To connect: Arabic is the official language of over 20 countries and there are well over 300 million native speakers of the language. These speakers are largely concentrated in the Middle East, but there are minority groups of native speakers throughout the world. It is also an official language of the United Nations, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference, and the African Union.
To understand: Roughly 1.5 billion Muslims apply Arabic through the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, and through various rituals in their daily lives. As Arabic is the liturgical language of Islam, understanding the language is key to understanding Islam.
To trade: Initiatives to integrate the Arab world into the global economy are opening up numerous potential new business opportunities. The Arab region with its rapidly growing population provides a huge export market for goods and services. With a GDP of over SGD 2 trillion dollars annually, the region also has much to offer the world market. In order to do business effectively, one must understand the language and culture of the people with whom one hopes to negotiate and conduct trade.
To learn: Arabic-speaking peoples have made significant contributions to world civilization. While Europe was experiencing the relative intellectual stagnation of the Middle Ages, the Arab-Islamic civilization was at its zenith. Arabs contributed a great deal to the advancement of science, medicine, and philosophy. Much learning from the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine cultures was preserved for the world through the Arab libraries. Arabs have also made significant contributions in such areas as literature, mathematics, navigation, astrology, and architecture. Knowledge of Arabic enables the exploration of this vast body of knowledge in their original language.
To discover: Algebra was invented by Arab mathematicians in medieval times. Staple products such as coffee and cotton came from the Arab world, as well as jasmine, lemon, and lime. Other Arabic loanwords appearing in English denote such diverse things as henna, macrame, lute, mattress, gerbil, sorbet, safari and muslin. The influence of Arabic culture is apparent not only in the English language. Numerous Arabic contributions are also discernible in Persian, Turkish, Kurdish, Spanish, Swahili, Urdu, and other languages.
To explore: The Arab world has its own unique art, music, literature, cuisine, and way of life. Westerners know about belly dance, perhaps have read 1001 Nights, and may have tried some popular Middle Eastern dishes such as hummus or falafel, but exposure to the Arab way of life is generally limited. In exploring the Arabic world, you will learn to appreciate its distinct cultural products and practices and you will come to understand some of the values important to the Arabic people, such as honour, dignity, and hospitality.