5 Facts to Celebrate Arabic Language Day! 🎉 - PaliRoots

5 Facts to Celebrate Arabic Language Day! 🎉

Happy Arabic Language day!

11 years ago today, the United Nations established international language days for Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. Although the Arabic language has been written, spoken and sung since the first century, its development overtime has spread all over the globe - diffusing into 25 different dialects too! With nearly 300 million native speakers worldwide, the Arabic language has changed the world in extraordinary ways. Here are 5 groundbreaking facts about our beautiful Arabic language!

1. “ABC”? More like “ABJAD”

To make it simple: the pattern of our well known ABC's in the English language are very different in the Arabic language. Per origin, the actual word "alphabet" is translated to "Abjad" in Arabic. But in a linguistic perspective, it "Abjad" converts into a method of being a consonantal alphabet. According to Orthographies of the World, "An ABJAD is a system where each letter stands for a consonant and not a vowel, which requires the user of the language to provide the vowels using vowel marks". German, French and English alphabets all contain 26 letters that are written from left to right. But written from right to left (except numbers), the Arabic alphabet has 28 letters that also depict their respective consonants. There are also no capital letters in Arabic!

2. Middle-Eastern Dialects

The Arabic language is well known across 22 countries in unique ways. The several Arabic dialects (regional variants of the language) can be easily spotted by most native speakers. Or, if you're a first-generation-Palestinian-American-who-learned-Arabic-as-her-second-language (thanks to my grandparents and Sunday school), you might be able to spot five of the most common. Egyptian, Iraqi, Moroccan, Palestinian and Syrian are the most distinct Arabic speaking pronunciations. Some examples of recognizable dialects include Egyptian, the dialect found in the elaborate Arabic film world. The Palestinian dialect is noticeable because its split into two, and the Iraqi dialect implements a Mesopotamian sound to itself.

*Examples for reference: "Binit" is the most common way to say “Girl” in Arabic, but in the Iraqi dialect, its **said as "Bnayyah". And "Walad" (boy), in the Iraqi dialect (and most others) is pronounced "Sabee" in Syrian dialect

Falahi or Madani?

 In both old Palestine and modern Palestine, the two Arabic dialects - Falahi and Madani - are undeniably different, but still equal to one another! The biggest difference between the two varieties is the way the Arabic letter Qaf (ق) is pronounced. Madani speakers say Qaf in its origin with a K or G accent and Falahi speakers pronounce words including Qaf (ق) with “ch” (like child) instead! For example, asking someone “How are you?” in Madani would sound like: “Keef ha-lak?” while “Chef ha-lak” is the Falahi way. While Madani is an urban dialect - typically spoken in larger cities like Jerusalem (Al-Quds), the Falahi dialect is more common in small, rural towns like Kufer Malik and Turmusaya (neighboring towns in Palestine).

*A bonus tip to remember the differences: The word Madani is very similar to Mad-ina, which translates to “city” in English. The word Fa-la-hi (with a long and cold sounding H) relates to Fella-h, translating to “farmer”! 😊

4. Afro-Asiatic Origin

The Arabic of Palestinians originates with the Afro-Asiatic family of languages. The Afro-Asiatic is the largest family of language coming from Northern Africa that also spreads over into the Arabian Peninsula and all of the Middle-East. The family breaks into 6 different branches - with the Semitic branch (outside of Africa), spoken in Palestine, being one them! In Palestine today, the most standard and professional form of Arabic is used for all official purposes as it is the official language of the country.

5. Richest Language in Words

The Arabic language is the 6th most commonly spoken language in the world - especially popular for having different words to describe a single thing. For example, there are eleven ways to say "Love"! Hub, walah, wudd, gharam are all specified words in Arabic to describe loving expressions. In a similar manner, root words are predominant in terms of following a pattern. The words book, writer, and written letter are all related to a literary nature, so they all sound similar when spoken in Arabic with the base letters of K, T, and B. The word book is "ketab", writer is "kateb", and written letter is "maktoob". These certain styles of the Arabic language are incredibly impressive and more fun to learn in my opinion!

To encourage you to learn some ✨Palestinian✨ Arabic today (with a mix of Falahi and Madani), here are PaliRoot’s favorite words and their translations!

PaliRooter Arabic Word Translation
Zenah ايش في‏؟ Ash Fee? What's happening?
Layan لانه Le-in-no Because
Cokab ‏بس ما Bes-ma Smile
Aminah فلاحي Falah-i Peasant
Jenan يقبرني Ya-kbur-nee "You bury me"
Dylan حبيبتي Habib-ti My love
Sarhan ‏زيتون Zey-toun Olive


About the Author - Layan Beirat is a first generation Palestinian American whose family originates from Beit Safafa and Kufer Malik. Growing up in a very Arab environment in the Chicagoland area has made her appreciate the delicate experiences on Palestinian roots - which she longs to visit again soon!