Arabic is the sixth most spoken language in the world and is widely used across the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and North Africa. With the Arab League summit on 25 March 2014 fast approaching, here are some amazing facts about Arabic that you might not know.
1. Arabic has more words than most Latin languages, allowing for a degree of linguistic precision that many other languages are unable to achieve.
2. The Arabic alphabet is written from right to left, but numbers are written from left to right.
3. Six time US presidential candidate and celebrated political and social activist Ralph Nader speaks fluent Arabic. His parents emigrated from Lebanon to the US.
4. Arabic is the official language of 22 countries, with around 250 million speakers worldwide.
5. The original written form of Arabic had no diacritics (dots) above or below the letters – the dots are a more recent addition to the language.
6. Letters may take a different shape, depending on where they are within a word.
7. Carefully localised translation is important with Arabic, if misunderstandings are to be avoided, such as the recent notice in an African newspaper which read: “A new swimming pool is rapidly taking shape since the contractors have thrown in the bulk of their workers.”
8. The darling of American idol and 80s pop legend Paula Abdul is actually of both Syrian and Jewish descent. When not working in the US, she splits her time between Brazil and Syria.
9. The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters, which are the same as those used in Farsi, Pashto, Kurdish and Urdu.
10. A study by the Arabic Language Institute Foundation has found that a growing number of high schools in the United States are teaching Arabic, particularly in Michigan and California.
11. Although Modern Standard Arabic (also known as Literary Arabic) is the only official form of the language, a wide range of variations and dialects exist between the versions used in Arabic-speaking countries.
12. Arabic words use a three letter root, with other letters added around the root to create words.
13. There are no capital letters, acronyms or abbreviations in Arabic.
14. Arabic is the sixth most spoken language in the world, but the second most widespread script.
15. Arabic and English use the same punctuation marks though in many cases the symbols are inverted.
16. Many English words come from Arabic, including guitar, cotton, lemon and alcohol.
What other fun facts do you know about Arabic? Share your comments with us via the box.