Scholars agree that Arabic emerged between the first and fourth centuries CE, making it at least 1500 years old. It quickly spread throughout the Middle East and is today the fifth most spoken language in the world.
It is estimated that 422 million people speak Arabic. Of that 422 million, about 112 million non-native speakers. So what could possibly inspire 112 million people to learn a language? More importantly, why should you follow suit? Read on to find out!
Here are ten reasons to learn Arabic.
1. To Fully Experience The Quran
Muslims consider the Quran to be the unchanging word of God. They believe it was delivered to the Prophet Muhammad through the archangel Gabriel, who recited it in Arabic.
The Arabic Quran cannot be accurately translated into another language. To fully experience the book, one must read it in its original Arabic as it was dictated by God. For this reason, most English-language Qurans are branded as mere “interpretations” or “summaries”.
2. To Recite The Shahada
The Shahada is a declaration of belief in one God and an acceptance of Muhammad as his final and most important messenger. The most crucial of the Five Pillars of Islam, it must be recited by any new Muslim who wishes to fully embrace the faith.
In English, the Shahada essentially reads “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His Messenger.” Much like the Quran, however, the significance of the Shahada is lost if it is not said in Arabic.
3. For Increased Employment Opportunities
Not everybody who learns Arabic does so for religious reasons. Many Westerners learn Arabic to broaden their employment opportunities. Certain Middle Eastern countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, make a conscious effort to bring in foreign workers. They offer applicants high salaries and convenient hours, a rarely seen combination in the West. However, preference is usually given to candidates who are proficient in Arabic.
There is also increasing demand for Arabic speakers in the Western world. As more and more European and American companies expand into the Middle East, the ability to communicate with Arab clients in their native tongue is an undeniable advantage.
4. To Master Additional Languages
We will concede that Arabic has little to nothing in common with the languages that are commonly pursued by English speakers, such as French and German. However, it is quite similar to other languages that are spoken in the Middle East. Turkish and Farsi have clear Arabic influence, making them rather simple to master for any Arabic speaker.
5. To Simplify Travel
Countries in the Middle East can be difficult to navigate for non-Arabic speakers. Most are lacking in English-language signs and establishments, making it easy for tourists to get lost or confused. Situations such as these can be avoided with even a basic level of Arabic. Become conversational and you will have no issue finding your way around the airports and cities of Arabic-speaking countries.
6. To Experience Arab Hospitality
Native Arabic speakers are extremely impressed by any outsider who can speak the language. Even a beginner’s vocabulary will win you the heart of an Arab family or community. Show a genuine interest in the Arabic language and the culture it breeds and you will be showered with high praise, warm embraces, and, best of all, delicious Middle Eastern cuisine. Trust us, Arabi hospitality is second to none.
7. To Discover Arab Cinema
Though often overlooked by the general public, Arab cinema has been responsible for some of the finest films of the past 50 years. In 2013, the Palestinian film Omar took home 11 awards at international festivals. It was even nominated for an Oscar! Other Arabic films, such as Losing Ahmad, 12 Angry Lebanese, and Last Men in Aleppo have also received significant critical acclaim.
Arab films are often released in the Western world with English dubbing or subtitles. However, devotees of Arab cinema insist that the cream of the crop must be seen in their original form to be truly appreciated.
8. To Connect With History
Some of history’s most important figures were native Arabic speakers. Obviously, there is the prophet Muhammad, who founded a religion that today ranks 24% of the world’s population among its adherents. But there are also influential Arabic speakers such as Ahmed Zewail, who was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The groundwork for modern surgery was laid by Al-Zahrawi, a native Arabic speaker who is considered the finest surgeon of the Middle Ages. The theory of induction was pioneered by Ali ibn Ridwan, an 11th-century physician and astrologer from present-day Egypt.
These are just some of the Arabic-speaking individuals who made crucial contributions to humanity’s development. Studying Arabic will give you a commonality with them, as well as with hundreds of other Arab men and women who shaped the world as we know it.
9. Cultural Understanding
For a long time, Arabic speakers have been looked at with a degree of weariness by Westerners. We have been conditioned by certain media outlets to view Middle Easterners as inherently suspicious. Encouraging the study of Arabic throughout the West will increase cultural understanding while stamping out the Islamophobia we have been bombarded with over the past couple of years.
10. US Incentives
If you live in the United States of America, there is the National Security Language Initiative to motivate you to learn Arabic. Under the NSLI, Arabic is considered a language of strategic importance. Students are encouraged to study it through a series of scholarships and additional valuable learning opportunities.
Some people choose to learn Arabic for religious reasons. Others do so to enhance their career opportunities. And some people do it for the sheer fun of speaking a language steeped in hundreds upon hundreds of years of history.
Whatever your reason for pursuing Arabic as a second language, you can be certain that it will prove an enjoyable and rewarding experience. While it certainly isn’t the easiest language to master, its beauty is worth every minute of study.