Saudi Arabia is a country in the Arabian Peninsula. The country’s population is estimated at 27 million with about 8.4 million being the foreign community working in the lucrative oil industry. The official language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic which is used in business and other communication purposes. English is also widely spoken and is taught as a compulsory second language in schools. Though Arabic is the language spoken by a majority of the people, there are other minority languages spoken mainly by expatriates.
Official Language of Saudi Arabia
Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia, and the mother tongue for most of Saudi’s natives. The classical version of Arabic is hardly used in regular conversations and is mainly found in the Quran and other classical works, poetry, and is used by religious scholars. Classical Arabian is considered an exclusive written language rather than a spoken one. Modern Standard Arabic is the most widely spoken version which is used in media, schools as a second foreign language, and published works. In Saudi Arabia, there are three standard dialects of spoken Arabic including Najdi Arabic, Hejazi, and Gulf or Khaliji Arabic.
Dialects of Arabic in Saudi Arabia
Najdi Arabic is used as the first language in the central region of Saudi Arabia with a total of about 8 million speakers. Najdi has four major sub-dialects, which include Northern Najdi, Central Najdi, Southern Najdi, and Badawi Najdi. Northern Najdi is spoken in Qaseem, Jabal Shamaar, and Zufi regions in Saudi Najd. Central Najdi is an urban dialect spoken in Saudi Arabia’s capital. Southern Najdi is spoken in south-central Saudi in the city of Kharj and towns and villages surrounding it. Badawi Najdi is spoken by the nomadic people of Najd region of Saudi.
Hejazi or Western Arabian Arabic is spoken predominantly in the western region of Saudi Arabia by approximately 8 million of the population. Hejazi is in two main dialects; the rural dialect spoken by the rural Bedouin population and the urban dialect mainly spoken in Mecca, Yanbu, Jeddah, and Medina cities of Saudi.
Gulf Arabic or Khaliji Arabic is spoken along the shores of the Persian Gulf in Saudi Arabia. The dialect is similar to the other Gulf Arabic dialects in other countries except for a few differences.
Other Minority Languages of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has a large foreign population attracted by the lucrative oil business. The foreigners speak their native languages making up part of the languages spoken in the country. Some of the common languages in this category include:
This language is spoken by most of the Filipino expatriate population with approximately 700,000 people. The language is the native language of the Philippines.
This language is mainly a written one used by the people of Myanmar. In Saudi Arabia, the language is spoken by about 400,000 expatriates from Myanmar.
Urdu is the official language spoken by the Pakistani and is used by about 390,000 expatriates working in Saudi Arabia.
The spoken dialect is used by the native Egyptian expatriate community with a population of about 300,000.
Saudi Sign Language
Since there are people in the Saudi Arabia with hearing disability, they communicate using the Saudi Sign Language. The deaf population in the country is approximately 100,000 individuals.
Significance of the Languages Spoken in Saudi Arabia
Language is an important cultural tool which not only influences communication but also shows the beliefs and practices of a community. The languages spoken in Saudi Arabia contribute to the cultural diversity as well in promoting interactions among different and related people.