The number of recognized languages around the world is more than 6,000, and the number is expected to increase as the world continues to discover hidden communities. Language is important in building friendships, cultural ties, and economic relationships because it allows people to communicate and exchange ideas. Arabic and English are some of the most widely used languages in many parts of the world with more than half of the global population speaking the two languages. Although Arabic and English have some similarities in written forms, the differences between the two languages appear to be more visible. Some of the distinguishing features of Arabic and English can be seen in the alphabet and vocabulary, grammar, and script between the two (Abdelgadir & Ramana, 2017). The differences between the two languages make it difficult for an English speaker to learn Arabic and vice versa.
The first difference that makes the Arabic and English-speaking individuals have difficulty in learning each other’s language is the fact that the two languages use different alphabet systems and vocabularies. For example, the English alphabet only has 26 letters with 22 vowels and 24 consonant sounds while the Arabic alphabet has 28 letters with 8 vowels and 28 consonant sounds. The differences in vocabularies between the Arabic and English languages occur because the Arabic language heavily uses the consonant sounds while the English language mostly uses the vowels (Abdelgadir & Ramana, 2017). Additionally, the English language has several silent letters that are not pronounced when speaking but must be included when writing the words. For example, the “h” in “hour” or “honor” is silent but must be indicated in the written form. In contrast, the Arabic language does not have silent sounds and all the words are written as they are pronounced. The Arabic language also has many words that can be used to describe one thing while the synonyms may have slightly different meanings in English.
The second difference that makes it hard to learn Arabic or English for the non-speakers is the use of different grammar structures. For example, verbs such as “do” and “to be” and the sentence structure in Arabic mainly consists of present tense rather than the continuous forms that exist in English. Another difference is that Arabic grammar does not link past actions to the present or show any differences that exist between the two (Gadalla, 2017). The Arabic language also does not have the indefinite articles or modal verbs identified in the English language. The adjectives in the Arabic grammar are usually included or written after the nouns while the nouns are included after adjectives in the English language. The Arabic grammar also has distinctions for female and male verbs and plural pronouns while the English grammar does not have such distinctions. Additionally, the pattern used in constructing sentences in the Arabic language is subject-object-verb while the pattern used in English is subject-verb-object.
The third difference between Arabic and English occurs in the unique scripts of the two languages. For example, the sentences are written from right to left in the Arabic language while in English the sentences are written from left to right (Hassan, 2014). The Arabic language also does not use capital letters in proper nouns while capitalization is compulsory in English proper nouns. Another difference between Arabic and English is that the letterforms used in the Arabic language change depending on the positioning in words while the letters remain the same in English words. The written Arabic language also does not include vowels and readers are forced to make assumptions on the positioning of the vowels while the written English language includes all the consonants and vowels.
In conclusion, the differences that exist in the alphabet systems and vocabularies, grammar structures, and script of the Arabic and English languages make it difficult for Arabic speakers to learn English and vice versa. The Arabic language heavily uses the consonant sounds and this may explain the heavy accent among the Arabic speakers talking in English. On the other hand, the English language mostly uses vowel sounds. The absence of continuous verb forms in the Arabic language also creates many problems for English speakers who try to learn the language. Lastly, the written forms of the Arabic and English languages also have several differences such as the method of writing sentences and the use of capitalization among others.
Abdelgadir, E. M., & Ramana, V. L. (2017). A Handbook on “Introduction to Phonetics & Phonology”: For Arabic students. Chennai, India: Notion Press.
Gadalla, H. A. H. (2017). Translating tenses in Arabic-English and English-Arabic contexts. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Hassan, B.-E. A. (2014). Between English and Arabic: A practical course in translation. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scho