Arabic speaking countries

Arabic is written from right to left, usually in a cursive style with letters joined:Arabic writing

Spoken Arabic

there are two main (Eastern and Western) varieties, comprising a dozen important dialects:

"Mashreq" (Eastern)

Egyptian, Levantine (Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian, Palestinian), Gulf Arabic spoken along the Persian Gulf coasts of (Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, UAE and eastern Saudi Arabia), Iraqi Arabic, Sudanese Arabic and Chadian Arabic.

"Maghreb" (Western)

in Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, and part of Libya

Outside of these areas, there are Arab speakers in Israel and ex-Soviet Central Asia (Central Independant states).

For writing and high-level speech (e.g. radio and TV news), however, people use Modern Standard Arabic.


The Arabic language is a unifying bond among Arabs, and is the language of Muslims in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan

Spoken Arabic

Arabic is the standard form of the language used in all writing and heard on television, radio and in mosques. The diverse dialects of Arabic are interrelated but vary considerably among speakers from different parts of the Middle East. For example, Moroccan Arabic is virtually unintelligible in Iraq. These dialects differ (which are not written, just spoken) from standard Arabic (which is written and taught in schools) and from one another in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar and are usually labeled according to major geographic areas, such as:

North African, Egyptian, and Gulf.

Within these broad classifications, the daily speech of urban, rural, and nomadic speakers is distinctively different. Illiterate speakers from widely separated parts of the Arab world may not understand one another, although each is speaking a version of Arabic.The sound system of Arabic has 28 consonants, including all the Semitic guttural sounds produced far back in the mouth and throat. Each of the three vowels in standard Arabic occurs in a long and short form, creating the long and short syllables so important to the meter of Arabic poetry. Although the dialects retain the long vowels, they have lost many of the short-vowel contrasts.

Written Arabic

For written Arabic, modern standard Arabic (اللغة العربية الفصحى) is used (local dialects are only for speaking) which is standard throughout the Arabic speaking countries. Local dialects are only used for speaking, although radio and television are increasing using the standard Arabic. This has been influenced stylisticly by French and English, especially from the 20th Century onwards where a lot of scientific, technical and medical vocabulary has been borrowed from French and English. Classic arabic (dating from medieval period) is only used in ancient texts such as the Koran.

The present alphabet of twenty-eight letters consists basically of consonants, the vowel signs being indicated by marks above or below the letters. 18 distinct shapes are generally used that vary according to their connection to preceding or following letters. Like the other Semitic languages, Arabic is written from right to left. The script/alphabet has been employed/adopted by non-Semitic languages such as Modern Persian, or Farsi, (Pashto-Afghanistan)) Urdu, Malay and Sindhi.

Arab middle/educated classes will understand spoken Modern Arabic, which is taught in schools, although rarely used and probably not understood by ordinary working class arabs, who will use their local regional dialect.

From medieval times to now, written Arabic has hardly changed, probably less than medieval English compared to current English.

In Arabic art, caligraphy (Arabic writing) is very prominent.

Direction of writing

Arabic is written from right to left, similar to Hebrew.

For websites, the direction of writing can be changed in the head section of the html by changing the dir to dir="rtl" and lang to lang="ar", keeping the charset code to "utf-8" <html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en" dir="ltr"> This will change the whole page placing the scroll bar to the left. The CSS should not be changed, just the html.

If you only want to add arabic in only a section, then add this: <p bdo align="right" dir="rtl" lang="ar"></p>. Giving this as an example:

اللغة العربية الفصحى

Arabic speaking countries

List of Arabic speaking countries:

  • Algeria (al-Jaza'ir الجزائر)
  • Bahrain (al-Baḥrayn البحرين)
  • Chad (Tshad تشاد) Arabic is one of the official languages, the other being French. Often not considered an Arab state.
  • Comoros (Juzur al-Qamar القمر) (Comorian and French are the other two official languages).
  • Djibouti (Jibuti جيبوتي) (French is the other official language).
  • Egypt (Miṣr مصر)
  • Eritrea (Iritriya ኤርትራ) Arabic is one of the official languages, the other being Tigrinya. Has a large number of Arabic speakers. Often not considered an Arab state.
  • Iraq (al-`Iraq العراق) (Kurdish is the other official language (minority))
  • Israel (Isrā'īl إسرائيل)
  • Jordan (al-'Urdunn 1575;لأردن)
  • Kuwait (al-Kuwayt الكويت)
  • Lebanon (Lubnan لبنان)
  • Libya (Libiya ليبيا)
  • Mauritania (Muritaniya موريتانيا)
  • Morocco (Al-Magrib المغرب)
  • Oman (`Uman عمان)
  • Palestinian Authority (Al-Sulta Al-Filas?iniyya فلسطين) (Recognized by the majority of the World's nation states, but not recognized by the U.N., Israel, or most Western states)
  • Qatar (Qaṭar قطر)
  • Saudi Arabia (al-mamllakah al-`Arabiyya as-Sa`udiyya السعودية)
  • Somalia (af Soomaali & اَف صَومالي˜) (Somali (af Soomaali;)is the official language, which is Latin based)
  • Sudan (As-Sudan السودان) (English is the other official language (minority))
  • Syria (Suriya سورية)
  • Tunisia (Tunis تونس)
  • United Arab Emirates (al-Imarat al-`Arabiyyah al-Muttaḥidâ الامارات)
  • Western Sahara (as-?a?ra' al-Garbiyyah الصحراء العربيّة) (Status contested between the POLISARIO Front and the Government of Morocco, which has administered most of Western Sahara since 1975)
  • Yemen (al-Yaman اليمن)

Arabic Alphabet (أَلْأَبْجَدِيَّة ٱلْعَرَبِيَّة)

The Arabic alphabet entirely based on consonauts.

The four groups relate (in this order to Isolated Initial Medial Final) to the position in the sentance. Where there is two, it is the Isolated and the Final, where one it is the Isolated.

   ـا      'a' as in 'father'  

   ب بـ ـبـ ـب      'b' as in 'bed'  

   ت تـ ـتـ ـت      't' as in 'tent'  

   ث ثـ ـثـ ـث      'th' as in 'think'  

   ج جـ ـجـ ـج      'j' as in 'jam'  

   ح حـ ـحـ ـح    a constricted English 'h'

   خ خـ ـخـ ـخ      'ch' as in German 'Bach'  

   د ـد      'd' as in 'deer'  

   ذ ـذ      'th' as in 'there'  

   ر ـر      'r' as in 'run'  

   ز ـز      'z' as in 'zoo'  

   س سـ ـسـ ـس      's' as in 'sit'  

   ش شـ ـشـ ـش      'sh' as in 'shut'  

   ص صـ ـصـ ـص      the counterpart of S?n  

   ض ضـ ـضـ ـض      the counterpart of Dal  

   ط طـ ـطـ ـط      the counterpart of Ta'  

   ظ ظـ ـظـ ـظ      the counterpart of Dhal  

   ع عـ ـعـ ـع      a constriction of the throat and an expulsion of the breath with the vocal cords vibrating  

   غ غـ ـغـ ـغ      French 'r' as in 'Paris' -- like a gentle gargling  

   ف فـ ـفـ ـف      'f' as in 'free'  

   ق قـ ـقـ ـق      'k' in the back of the throat  

   ك كـ ـكـ ـك      'k' as in 'king'  

   ل لـ ـلـ ـل      'l' as in 'lift'  

   م مـ ـمـ ـم      'm' as in 'moon'  

   ن نـ ـنـ ـن      'n' as in 'net'  

   ه هـ ـهـ ـه      'h' as in 'house'  

   و ـو      'w' as in 'wonder'  

   ي يـ ـيـ ـي      'y' as in 'yellow'  

   ء      similar to 'oh-oh'  

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Arabic Translation sample:

يولد جميع الناس أحرارًا متساوين في الكرامة والحقوق. وقد وهبوا عقلاً وضميرًا وعليهم أن يعامل بعضهم بعضًا بروح الإخاء.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Difficulty in learning Arabic as a native English speaker

The Defense Language Institute categorizes Arabic as very difficult (level 4, of 4 levels)

Arabic letter writing samples

  • Letter (formal)
  • Letter (informal)

Saudi Arabian Business Etiquette

Segregation between men and women is extreme, although lessening now with mild reforms to reduce strict religious influence of Wahhabism.

There is an increased growth in the number of Saudi Arabian working women and a noticeable rise in female entrepreneurship.

  • Meeting

Female businesswomen meeting male counterparts in public locations are expected to be accompanied by another male.

In public Saudis and visitors alike are expected to dress conservatively and foreign men should always wear long trousers, not shorts, and long-sleeved shirts.

When shaking hands or accepting refreshment, for example, the right hand should always be used, as the left is considered unclean.

Soles of the shoes or feet should never be shown as this is perceived as insulting to the host, and highly offensive, so feet should be kept flat on the ground.

  • Eating

German etiquette regarding who should pay the bill at the end of a meal is quite peculiar. The person who extends the invitation will be the person who pays. They do not expect you at all to fight for the bill. Your persistence will result in a serious offence.

After returning home, remember to send a hand-written card to your hosts for their invitation (dinner parties).

For restaurants and taxis, a tip of 10% or slightly less will be sufficient

  • Negotiation

Building relationships is vital for Saudis, so be patient.

Saudis have a relaxed views in relation to time-keeping and punctuality, also be prepared for meetings to be cancelled last minute.

Nepotism is not seen as a bad thing, but reinforcing trust. Family ties and loyalties pervade all facets of Saudi life, including the business world.