Languages spoken in Bahrain


The official language in Bahrain, similar to most Arabic-speaking countries, is Literary Arabic. A mixture of Classic Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic mixed with local dialects.

Classic Arabic (CA) is the language in which the Qur'an, the Holy Book of Islam, is written. It is the archaic form spoken from the VII to IX centuries and hasn’t changed a lot.

Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is adapted to modern needs- it is simplified, new expressions are added as well as a lot of borrowed words from other languages. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations and the literary standard across the Middle East and North Africa. Most books, newspapers, magazines, official documents and reading primers for small children are written in MSA.

Arabic is the primary example of a linguistic phenomenon called diglossia. Diglossia is when two unique languages exist simultaneously in a culture, but each language is used for different social occasions. In the case of Arabic, the two languages that co-exist are the local dialects, that some linguists consider separate languages, and MSA.

A variety of Arabic called Baharna Arabic (or Bahrani Arabic) is spoken in the capital of Bahrain, Manama and some Bahraini villages. This dialect is also popular in some parts of Saudi Eastern province and Oman.

Bahrani speech is comprised of several dialects and accents, the most popular being those of Muharraq and Sitra. There are also differences between the dialects spoken in urban areas and those spoken in rural areas.

Even though it is very similar to other gulf Arabic dialects, Bahrani has its own unique features which are most easily visible through certain grammatical forms and pronunciation. An example of a unique characteristic of Bahrani is the distinctive “ee” sound in the end of sentences when asking tag questions.

English is widely spoken in Bahrain. It is a compulsory second language in most schools and is widely used in business. Also, there are several newspapers issued in English, as well as radio and TV channel broadcasts.

Other popular foreign languages spoken in the country are Farsi (the official language of Iran), Urdu (the official language of Pakistan) and Malayalam (spoken in South India).

Some characteristics of the Arabic language

Arabic is one of the top five spoken languages in the world with over 250 million native speakers. It is a phonetic language which belongs to the Semitic family of languages.The Arabic writing system is called abjad and the alphabet has 28 letters. It consists of consonants, vowels and symbols, and it is read and written from right to left.

The typical order of a sentence is verb- subject- object. Arabic has no capital letters. Most of the letters have four different forms, depending on whether they stand alone or come at the beginning, middle, or end of a word.

In Arabic people don't include most vowels when writing - maktab (office) is just written mktb. Some Arabic sounds, such as the hh, the q or the g can be very difficult to pronounce.
All original Arabic nouns have gender,either masculine or feminine, and it depends on the object or person being spoken to or about.

Further reading

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