing to break with certain age-old traditions.
For example a journalistic method of writing has developed to
report news stories, which is often influenced by Western media
styles. The purists have concentrated on forming new words in
Arabic forms to cover the modern vocabulary. For example, the
word "haatif" has been adopted for telephone, although the Western
version "talfuun" is still in usage.
include the loss of many old fashioned terms, above all those
relating to Beduin life. This was a result of the rapid decline
in Bedouin numbers and the onset of a more urban sedentary society.
The World's Most Widely Spoken Languages
According to George Weber’s article “The World’s 10 Most
Influential Languages” in Language Today (Vol. 2,
(number of native speakers in parentheses)
Mandarin Chinese (1.2 billion)
English (330 million)
Spanish (300 million)
Hindi/Urdu (250 million)
Arabic (200 million)
Bengali (185 million)
Portuguese (160 million)
Russian (160 million)
Japanese (125 million)
Japanese (80 million)
French (75 million)
According to Ethnologue, 13th Edition,
1. Chinese (Mandarin) 1,075 million.
2. English 514 million.
3. Hindustani 496 million.
4. Spanish 425 million.
5. Russian 275 million.
6. Arabic 256 million.
7. Bengali 215 million.
8. Portuguese 194 million.
9. Malay-Indonesian 176 million.
10. French 129 million.
The following is a list of these languages in terms of the
number of countries where each is spoken. The number that follows
is the total number of countries that use that language (from