The Arabic language refers to a group of dialects that are classified together under the same term of Arabic, though as is implied, there are a great deal of dialects that come under this term. It is a Semitic language, the most common Semitic language that is used.
There are three variants on Arabic: Classical, Modern Standard, and colloquial. While there are many different spoken varieties of Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic is what is used most commonly, and is what most people are referring to when they refer to Arabic as a modern language. It is also referred to as Literary Arabic, and it is derived from Classical Arabic, dating all the way back to the 4th century.
Various languages have influenced Arabic, such as Hebrew, Greek and Persian, but Arabic has also had a considerable effect on many other languages. Arabic has had a clear influence on other languages within the Islamic world, such as Turkish, Persian and Urdu. Interestingly, Mediterranean languages also contain an Arabic influence, due not only to Arabic rule in some areas in the past, but also to the relative closeness of European and Arab cultures throughout history.
Arabic is an incredibly popular language, and is spoken by more than 280 million people as their primary language. Many of these people live either in the Middle East or North Africa. Literary Arabic is very commonly spoken and written throughout the whole world, and is the official language of 26 countries.
Colloquial dialects are spoken with many national varieties. This often can make Arabic one of the most difficult languages to pin down in terms of figures. We may not know exactly how many people speak Arabic, certainly not colloquial forms of Arabic over Modern Standard Arabic, but we do know that it is incredibly widespread.
For this reason, it is heavily debated whether Arabic should be classed as a language or as a collection of languages, but with the existence of Modern Standard Arabic, we can see a great deal of unity. It can be a political landmine to try and separate these dialects, and many Arabic-speaking people will refer to their own formation of the language as Arabic, and make very little distinction between different dialects themselves. All spoken Arabic languages share the same written language, drawing the language together, despite any spoken differences.
The Arabic language has had a strict grammatical form for over a thousand years, although the language has obviously been subject to various social and historical influences. One can separate the study of the Arabic language into five areas: al-luga, at-tasrif, an-nahw, al-istiqaq, al-balaga. In this order, this translates to lexicon, morphology, syntax, derivation, and rhetoric. These are the traditional areas of the study of Arabic, but there is a lot more contention over the modern varieties of Arabic, as there are simply so many.
Fascinatingly, in the Arabic language, there are 12 forms of personal pronouns. These can denote a masculine or feminine speaker, in the forms of singular, dual or plural. There are very different ways of speaking to different people, depending on whether you are speaking a more modern Arabic, or formal Arabic. The word order itself in the Arabic language is relatively flexible, although Classical Arabic usually follows the common pattern of placing the verb before the subject, with adjectives usually following nouns.
The Arabic language has two verbal voices: active and passive. The passive form is more commonly used in spoken Arabic, and you will not often find it in writing. The two forms will be spelled the same, but the inflection carries the tone and changes the word meaning.
Why Learn The Arabic Language?
Classical Arabic is the language that is used in the Quran (Koran), and is considered holy by Muslims. Islamic people will not translate the Quran into other languages so that they can understand it better; instead, they will learn Arabic to fully understand a more genuine meaning of what is trying to be conveyed. If you wish to try to understand the holy religious text of the Quran, for whatever reason, then learning Arabic is your first step. Many religious schools, particularly in the Middle East are also almost entirely Arabic-speaking.
As was mentioned, it is the official language of 26 countries, making it the third most common language after English and French to be an official language. Learning Standard Arabic can help enormously if you wish to understand any number of colloquial Arabic forms of language. However, the only kind of Arabic that has attained an official language status is that of Maltese, though it is often not even considered to come under that umbrella any more due to this form of the Arabic language being so formatively different in a modern tongue.