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How Is Arabic Different From English?
By:Daniel C Howard

Arabic refers to a group languages or dialects used in many countries around the world such as in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Morocco. Classical Arabic is the language of the Qur'an, the Holy Book of Islam. Modern Standard Arabic is considered the lingua franca in many Arabic-speaking nations. It is used in current Arabic publications and spoken in Arabic media and understood by many educated Arabic speakers. Colloquial Arabic, also known as dialectal Arabic, refer to the many varieties of Arabic dialects used in everyday exchanges.

Many English speakers find Arabic difficult to learn. Arabic-speaking individuals also have difficulty in learning English. The many differences they have play a large part in this difficulty. Aside from their roots, they have numerous dissimilarities in grammar, sounds, and writing system.

Difference in Language Family

While English is one of the West Germanic languages and has roots from the Indo-European language family, the Arabic language, on the other hand, is a Semitic language that belongs to the Afro-Asiatic language family. It has influences from many languages including Greek, Syriac, Hebrew and Persian.

Difference in Alphabet

The English language has 26 letters in its alphabet, with 24 consonant phonemes and 22 vowel phonemes. Arabic, meanwhile, has 28 consonants and no short vowels; although, it has 8 vowel phonemes and 28 consonant phonemes. Because of this, Arabic is a consonant-heavy language.

The Arabic script is written and read from right to left and written in cursive. It has no lower or upper case distinction and the rules in using punctuation are not as strict as that in English.

Difference in Phonology

Sound combination's. Sound combination's are different between the Arabic and English languages. As mentioned, Arabic is consonant-heavy, but the English language utilizes more consonant clusters to create words. While Arabic may have 2-consonant-cluster words, English has many 3- or 4-consonant-cluster words. This makes it difficult for Arabic speakers to pronounce such words so they resort to inserting short vowel sounds in between consonant clusters, so they say spilit instead of split, or next becomes nexist.

Sound Elision. Elision is the swallowing of sounds in between words or letters which is common in spoken English, but not practiced in Arabic. With elision, a word like captain becomes cap'n and what did you do turns into whatcha do? In Arabic, word spellings are highly dependent to sounds, so sounds are seldom dropped.

Difference in Grammar

· The verb "to be" in present tense is not used in Arabic, nor is "do." Arabic uses the single present tense in place of English's simple and continuous forms.

· Arabic makes no difference between actions done in the past with or without link to the present.

· Modal verbs are absent in Arabic; so are indefinite articles.

· Adjectives come after nouns they describe.

· Pronouns are included in relative clauses.

· Arabic follows a Subject-Object-Verb pattern to sentences, while English and many European languages use the Subject-Verb-Object pattern.

Difference in Vocabulary

There are very few similarities between the English and Arabic languages. This further makes learning Arabic more difficult.

If you are an English speaker, the intricate writing system, the difficult grammar, the complex vocabulary and the different phonology of the Arabic language makes learning it very taxing and challenging.

I am a language teacher living in Asia. I have over a decade of experience teaching all ages a variety of subjects. For free Arabic info and lessons, please visit my blog here.

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