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Arabic translation, interpretation, and localization services have been in great demand over the past several decades, with increased international focus on the Middle East and rapid economic development and growth in places such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, and a newly emerging Iraqi economy.

The Arabic language (al-ʻarabiyyah or arabī) is classified as a Semitic language, comprising 30 modern varieties and serving as the lingua franca of the Arab world. As the liturgical language of Islam, Arabic has had varying degrees of influence on dozens of other languages as a result of the spread of Islam throughout the ancient world. It has been preserved since the 7th century CE through the revelations of the Prophet Mohamed preserved in the Quran and began spreading throughout the Middle East and North Africa in the 8th century CE.

There are currently more than 315 million native speakers of Arabic and possibly more than 420 million total speakers (native and non-native), making Arabic the fifth most widely spoken language in the world. It is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Arabic is an official language in Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and Western Sahara. The countries with the largest Arabic-speaking populations include Egypt (82 million), Algeria (40 million), Sudan (28 million), and Saudi Arabia (27 million).

The three main variants of Arabic include Classical Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic, and “colloquial” or “dialectal” Arabic. Classical Arabic refers to the language used in the Quran, the holy book of Islam. Modern Standard Arabic (MSM) refers to the language used in most current written publications, many spoken media broadcasts throughout the Arab world, and is understood by most educated speakers of Arabic. MSA shares many similarities with Classical Arabic, except certain grammatical constructions that do not have a modern counterpart, case distinctions, and the numeral system. MSA is also written in a strongly determined word order that does not typically allow for alternative word orders used in Classical Arabic for emphasis.

“Colloquial” or “dialectal” Arabic, on the other hand, refers to the numerous regional or national varieties of the spoken Arabic language, which often vary significantly in both lexicon, syntax, and pronunciation from MSA and are frequently mutually unintelligible. “Colloquial” or “dialectal” Arabic is most frequently used in day-to-day interactions in their respective regions, in informal media, and local advertisements and local print media formats. The main dialect groups that comprise the many regional varieties of Arabic include Egyptian Arabic, Levantine Arabic, Maghrebi Arabic, Mesopotamian Arabic, as well as dozens of other dialects and sub-dialects.

Modern Standard Arabic and “Literary” Arabic have a highly complex system of morphology in which words are constructed from a base root, as is common in the other Semitic languages. Nouns in Arabic possess three grammatical cases (nominative, accusative, and genitive), three numbers, two genders, and three states (indefinite, definite, and construct). Nouns and adjectives in Arabic are all marked for case, number, gender, and state, and all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verbs are required to agree with each other.

Arabic verbs are marked for person (first, second, or third), gender, and number. They are conjugated in either past or non-past and include two voices (active and passive), and six moods. The colloquial varieties of Arabic tend to have lost the case distinctions and mood distinctions (other than imperative), although they have also gained additional moods.

The Arabic script is derived from Aramaic, consists of 28 letters, and both printed and written forms are in cursive. Like other Semitic languages, Arabic is written from right to left, and while it originally included only consonants (as in Hebrew, another Semitic language), scribes developed other methods of indicating the presence of vowels, mainly through the use of diacritic marks. Other scripts have been influenced heavily by Arabic, including the Persian, Ottoman Turkish, Kurdish, Urdu, and Pashto scripts, with some letters added or removed to adapt the alphabet to the phonology of the local language.

FUN FACTS: The Arabic language includes at least 11 words to express the concept of “love,” with each describing stages of the process of falling in love. For example, “hawa” describes the initial attraction towards someone, “huyum” signifies the loss of reason that follows, and “ishq” refers blind desire. English also contains many words derived from Arabic, including racquet, alchemy, alcohol, algebra, algorithm, alkaline, amber, arsenal, candy, coffee, cotton, ghoul, hazard, lemon, loofah, magazine, sherbet, sofa, tariff, and many more.

At Piedmont Global Language Solutions (PGLS), we offer Arabic translation, interpretation, localization, and other language services. We can provide Arabic translation services in a variety of regional dialects, including Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), Egyptian Arabic, Levantine Arabic, Gulf Arabic, Maghrebi Arabic, and more. Whether you need to translate marketing brochures into Gulf Arabic for Saudi Arabia, a Moroccan Arabic interpreter for a doctor’s visit, or want to localize your website into Modern Standard Arabic to market your products or services throughout the Middle East and North Africa, PGLS is here to help with all of your Arabic translation, interpretation, and localization needs.

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