Arabic: مرحبا

Distribution: Countries include but not limited to: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Syria

Introduction: Arabic is a Semitic language, having a grammatical system similar to Hebrew and Amharic (Ethiopian).  Arabic exists with a wide variety of colloquial dialects. A universal "pan-Arabic" language is taught in schools and used by the mass media and government offices in all Arab countries.

Cultural and Rhetorical Influences

• Arab is a cultural, not a racial, trait. The Arab world includes Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

• Arabs highly respect positions of power and authoritative figures.

• “Arabs tend to be more collectivistic."  This entails placing importance on the group rather than the individual. "As an individualistic culture, Americans value completion and reward personal performance. Arabs, on the other hand, place value on teamwork and collaboration."

• Men do not shake hands with an Arab Muslim woman unless she offers her hand first.

• “The Arabic approach to writing is ‘Rhetoricism,’" which values expression as opposed to conciseness. "In the Arabic culture there is a strong emphasis upon effective expression."

• “Arabs lean toward exaggeration, emotionalism, overstatement, and what is sometimes called 'purple prose,'" a flowery style of communication.

• Arabic composition relies heavily on extensive use of rhetorical figures, varied repetitions, elaborateness, and overstatement.

• “Arabic does not distinguish between past tense and present perfect, relying on context to clarify the precise meaning."

• “Arabic prose tends to have longer sentences than English prose, given to coordinate rather than subordinate clauses."


  • The alphabet is very different from English:
    • Has 28 consonants and 8 vowels.
    • Short vowels are unimportant and rarely appear in writing.
    • No distinction is made between upper and lower case.
    • Texts are read right to left.
    • Punctuation is rhetorically and prosodically used, as opposed to English, which uses it structurally.
  • Fewer vowel sounds makes it hard to distinguish between certain words (i.e. ship / sheep).

  • Sentences place the verb first, followed by the subject.

  • Adjectives follow their nouns and agree in gender and number.

  • No present tense of "to be"; no use of "do" as an auxilliary verb.

  • Present perfect tense is very difficult for students to use.

  • Indefinite articles do not exist.

  • Unlike English, Arabic requires pronouns in relative clauses.

  • Proverbs and proverb phrases enhance the effectiveness of Arabic writing.


Hijazi, Nabila. "Global Issues Hindering Effective ESL Writing and Composition Teaching: Culture and Identity in Conflict Across Different Rhetorical Conventions." Master's Capstone Project. 2009.

Moujtahid, B. “Influence of Cultural and Linguistic Backgrounds on the Writing of Arabic and Japanese Students.” Writing Lab Newsletter 21.3 (Nov. 1996) 1-11.

Rohm, Fredric W., Jr. "American and Arab Cultural Lenses." Inner Resources for Leaders (n.d.): 1+. Web.

Smith, Bernard. "Arabic Speakers." Learner English: A Teacher's Guide to Interference and Other Problems. Ed. Swan, Michael and Bernard Smith. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 195-213. Print.