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UN Arabic Language Day

UN Arabic Language Day

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We’re a translation company, so we like to keep an eye on various language-related markers worldwide. Last Sunday, December 18th , was World Arabic Language Day. This event was established by the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in 2010. Since then, it’s been recognised and celebrated annually across the globe. This week’s blog is a good occasion to understand why this day is important. You will also learn about the Arabic language such as the issues one can face when doing an English to Arabic translation and vice versa.

But why December 18th? According to Awareness Days Ltd, this date was chosen in correlation to the time when the General Assembly approved Arabic as an official UN language, back in 1973. Since 2010, this day has been celebrated to promote multilingualism and cultural diversity. In addition to promoting “equal use of all six of its official working languages throughout the organization”.

The Arabic language is spoken on a daily basis by around 400 million people. Hence, it is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. We provide Arabic translation on a weekly, if not daily, basis. It is considered to play a significant role in cultural diversity due to its rich history and close connection to other languages (European, Asian and African). For instance, English has many Arabic loanwords (e.g.: alcohol, candy, caravan, cotton, sugar, talisman, etc.). Additionally, it is, and has been over the centuries, a key actor in the exchanges between continents and across cultures.

It is estimated that there are over 25 dialects of Arabic spoken in the world today.

 Top 5 Arabic dialects speaking countries:

  • Egypt – more than 82 million speakers.
  • Algeria – more than 40 million speakers.
  • Sudan – more than 28 million speakers.
  • Iraq – more than 22 million speakers.
  • Morocco – more than 25 million speakers

FUN FACT! Did you know that the Arabic dubbings of some of the most famous Disney movies changed multiple times over the years? (learn what is dubbing and how does it work).

Arabic and Disney Translation

In the 1970s, Egyptian Arabic was used due to its naturalness and casualness in contrast to standard Arabic which is mainly used for writing and in more formal contexts. However, in 2013, an agreement was signed between Disney and Al Jazeera where Modern Standard Arabic replaced the Egyptian version. Thus, many Disney iconic movies had to be re-dubbed into Modern Standard Arabic. About 10 years later, the 60th Disney movie – Encanto – opened new approach. Both Egyptian Arabic and Standard Arabic were used in dubbing for this movie.

Various Arabic Forms

In that respect, it is interesting to note that Arabic has different forms which vary according to the context it’s being used for. For instance, as mentioned above, Modern Standard Arabic, also referred to as Classical Arabic, is used in formal settings such as in media, newspapers, literature and so on. There is also Aamiya, designated as being colloquial Arabic. It possesses several forms depending on the country, and even on the town it is being used in. This, also according to society’s various functions.

Arabic Translation

There are a few factors to bear in mind when doing a translation from or into Arabic. For example, there are 28 characters in the alphabet. 8 of those do not have equivalent sounds in English. Additionally, Arabic is usually written from right to left, except for numbers, making it a bit of a tough language to learn and be used in translation. Other elements to take into account when performing an Arabic to English translation would be the syntax, gender assignation, and the inclusion of pronouns in relative clauses which is likely to cause grammatical issues.


Enjoyed this blog? Check out a similar one HERE about the European Day of languages . Or click HERE for our previous blog on the differences between North Korean and South Korean languages.

We provide Arabic translation and subtitling, as well as voice over services in various Arabic dialects such as from Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and so on.

Remember, if you’d like to discuss your next project, call us on +44 (0) 207 095 5730. Or email [email protected] for a quote. Whether you need voice overs or subtitles, we’d love to hear from you.

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