Arabic is the 5th most commonly spoken native language in the world
Arabic is the official language of over 20 countries and there are well over 375 million native speakers of the language. These speakers are largely concentrated in the Middle East, but there are minority groups of native speakers throughout the world. It is also an official language of the United Nations, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference, and the African Union.
There is a high demand and low supply of Arabic-speakers in the Western world
Relatively few Westerners ever venture to learn Arabic. With the growing importance of the Middle East in international affairs, there is thus an extreme shortage of workers in the West who are versed in Arabic language and culture. Those who study Arabic can find careers in a variety of fields: journalism, business and industry, education, finance and banking, translation and interpretation, consulting, foreign service and intelligence, and many others.
Arabic-speaking nations are a fast growing market for trade
Initiatives to integrate the Arab world into the global economy are opening up numerous potential new business opportunities. The Arab region with its rapidly growing population provides a huge export market for goods and services. With a GDP of over 600 billion dollars annually, the region also has much to offer the world market. The Arab countries are in the process of reforming and diversifying their economies. Business regulation is improved in order to make the economies more competitive and to attract entrepreneurs. In the Arabian Gulf, for example, huge investments are made in areas like construction, finance, telecom and tourism. In order to do business effectively, one must understand the language and culture of the people with whom one hopes to negotiate and conduct trade. The business culture in the Arab World is very much about building personal relationships of mutual trust. In this environment, knowledge of Arabic can be instrumental in fostering deeper business relations.
Arabic-speaking peoples have made significant contributions to world civilization
While Europe was experiencing the relative intellectual stagnation of the Middle Ages, the Arab-Islamic civilization was at its zenith. Arabs contributed a great deal to the advancement of science, medicine, and philosophy. Much learning from the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine cultures was preserved for the world through the Arab libraries. Arabs have also made significant contributions in such areas as literature, mathematics, navigation, astrology, and architecture. A knowledge of Arabic enables the exploration of this vast body of knowledge in their original language.
The Arab-speaking world has a rich cultural heritage
The Arab world has its own unique art, music, literature, cuisine, and way of life. Westerners know about belly dance, perhaps have read 1001 Nights, and may have tried some popular Middle Eastern dishes such as humous or falafel, but Western exposure to the Arab way of life is generally limited. In exploring the Arabic world, you will learn to appreciate its distinct cultural products and practices and you will come to understand some of the values important to the Arabic people, such as honour, dignity, and hospitality.
Arabic is the liturgical language of Islam
In addition to the millions of native speakers, many more millions know Arabic as a foreign language, since as the language of the Qur’an, it is understood by Muslims throughout the world.
Knowing Arabic can promote intercultural understanding
In addition to having limited exposure to real Arabic culture, Westerners are presented with one-dimensional negative stereotypes of Arabic-speaking peoples through the news media, Hollywood films, and other sources. At the same time, events in the Middle East affect our daily lives. Reliance on such false and superficial images can lead to mistrust and miscommunication, to an inability to cooperate, negotiate, and compromise, and perhaps even to military confrontation. Those who learn Arabic gain deeper insights into the cultural, political, and religious values that motivate people in those cultures. People who know Arabic can negotiate the cultural and linguistic gap between nations, assist in solving and avoiding intercultural conflict, and help businesses successfully engage in international trade. There is a tendency towards reforms aiming at more government transparency and increased public participation in decision-making. This development benefits trade relations and cultural exchange between the Arab countries and the rest of the World. Knowledge of Arabic is an essential for anyone seeking profound understanding of the culture and thinking-patterns of the Arab world.
Arabic influence is evident in many other languages
The export of concepts, products, and cultural practices from Arabic-speaking peoples is evident in the vocabulary that Arabic has lent other languages. Algebra was invented by Arab mathematicians in medieval times. Such staple products as coffee and cotton came from the Arab world, as well as jasmine, lemon, and lime. Other Arabic loanwords appearing in English denote such diverse things as henna, macrame, lute, mattress, gerbil, sorbet, safari and muslin. The influence of Arabic culture is apparent not only in the English language. Numerous Arabic contributions are also discernible in Persian, Turkish, Kurdish, Spanish, Swahili, Urdu, and other languages.