Translation Language Tips: Learning Arabic

Professional translators are experts not just in their native tongue and the languages they are certified translators of, we also know a thing or two about the many languages we don’t officially work with, because we’re in touch with other translators, interpreters and people from numerous cultural backgrounds on a day to day basis.

In a report form 1997, Arabic was listed as one of the top ten most spoken languages in the world. [source] So it may seem like an excellent choice of language to learn. However, it’s important to understand how the Arabic speakers in the world are divided up and the many differences hat exist before you start those online Arabic lessons.

Standard Arabic is taught in schools in Arabic speaking countries and is the official language for many countries. It’s also used as the written form, for books, media etc, at least up until recently. When it comes to spoken Arabic, the differences appear. There are 22 forms of spoken Arabic including Egyptian Arabic and Moroccan Arabic. An Egyptian Arabic speaker would not even necessarily understand a Moroccan Arabic speaker. They could converse in standard Arabic, but this would feel a little like the equivalent of two people conversing in old or Shakespearean English!

In recent times, spoken Arabic has also begun to be used in books, it’s controversial to some but it’s happening and may be another step in the ever evolving world of language. In countries where Arabic and French or other languages are both spoken widely, it’s also common for people to actually switch between languages mid sentence even! And this isn’t just in day to day conversations but can happen on TV, radio etc. – A great challenge for an interpreter!

Due to the popularity of Egyptian Arabic cinema, many Arabic speakers may have some familiarity with this form. But before you set out to learn, make sure to know which one will be most useful to your goals.

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