Here are my top ten reasons for learning Arabic:
1. Arabic is spoken by more than 280 million people as a native language.
This makes it the fifth (or fourth if Hindi and Urdu are counted as one language) most widely spoken language of the world. Being able to talk to that many people is definitely a huge motivation.
2. Arabic is cool.
Not many Westerners speak Arabic and having some command of the language will immediately make you appear extremely sophisticated and clever in the eyes of many.
3. Arab culture is rich and diverse.
Everybody should be able to find some aspect of the culture that they find intriguing. Just to give a few examples: have you ever listened to the Lebanese singer Fairouz or the Egyptian singer Amr Diab? What about sitting in a typical Maqha (café) in the middle of a Suq (market) while listening to a soryteller? Or reveling in the beauty of Arabic calligraphy? Or reading the 1001 Nights in the original?
4. Untapped economic potential.
The Middle East is extremely rich in natural resources. Someone who speaks Arabic will be in an extremely advantageous position job-wise in a few years time when the economy in the region really kicks off.
5. Arab hospitality.
As soon as you just utter a few words of Arabic in front of a native speaker, they will be delighted and eager to help you in any way possible. Ever learnt German just to discover that the Germans themselves are not impressed or positively disinterested when you speak their language? You will find the exact reverse in most of your encounters with Arabs. They really are proud of their language and pleased with anyone making an effort to learn it.
6. Understanding Islam.
In the current times of increasing hostility between the “Arab World” and the “West” it is crucial to understand the Islamic religion and the various streams contained within it. What if you were able to read for yourself Koranic verses that some Muslims say promote peace and other Muslims say call for war? You could make up your own mind much easier.
7. Demand for Westerners fluent in Arabic is high and supply is low.
And no, I’m not only talking about the secret services that are desperately looking to hire anyone fluent in Arabic. I’m also talking about businesses, interpreting and translating. Being able to speak Arabic will give you the edge over your competition.
8. Arabic is a bridge language.
Knowing Arabic opens the door to many other languages in the region. For example, approximately 50% of the vocabulary of Persian (Farsi) is made up of Arabic words. Similar considerations apply to learning Urdu or Turkish. Also, Hebrew is related linguistically to Arabic, which makes it easier to grasp the grammatical and semantic concepts in Hebrew.
9. Arabic is a very exciting language linguistically.
With the deeply entrenched root system, learning Arabic can be a great joy. E.g. if you know that kataba means “to write” in Arabic, then it will be easy to deduce that kitaab means “book” and kaatib means “writer”. It also has some
10. Travelling in the Middle East.
The Arab World is a great place to travel – if you know Arabic, that is. While the number of Arabs speaking English is constantly on the increase, the vast majority of the population only speaks Arabic. So it is essential that you speak at least basic survival Arabic when you travel in the region. And travelling there is certainly something that you shouldn’t miss with lush countryside, arid deserts and traditional villages.
What are your reasons for learning Arabic?