Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the first World Arabic Language Day 18 December 2012

"Languages contribute to the beauty of the world because each one enriches that which it names. Our languages are not only tools of communication, they carry values and identities. Linguistic diversity broadens the mind and provides the means to build intercultural and interreligious dialogue based on genuine mutual understanding

World Arabic Language Day is an opportunity for us to celebrate the language of 22 Member States of UNESCO, a language with more than 422 million speakers in the Arab world and used by more than 1.5 billion Muslims. 

Irina Bokova, Director General

World Arabic Language Day is an opportunity for us to celebrate the language of 22 Member States of UNESCO, a language with more than 422 million speakers in the Arab world and used by more than 1.5 billion Muslims.

By celebrating the Arabic language, we are also acknowledging the tremendous contribution of its writers, scientists and artists to universal culture. These are the Arabic language authors who enabled the transmission of Greek knowledge to the Latin of medieval Europe, weaving indissoluble ties between cultures through time. The works of Averroës, Ibn Khaldun and Naguib Mahfouz are among the most profound of the human spirit and it is in Arabic that they deliver their full power. This love and fascination for the language – expressed for example in calligraphy and poetry, so dear to the Arab culture – is a crucible from which the greatest cultures have emerged.

HISTORY

In 1948, the 3rd General Conference of UNESCO held in Beirut (Lebanon), declared that Arabic, in addition to English and French, will become the third working language of the governing bodies meeting in an Arabic-speaking country. More on the history of the Arabic language at UNESCO

In the face of transformations that are challenging the world and the emergence of plural societies, every language provides a key to living together better, to building solidarity and to helping each other to be heard. Multilingualism is a force for the rapprochement of peoples and cultures. The more cultures come together, the more it is in the interest of individuals – especially young people – to master several languages and learn about the works and values that they convey, in order to broaden the horizons for dialogue and cooperation. This is the spirit of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity and the programmes carried out under the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

On 18 December 1973, the United Nations General Assembly included Arabic among its official and working languages. Nearly 40 years later, we are celebrating the power of the Arabic language to bring us together around shared values, to give strength to our ideas and depth to our ambitions, for peace and sustainable development."

BACKGROUNDS TEXTS

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Join the celebration

  • Calligraphy is an art, try it in a workshop and dive into the beauty

  • Discover the melodic virtuosity of the chants of Arabic poetry

  • Celebrate the Arabic language by organizing a poetry reading in your neighborhood

  • Teachers, encourage your students to practice or start learning Arabic because it's challenging !

  • Native speakers, make sure to preserve the Arabic language by talking to your children in your mother tongue

  • When traveling, try to learn a few words in Arabic to share with natives !

DID YOU KNOW ?

A FEW ENGLISH WORDS OF ARABIC ORIGIN

  • الجبر al-jabr, algebra
  • الكيمياء al-kīmiyā, alchemy 
  • العود al-ʿaūd, lute
  • قطن qutun, cotton.

VIDEO: The Palestinian Hikaye