Around 442 million people speak Arabic. When looking at the figures, Modern Standard Arabic is considered, as there are older versions that are in use in some parts of the world. This is in the most common five languages spoken around the world, along with the likes of English and French.
The language is based on Classical Arabic, which is the form from early Islam and the Koran. However, Modern Standard Arabic is simpler, making it easier for both natives and foreigners to learn.
It is one of the official languages of the European Union. In fact, it is one of Malta’s official languages. This is the only country in Europe that recognises Arabic as an official language. It used to be an official language in Portugal and Spain, but that changed after the fall of the Arabic State in the 1490s.
There are 26 countries around the world that have Arabic as an official language. The majority of these are in the Middle East, and most of them have at least one other official language, including English, Hebrew, and Kurdish. Most of the countries are Arab League member states.
Arabic is the third most popular official language around the world.
Arabic comes from the Afro-Asiatic family of languages. It is further classified as Semitic and Central Semitic. Other Semitic languages include Ethiopian and Hebrew.
The main two dialects are actually different versions of the same language: Classical and Modern Standard Arabic. The latter is becoming the favoured option in the majority of countries.
There are some colloquial dialects, but none are extremely common. Most are intelligible with one another to make travelling and communication easy enough. Many of those who speak the colloquial dialects will actually switch between their own dialects and the standard language.
When it comes to writing, there are phonetic and classic ways to write.
The Foreign Service Institute classifies languages based on how long students have taken to become proficient in a language. Arabic has proven to be one of the hardest, and is placed in Category III. This is the category that is most different from the English language.
The FSI recommends students study for 2,200 hours, which will take about 88 weeks. Half of this time should be spent in a country that speaks the language either natively or officially. This helps to pick up accents, dialects, and styles.
The timeframes are considered average. They are also debated by other professionals and language experts. The FSI focuses on teaching students around 40 years old and those who have a tendency to pick up new languages relatively easily.