First, it is important to define what actually makes an Arab. The answer is quite simple – The Arabic language! An Arab is a member of a linguistic group—and therefore, the Arab World can best be defined as the region in which people predominantly speak Arabic. Yet throughout what would be considered the Arab World, tens of thousands of people speak languages other than Arabic, ranging from the numerous dialects of Berber on the African coast of the Mediterranean to Kurdish and Armenian in southwest Asia, and so on.
Arabic is a Semitic language and the sixth most common language in the world. It is a language of religious importance since it is the holy language of the world's approximately 1 billion followers of Islam. It is used as a first language by approximately 200 million people and as a second language by about 246 million speakers. It does also belong to the six official languages of the United Nations.
It is characterized by diglossia, a linguistic situation in which two varieties of the same language have a functional distribution, with the spoken variety used in informal and intimate contexts and the written variety, the Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), acquired through literacy and used in written and formal discourse. For those wanting to do business in Arabic-speaking markets, the Modern Standard Arabic is important, because it is common to all the countries in the Arab world, and is used in newspapers, magazines, books, and government documents.
The Modern Standard Arabic is derived from the language of the Koran (known as Classical Arabic). It is very old, dating from the late 600's when the Quran was written down. No one speaks Classical Arabic as a native, nor is it used for conversation. It is learned primarily for reciting and reading the Quran.
The spoken or colloquial language is used in daily interactions, but in a situation calling for greater formality, Modern Standard Arabic is usually used. Standard Arabic is more...