Modern Standard Arabic

Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is the common language of the Arabic speaking world and official language in 22 Middle Eastern and African countries. A language that is designed to standardized speech and written communication so that all 300 million native Arabic speakers can converse in a neutral tongue. It is common practise for Arabic speakers to write in MSA but speak their native dialect of Arabic. However, MSA allows non-native and native speakers to converse in different regions with people who speak different dialects with ease.

MSA is based on Arabic written in the 7th Century Quran. Grammatically it has not changed in 1300 years, however the vocabulary has evolved with the times to incorporated new words. Books, newspapers, magazines, official documents, private and business correspondence, street signs and Friday prayers sermons are all written in MSA - making it the language of literature and media.

Learning MSA requires more effort than learning a spoken Arabic dialect, but it is an effort with a much bigger payoff. Knowledge of MSA opens the doors to the whole Arab World. Arabic is a Semitic language stemming from the same family tree as Hebrew and Aramaic. There are 28 letters in the alphabet and the written form goes from right to left. Letters can be tricky to grasp at first as dots are added to distinguish between sounds. Adding an extra dot can easily become a big mistake in writing!

Vocabulary is plentiful with over one hundred words for just ‘Camel’ and eleven for ‘Love’. In addition to the Roman counting system being based on the Arabic one, there are countless Arabic origin words used in English today. Examples include: racquet, alchemy, alcohol, algebra, algorithm, alkaline, amber, arsenal, candy, coffee, cotton, ghoul, hazard, lemon, loofah, magazine, sherbet, sofa, tariff – and many more.