Salaam! With over 160 million speakers across the Arab world, Arabic is the most widespread of the Semitic languages and is one of the most spoken languages in the world.
From the beginning, Arabic was a literary and religious language. Classic Arabic emerged in the 7th Century AD, when the masterpieces of pre-Koranic poetry were being composed and the Koran itself was compiled. Arabic then spread rapidly from the medieval Islamic states of Asia and North Africa, and it is now the national language of almost 25 countries, though cultural and regional dialects are often so different that they are mutually unintelligible.
Livemocha teaches Modern Standard Arabic, though you can learn other dialects from members of the Livemocha community.
Arabic Fun Facts
Many English words derive from Arabic, like “coffee” (qahwah), “cotton” (quṭn) and “magazine” (maḫāzin). Others include “algebra,” “alcohol,” “alchemy,” “zenith,” and “nadir”. Some words, such as “intention” and “information,” were also originally taken from Arabic philosophical terms.
“Aladdin’s Lamp,” “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor” are all classic Middle Eastern folktales. They were not, however, originally part of One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights) – they were added later by European translators.
Read an Egyptian epic: Naguib Mahfuz’s Cairo Trilogy, describing the struggles of a modern Cairene family across three generations, won him a Nobel prize for literature in 1988. He was the first Arabic writer to win the prize.