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 300 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.
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 Qu'ran, it is understood by Muslims throughout the world.
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. Only 1 % of the United States 12,000 FBI agents have any knowledge of Arabic at all, and this includes those who know only a few words.
There are financial incentives for learning Arabic.
The US government has designated Arabic as a language of strategic importance. The National Strategic Language Initiative instituted in 2006 promotes the learning of Arabic (and other languages deemed critical) among Americans through numerous scholarships and supported learning opportunities. These include support for language courses from beginning to advanced levels, study abroad programs, intensive instruction opportunities, teacher exchanges, and professional development.
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 nw 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. 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.
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 read1001 Nights, and may have tried some some popular Middle Eastern dishes such as hummus 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 honor, dignity, and hospitality.
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 mis-communication, 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.
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.
The Unites States has an Arab-American minority.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2002 census, there are 1.2 million people of Arab heritage residing in the United States. Though a relatively small population, their numbers are quickly growing; people of Arab ancestry in the U.S. increased by about 40% during the 1990s. Intercultural understanding begins at home. Even just a basic knowledge of the Arabic language and culture can improve understanding and acceptance of this often misunderstood and misrepresented group of Americans.