December 18 2012 is officially the World's First Arabic Language Day, as declared by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO. Arabic is spoken by more than 422 million people in twenty-two countries and is used by the world's 1.5 billion Moslems.
The Third General Conference of UNESCO in 1948 in Beirut Lebanon declared that in addition to English and French, Arabic would become the third working language of Arabic-speaking countries. On December 18, 1973, the United Nations General Assembly included Arabic as one of its official working languages. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, declares that "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".
Arabic ranks in fifth place behind Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish and Hindi as one of the world's most-spoken languages, and ahead of Russian and Portuguese, Bengali, French and Malay/Indonesian. Arabic has offered many words to English, namely: admiral, adobe, alchemy, alcohol, algebra, algorithm, alkaline, almanac, amber, arsenal, assassin, candy, carat, cipher, coffee, cotton, ghoul, hazard, jar, kismet, lemon, loofah, magazine, mattress, sherbet, sofa, sumac, tariff.
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.
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.