Modern Standard Arabic

Arabic children's books in Tunisia
Arabic children's books in Tunisia. Source: Dennis Jarvis (Flickr: Tunisia-4524 - The Emperor's New Clothes) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The "formal" Arabic language, known as Classical Arabic, is the language in which the Qur’an is written and is considered to be the base of the syntactic and grammatical norms of the Arabic language. This Classical form of Arabic remains widely used by religious scholars and is taught in schools around the world. However, it is considered today more of a written language than a spoken one, similar to old English which may still be taught but the spoken form is modern English.

Modern Standard Arabic is the literary standard across the Middle East, North Africa and Horn of Africa and is one of the official six languages of the United Nations. It is understood across the Arab world and used by television presenters and politicians, for example, as well as to teach Arabic as a foreign language. It is also used in newspapers, by news presenters, government documents and works of modern Arabic literature.

Colloquial Arabic or dialects refers to the many regional varieties derived from Arabic spoken across the region and learned as a first language. Often, Arabic speakers switch from their local dialect and Modern Standard Arabic, depending on the social context. This ‘switching’ between two distinct varieties of the same language is common to other languages and is referred to as ‘diglossia’ in linguistics.

The Arabic language is written right to left and the front of an Arabic book is what would be considered the back by speakers of most western languages.

So, when stapling Arabic translations, please staple them from the top right hand side and not from the top left hand side, as is the case with English.