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Which Is Better: Learning Classic or Spoken Arabic?

posted on: Aug 8, 2018

By: Udochi Esomonu/Arab America Contributing Writer

The Arabic language is over 1600 years old. Arabic, a Central Semitic language, is spoken by over 300 million people worldwide today. It is classified as a macrolanguage, as it consists of over 30 various dialects spoken among native-speakers.

The Arabic language is in strong relation with the spread of Islam throughout the Middle East and other countries. As the Quran, the holy book of Islam was written in Arabic around the 6th century, the language itself has greatly evolved.

Today, when we speak of the Arabic language, we are commonly referring to the modern standard version, not necessarily the classical version.

What makes the two so unique? Since they are so unique, which version of Arabic is more beneficial to learn?  To answer this question, let’s define both classical and modern Arabic and reach the answer that we have all been waiting for.

What is Classical Arabic? 

Classical Arabic is the form of Arabic which the Quran was written in, hence its other name being the Quranic Arabic. This version of Arabic is no longer commonly used when engaging in conversation and is mostly used for religious practices and purposes, hence its importance to the Islam faith. If one wants to read the Quran in its original version of Arabic, then it is necessary for one to become acquainted with Classical Arabic.

What is Modern Arabic? 

Modern Standard Arabic is the version of Arabic that is commonly spoken and studied worldwide today. When you hear that someone is studying the Arabic language, chances are, they are probably studying the modern standard version, sometimes alongside a variety of dialects.  While this version of Arabic has many dialects present throughout the Arab world, it remains the foundation for the many dialects spoken throughout the world today. It is important to note that the Modern Standard Arabic was and still is indeed rooted in Classical Arabic.

When traveling mostly to Arab countries, it is very common to see street signs, restaurant names, restaurant menus, and newspapers utilizing the Modern Standard Arabic and its various dialects due to its prominence in the spoken language today.

Learning Modern Standard Arabic is essential to successfully understand, speak, and write in Arabic today. Due to how commonly spoken it is, learning this version will aid in one’s travels and communications with other Arabic speakers, etc… It is eventually worthwhile for one to learn the Modern Standard Arabic, especially if they have desires to learn other dialects, which share its foundation with Modern Standard Arabic.

If you plan to utilize Arabic solely for religious reasons, then it is much more beneficial for you to learn classical Arabic. If you plan to utilize Arabic as an everyday language to converse, then it is much more beneficial for you to learn Modern Standard Arabic due to the fact that it is commonly spoken worldwide as opposed to Classical Arabic that is rarely used outside of the religious realm.