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The Similarities and Differences Between English and Arabic

posted on: Feb 19, 2020

By: Jackson Chasen-Buckley /Arab America Contributing Writer

When it comes to classifying the similarities and differences between English and Arabic, the differences far outweigh the similarities. To be rightfully honest, this makes sense. These languages both originated in different parts of the world and, therefore, had few connections with their inception. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t any relationship between the two. After all, Arabic has contributed to the English language.  In addition, both languages are a form of communication utilized by millions of people around the world.

The Origination

Most historians agree that between the 5th and 7th centuries, Anglo-Saxon settlers brought over one of their Anglo-Frisian dialects. This dialect would become known as old-English. The language takes influence from some of the Northern Germanic languages, predominantly spoken by the Vikings. The most recognizable words and phrases that current English speakers use comes from Modern English which came to be around the Shakespeare era. Moreover, it borrowed many phrases from other romance languages. This is why it is much easier for those knowledgeable in romance languages to learn English at a quicker pace.

Arabic, on the other hand, originates from a group of languages called the Semitic languages. It actually first formed sometime between the 1st and 4th centuries. Old Arabic, most likely came to fruition in what is now known as Saudi Arabia. Arabic began to develop as time went on. Classical Arabic is what the Quran contains. Eventually, Modern Standard Arabic developed.

The Forms

Arabic, according to the Foreign Service Institute, is a level V language. Level V languages are the hardest out of all the language difficulty groups for an English speaker to learn. English speakers have a larger mountain to climb when it comes to the forms. Firstly, Arabic has three forms. These are Classical, Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), and Dialectal. A silver lining is that Classical Arabic is no longer spoken. It is mainly used for religious purposes as it is the language of the Quran. Modern Standard Arabic is where Dialectal Arabic originates from. Many students who learn Arabic practice MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) in order to familiarize themselves. In addition, media organizations utilize MSA for publications.

With all of this being said, MSA is rarely used by native speaking people. This is where Dialectal Arabic is almost always utilized. In every Arabic speaking country, every group has its own dialect. Therefore, it makes sense why English speakers have a very difficult time when trying to learn Arabic. The best solution for Arabic learners is to try to master MSA, so that said, individuals can have a good base to start with.

English, compared to Arabic is easier to learn in regard to the forms. Similar to most parts fo the world, every English-speaking region has its own jargon or dialect. The standard form of English or King’s English is where the dialects originate from. The sentence structure is almost always the same. Reading, writing, and speaking are all done the same with no variation in form. Although, there tends to be more slang with speech, as is evident with most languages. Old English scripts are less common but still exist for religious purposes. Modern English, however, is the dominant variety of the English language, used by millions across the globe.


The Alphabet

One major similarity that both of these languages share is that they both have an alphabet. One can phonetically convert the sound of each letter between the languages to translate. Some languages don’t employ an alphabet. For example, Mandarin uses a character system for their writing process. With that said, the English and Arabic alphabet still have their differences.

Arabic has a total of 28 letters. Unlike English, the letters are always pronounced the same; this slightly decreases the difficulty. The script is written from right to left. Arabic tends not to use short vowels; there are only three. In addition, capitalization is not a factor. Probably the most difficult aspect of the Arabic alphabet is the susceptibly to change. In Arabic, letters alter their looks depending on their location in a word. Some of the changes are drastic too which is why constant practice is very key to grasping the language.

English utilizes 26 letters. Six of those letters are vowels; the letter “Y” tends to be less common. English is written from left to right. Unfortunately for English learners, the English alphabet is very dynamic in the way it is pronounced. For example, the words “through” and “though” both have the exact same endings, but they are spoken differently. Worst of all, there is no way to predict this sound mutation. Memorization is the only way to truly learn.


Arabic is similar to many other languages as it assigns words to a gender. A word for a friend can have a completely different pronunciation depending on whether that person is a male or a female. Arabic verbs also always begin as infinitives and then change depending on the context. The language has a lot more personal pronouns that alter the infinitive compared to English. Arabic employs a dual case meant to describe only two people. The most important aspect to remember is that Arabic does not use a present “to be”. The verb simply omitted when writing and speaking. These are only simple grammar rules. Arabic has many others,

English does not assign gender to words. You can certainly add the word male or female before the word friend, but friend still stays the same. English words have infinitives, however, the verb stays the same except for the singular third-person case. You add an “s” to the end of the verb in that case. English does use the verb “to be”. In fact, that verb changes depending on the context it is used in. For example; I am, you are, he/she is, we are, you all are, and they are. Depending on the case, the verb is subject to change. As stated in Arabic, these are only elementary grammar rules. English contains a plethora of others as well.



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