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Speaking the Language

Saudi Arabia - Speaking the Language

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a huge country in the Arabian Peninsula, well-known for its richness in oil. The area is the second largest Arab state. It shares a border with Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The country has a population of about 27 million, around 8.4 million of whom are international residents. The majority of the residents are employed in the oil industry. The number of expat residents has added to the cultural and ethnic diversity.


This is the official language in Saudi Arabia and the first language of all native Saudi Arabian people. Arabic is also the official language in 21 other countries that make up the Arab league. Further, it is the main language used by Muslims all over the world for worship. The Holy Quran is written in Arabic. There is a formal version of the language known as Fus-ha or Classical Arabic. This is the version in which the Quran is written, and the one linguists subscribe to. Classical Arabic is taught in universities and colleges, and used by religious scholars. This is more of a written form than a spoken one.

Modern standard Arabic is more commonly spoken in Saudi Arabia. This form of the language is widely spoken and understood in the Arab world. It is also used by the media in spoken and written print. Modern Arabic literature is written in this format, and the form is taught as a second language in schools. Spoken Arabic has different dialects. An Arabic speaker from Egypt might find it difficult to understand an Arabic speaker from Iran, despite the fact that they are both speaking Arabic. However, they will usually be able to communicate using modern Arabic. Saudi Arabia has three major regional languages, which are Najdi Arabic, Gulf Arabic and Hejazi Arabic.

Najdi Arabic

This a variant of the language is spoken in the central region of Saudi Arabia. With about 8 million speakers, it is the first spoken language of at least a third of the population. It has four major dialects with little variances that set them apart. Northern Najdi is spoken in the Zulfi, Qaseem and Jabal Shammar areas of Saudi Najdi. Southern Najdi is spoken in the south central area and especially in the city of Kharj and the surrounding towns and villages. Central Najdi is spoken in Riyadh, which is the capital city of Saudi Arabia, as well as the neighboring towns and villages. Badawi Najdi is the dialect used by the nomadic tribes in Saudi Arabia. This dialect has a few accents spoken by various tribes. The dialect is also spoken by nomadic tribes in Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Kuwait.

Hejazi Arabic

This variation of Arabic is spoken in the western area of the kingdom. Eight million Saudi people speak this dialect. There are two other distinct dialects spoken in the Hejazi area, one by urban residents, another by the Bedouin population. This variation is also spoken in Mecca, Medina, Yanbu and Jeddah. This dialect is related to those spoken in Upper Egypt and Northern Sudan. Urban Hejazi is sedentary compared to the Bedouin dialect. It sheds most of the classical forms and features present in the latter. The vocabulary of Urban Hejazi differs from the dialects in the Arabian Peninsula. There are few words related to desert life, and more specialized words related to seafaring and fishing. However, the majority of the words from the dialects of Syria, Yemen and Egypt are found in Urban Hejazi.

Gulf Arabic

This dialect is spoken along the Persian Gulf and in the shores of Saudi Arabia by around 200,000 citizens. It is commonly spoken in the Gulf areas of Iraq, Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The local name of the dialect is e-Allah-eel-kalijiyya, which loosely translates to the dialect of the gulf.

The oil industry has brought in a large number of international workers and their families. Therefore, the country has plenty of expat communities who keep speaking their native tongue as their primary language. Here are some of most common minority languages spoken in Saudi Arabia.


This is an Austronesian language spoken by the Philippine population. It is a second language for the remaining population. Around 17 million Philippine people speak it as their first language. As the years have gone by, Filipino people have moved to Saudi Arabia to search for employment, and their language has become commonly used by the Philippine community living in Saudi Arabia.


This is a written language used by migrants from Myanmar who are living and working in Saudi Arabia. Initially it was a written language, developed using Arab Scripts. Due to the colonial period under British rule Farsi, English and Urdu were the main language used in Burma. Currently there are about 400,000 people who use Rohingya as their main language.


There are many Pakistani people living and working in Saudi Arabia who use Urdu as their first language. Currently, Urdu is spoken by at least 390,000 people who have taken residence in the country. The national language of Pakistan, Urdu came to being in the 1600s in Central Asia. The name derives from the Turkish word urdu, which translates to ‘camp’ or ‘army.’ It was utilized as a unifying communication language between Muslim soldiers during their period of conquest of Ancient India and Eastern Persia. Most of these soldiers came from Persia and Turkey. Although the national language at that time was Farsi, this conflict meant the language eventually changed to Urdu to accommodate other speakers. The grammar of Urdu has some components from Farsi and Arabic, but also has elements that are unique and different from all three of its original mother tongues. Today, Urdu speakers have adopted certain terms from the English and Hindu terms, largely due to the effects of arts including English and Hindu music and films.

To be able to live in Saudi Arabia happily it is important to learn the language. This will make communication, interaction and moving around much easier for expats. In addition, this will enhance co-relation and trust between local people and migrants.

Read more about this country

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