If you’re thinking about learning Arabic, you’ve probably started researching where people speak Arabic.
You might be surprised to learn that there are about 420 million Arabic speakers worldwide! This makes it one of the top 10 spoken languages in the world.
Arabic is the official language of 23 countries and countless non-sovereign entities. It’s also a working language or a language with special status in many other countries.
Beyond this, many people speak Arabic in countries where members of the Arab diaspora reside.
If you’re reading this blog, then there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll become one of the 420 million speakers of Arabic in no time!
So let’s go around the world to find out where these Arabic speaking countries are.
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The Top 5 Arabic Speaking Countries
Arabic is an official language in all five of these countries. All of these countries are a part of the Arab world and just happen to have the largest populations.
- Egypt (population around 102 million)
- Algeria (population around 41 million)
- Sudan (population around 40 million)
- Iraq (population around 36 million)
- Morocco (population around 35 million)
Other Main Arabic Speaking Countries: The Arab World
The other main Arabic speaking countries are countries that largely consider themselves to be Arab.
These countries are all a part of the Arab League, where Arabic is either the sole main language that people speak, or the main spoken language alongside another official language or lingua franca.
These countries are all either located in the Middle East or Africa. Let’s take a tour of these Arabic-speaking countries. By the way, if you want to know more about the dialects spoken across the Arab World, check out this post on Arabic dialects.
Arabic is the main language in this small island state in the Persian Gulf with a population of 1.3 million people.
Chad has a population of around 10 million. Arabic is a co-official language in Chad alongside French, but there are also over 200 other linguistic groups in Chad.
Jordan is home to 6 million people, and Arabic is the main language people speak. Most people speak Jordanian Arabic, which is a variety of Levantine Arabic.
Lebanese Arabic is also a variety of Levantine Arabic, and is spoken by close to 5 million people in Lebanon and even more in the diaspora.
With a population of around 6 million, Arabic is an official language in Libya. Because Libya is geographically vast, there are a lot of varieties of the Libyan dialect.
Mauritania is just south of Morocco, and has a population of 3 million. Arabic is the official language in Mauritania, but there are also a lot of Berber and French speakers.
Arabic is the lingua franca in Oman, a country with a population of 4 million people.
Arabic is the official language in the Palestinian territories, where most people speak Palestinian Arabic, another variety of Levantine Arabic.
With a population of 2 million, Arabic is the main language, but many immigrants in Qatar also speak English.
Saudi Arabia is home to Mecca and Medina, both considered the birthplaces of Islam, and therefore the Arabic language. With a population of 30 million, Arabic is the main language of Saudi Arabia.
Arabic is a co-official language in Somalia alongside Somali. Most people are Somali speakers, and there are probably a little over 2 million Arabic speakers in Somalia out of a population of 10 million.
Syria has a population of 21 million, and Arabic is the main language. Even though many people speak other minority languages like Kurdish, Turkish, Armenian, and Circassian, Arabic is the main mode of communication.
Arabic is the only official language in Tunisia, but there are also large numbers of people who speak French and Berber. Both of these languages have a strong influence on Tunisian Arabic.
United Arab Emirates
With a population of 9 million, Arabic is the main spoken language, although English is also widely spoken given the country’s role as an international hub.
Arabic is the official language in Yemen, and there are at least 5 dialects of Arabic that are spoken by its population of 23 million.
Arabic-Speaking Countries In Africa
Now that we’ve covered the main Arabic speaking countries, let’s pivot to the African continent.
While Arabic has had a huge influence on the entire continent due to its association with Islam, that doesn’t always mean that people speak Arabic.
Nevertheless, there are a few countries where people speak Arabic or where Arabic has a special status. Let’s check them out.
There are about 350,000 members of the Arab diaspora who live in Burkina Faso today, of which many are Arabic speakers.
Even though Comoros is a part of the Arab League, Arabic is more of a minority language that people use for religious purposes. For the most part, most people in the Comoros speak Comorian or French.
Cote d’Ivoire is home to 300,000 Arab emigrants, and Cote d’Ivoire is home to the largest Lebanese diaspora in Western Africa.
Djibouti has a population of 800,000, and while Arabic is a co-official language alongside French, most people speak either Somali or Afar. Nevertheless, there is a small minority that speaks Djibouti Arabic as their first language.
Arabic is a working language in the government in this country of 6 million, although most people speak Tigrinya or one of its eight other official languages.
Mali has a population of 20 million, and Arabic is one of the six recognized languages. While Modern Standard Arabic is one of the recognized languages, most Arabic speakers live in the western part of the country and speak the Hassaniya Arabic dialect.
Arabic is a national language in Niger, a country with a population of 22 million people. However, only 0.4% of the population speak Arabic in the country’s southeast.
Arabic is also a national language in Senegal, but most people speak either Wolof, Pular, or Jola-Fony.
Arabic was an official language until it was replaced by English after South Sudan gained independence in 2011. However, Juba Arabic is still the most spoken language in South Sudan.
While people in South Africa do not speak Arabic for the most part, their Constitution promotes and calls for respect for Arabic because of its role in religion.
Arabic is an official language in Zanzibar, an archipelago off the coast of Tanzania. Zanzibar was formerly a part of the Sultanate of Oman and is now an autonomous region of Tanzania.
Arabic Speaking Countries In The Middle East
There are a few countries in the Middle East where Arabic is not the dominant language. But even then, there are many Arabic speakers in some of these countries.
There is a very small community of people in Cyprus from the Maronite community that speak Cypriot Arabic. But these days, there are no longer any people who speak Cypriot Arabic as their first language.
Persian or Farsi is the lingua franca in Iran, but there are about 1-2 million Iranian Arabs who speak Arabic as their first language, mostly in Khuzestan province on the border with Iraq.
Though Arabic is not an official language of Israel, over 20% of its population of 9 million speak Arabic as their native language.
There is a large Arab minority of around 1.5-2 million people that mostly come from Turkey’s southeast region who speak Arabic.
On top of this, many refugees from countries like Syria and Iraq fled to Turkey in the past decade, so there are now around 9 million Arabic speakers in Turkey.
Arabic Speaking Countries In Asia And The Pacific
For the most part, there aren’t any Arabic speaking countries in Asia. But Arabic has a special status in a few countries because of its association with Islam, namely:
There are also descendants of Arabs in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, and some of these descendants speak some Arabic.
But for the most part, these descendants primarily speak the lingua franca of their respective countries.
Lastly, there are about 300,000 Arab Australians and 12,000 Arab New Zealanders, and many of them speak Arabic.
Arabic Speaking Countries In Europe
Arabic is not the lingua franca of any country in Europe, but there are still a lot of Arabic speakers. There are both many descendants of Arab emigrants to Europe, as well as more recent Arabic speaking emigrants to countries in Europe.
- France (4-7 million people)
- Germany (1.4 million people)
- Spain (1.35 million people)
- Belgium (800,000 people)
- Italy (680,000 people)
- Sweden (543,350 people)
- Netherlands (around 500,000 people)
- United Kingdom (250,000 people)
- Denmark (150,000 people)
- Austria (61,100 people)
- Switzerland (50,000-60,000 people)
- Finland (50,000 people)
- Serbia (17,000 people)
- Bulgaria (11,400 people)
- Romania (10,000 people)
While being a part of the diaspora doesn’t automatically mean being an Arabic speaker, there are still many Arabic speakers among members of the Arab diaspora.
One other country worth mentioning is Malta, where the main language is Maltese.
Maltese isn’t Arabic, but developed as a variation of Arabic with lots of influence from the Romance languages. Because of this, there are a lot of similarities between Arabic and Maltese vocabulary.
Arabic Speaking Countries In The Americas
Like Europe, there are many countries in the Americas with an Arab population as a result of past emigration, mostly from countries in the Levant like Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine, as well as from Iraq and Yemen.
And while not all Arabs in the Americas are native Arabic speakers, many of them have some command over Arabic.
Here are the countries with the largest population of Arabs in the Americas:
- Colombia (3.2 million people)
- USA (2 million people)
- Argentina (2 million people)
- Venezuela (1.6 million people)
- Mexico (1.1 million people)
- Brazil (960,000 people)
- Chile (800,000 people)
- Canada (523,235 people)
- Haiti (300,000 people)
- Honduras (275,000 people)
- Ecuador (250,000 people)
- El Salvador (120,000 people)
Around The World With Arabic Speaking Countries
As you can see, there are lots of Arabic speaking countries and Arabic speakers all over the world. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the most useful languages you can learn!
If you weren’t convinced about the value of learning Arabic before, I’m sure now that knowing just how many people around the world speak Arabic has you sold!
To have your first conversation with someone from one of these Arabic speaking countries, check out these Arabic greetings. And if you want to learn more, follow the rules of StoryLearning and read short stories in Arabic as well as Arabic books.