The Importance of Arabic
should 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).
around 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 of Muslims,
has 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
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.
and the Modern World
has 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.
changes 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
Most Widely Spoken Languages
According to George Weber’s article “The World’s 10
Most Influential Languages” in Language Today
(Vol. 2, Dec 1997):
(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 Weber, 1997):