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Learning how many people speak Arabic in the world doesn’t expect much if you don’t know the context and story behind its global popularity.
So first, a lesson in oral lineage and legacy! Arabic is part of the Central Semitic language family, which includes Hebrew, Aramaic, and Phoenician.
The language is thought to have evolved from Aramaic more than a millennium ago among the Bedouin nomadic tribes in the deserts of the Arabian peninsula (the word “Arab” means “nomad”).
Following the Islamic victories that begin in the 7th century, Arabic spread far and wide across North Africa, the Middle East, and Central and Western Asia and even to parts of China. The adaptation of native inhabitants to the Arabs’ culture, religion and language helped plant the seed for Arabic to sprout over the centuries to come, and today the language is the lingua franca of the Arab world.
The bulk of Arabic speakers are centered in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East, known as the Arab world. There are 25 countries that claim Arabic as an official or co-official language: Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. And then there are 6 sovereign states in which Arabic is a national language or recognized minority language: Iran, Turkey, Niger, Senegal, Mali, and Cyprus.