Arabic is a Semitic language (like Hebrew) and is an official language of 28 countries in Asia and Africa. It is written from right to left and uses a non-Latin script called Naskh. The rise of Arabic as a major language is largely attributed to the spread of Islam starting in the 7th century. More specifically, the messages of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, were delivered by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in Classical Arabic. However, the Arabic used today is not the same as when Islam was spreading and Classical Arabic is used mostly for the recitation and study of Islamic religious texts. Over time, many distinct dialects of Arabic formed and today many of them are not mutually intelligible. Despite the large number of differences in street Arabic there is just one official form of the language: Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). MSA is typically what is taught at universities and for people learning Arabic as a foreign language.

Online Resources

FSI Arabic is a course provided via the Foreign Service Institute.

Arabic Studio is a video series on Arabic starting with the alphabet. The gentleman who has created it has also provided a wealth of other materials on his website.

LearnArabicwithMaha includes hundreds of videos on learning Arabic as delivered by the ever enthusiastic Maha.

Madinah Arabic has free online lessons in Arabic.

Talk In Arabic is dedicated to addressing the lack of materials on colloquial dialects of Arabic. This is a great project and can give you a taste of which dialects are spoken across the Arabic speaking world.

Online News

BBC Arabic

Al Jazeera

Popular Products

The Arabic Alphabet: How to Read & Write It
The best place to start learning Arabic is the alphabet. This compact book covers the whole alphabet and includes all letter positions in the Arabic alphabet in addition to vowel marks.

Mastering Arabic 1 with 2 Audio CDs
This book is over 300 pages and includes audio CDs for learning Modern Standard Arabic. There is a volume II also for those who like this resource and would like to continue with the same learning method.

Living Language Arabic
This book and audio program has 3 workbooks and 9 audio CDs which getting progressively more challenging. Highly recommended.

Pimsleur Arabic 'Modern Standard' Conversational Course
Pimsleur is an all audio program for language learning. The Arabic Conversational course has 16 lessons, each 30 minutes long, for a total of 8 hours. If you like the method you can graduate and buy the full version, which is significantly more expensive.

Where Can I Study It?

Middlebury Language School offers immersion programs in Arabic.

California University of Pennsylvania offers a BA in Arabic Language and Culture (entirely online)

American University in Cairo offers a BA in Arabic Studies

University of California - Los Angeles offers a BA & MA in Arabic

The Ohio State University offers a BA in Arabic

University of North Carolina offers a Minor in Middle Eastern Languages

University of Tennessee - Knoxville offers an Arabic Studies Minor

Famous Speakers

Prophet Muhammad
Muhammad was the prophet of Islam and the most important Arabic speaker in history.

Ibn Khaldun
Khaldun wrote Muqaddimah, which was one of the earliest works to include a wide variety of subjects related to civilization, history, philosophy, economics, geography, etc. It was written in 1377.

Famous warrior sultan who recaptured Jerusalem from the Christians and founded an Islamic dynasty.

Osama bin Laden
bin Laden founded al-Qaeda, the group which took responsibility for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Cultural Products

The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance
While Europe was in the Dark Ages the Islamic Empire was in its Golden Age. Thanks to them many of the ideas of Greeks and others were preserved to be reborn during the Renaissance.

Understanding Arabs: A Contemporary Guide to Arab Society
In times of tension between the Arab and Western world understanding each other better is essential. Author and linguist Margaret Nydell attempts to bridge the gap and bring to light the complex issues that exist in Arab societies today.

The Qur'an
The Qur'an is the holy book of Islam as delivered orally to the Prophet Muhammad

The Arab Table: Recipes and Culinary Traditions
This cookbook offers a wealth of recipes representing the culinary diversity of the Arabic speaking peoples. Over 180 recipes from countries like Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. Includes dishes like kebabs, falafel, baklava, and even eggplant pomegranate salad.

Learn to Write Arabic Calligraphy
Due to restrictions from Islam on Islamic art and also the holy status of Arabic as the language of God, Arabic calligraphy is one of the finest art forms of the Arab speaking world.