Guide: How to Say “What is Arabic?”

Arabic is a fascinating language that is spoken by millions of people around the world. Whether you are a traveler, a language enthusiast, or simply curious, learning how to ask “What is Arabic?” can be a great way to start your Arabic language journey. In this guide, we will explore both formal and informal ways to inquire about the Arabic language, and provide you with tips, examples, and regional variations as necessary.

Formal Ways to Ask “What is Arabic?”

When speaking in formal contexts, it’s important to use respectful language. Here are a few ways to ask “What is Arabic?” formally:

  1. “ما هي اللغة العربية؟” (Ma hiya al-lughah al-arabiyyah?)” – This is the most straightforward way to ask “What is Arabic?” in a formal setting. It is widely understood and is appropriate for any formal situation.
  2. “ما هو اللغة المعروفة باسم العربية؟” (Ma huwa al-lughah al-ma’rufah bismi al-arabiyyah?)” – This phrase translates to “What is the language known as Arabic?” It is a more intricate way of asking the same question and can be used in academic or professional environments.

Informal Ways to Ask “What is Arabic?”

When talking in casual or informal situations, you can use less formal language to ask about Arabic. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. “شو هي العربية؟” (Shu hiya al-arabiyyah?)” – This is a common way to ask “What is Arabic?” among friends and acquaintances in many Arabic-speaking countries. It’s a relaxed and colloquial expression, suitable for informal conversations.
  2. “إيش هو اللغة العربية؟” (Eesh huwa al-lughah al-arabiyyah?)” – In some regions, especially the Levant, this informal phrase is commonly used to inquire about Arabic.

Regional Variations

While Arabic is a widely spoken language, it’s important to note that there can be regional variations in terms of dialects, accents, and even the way certain questions are framed. Here are a few regional variations to ask “What is Arabic?”:

Egyptian Arabic:

“ايه اللغة العربية؟” (Eih al-lughah al-arabiyya?)” – Egyptians often use this phrase to ask “What is Arabic?” This variation is unique to the Egyptian dialect and may be heard in Egypt and among the Egyptian diaspora.

Gulf Arabic:

“شنو العربية؟” (Shno al-arabiya?)” – This is a typical way to ask “What is Arabic?” in Gulf Arabic, which is spoken in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Moroccan Arabic:

“أشنو هو العربية؟” (Ashno huwa al-arabiya?)” – In Moroccan Arabic, this phrase is often used to ask “What is Arabic?”. Moroccan Arabic, also known as Darija, has its own unique flavor and vocabulary.

Remember, these are just a few examples of regional variations. Arabic-speaking regions are diverse, and the dialects can vary significantly from one place to another.

Tips for Learning Arabic

Now that you’ve learned different ways to ask “What is Arabic?”, here are a few tips to help you on your journey to learning the Arabic language:

  1. Immerse yourself: Surround yourself with Arabic language materials, such as books, music, and movies. This will help you become more familiar with the sounds and rhythms of the language.
  2. Find a language partner: Practice speaking Arabic with a native speaker or a language partner who is fluent in Arabic. Conversations will help you improve your language skills and gain confidence.
  3. Take formal lessons: Consider enrolling in an Arabic language course or finding a tutor. Formal instruction will provide you with a solid foundation in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.
  4. Use language learning apps: Utilize language learning apps or online resources specifically designed for learning Arabic. These can be helpful tools to reinforce what you learn in formal lessons.
  5. Practice regularly: Dedicate regular time to practicing Arabic, whether it’s through reading, writing, listening to podcasts, or speaking. Consistency is key to language acquisition.


Here are a few practical examples incorporating the phrases we have discussed:

  • Formal: You’re attending an international conference and want to ask a professor about Arabic. You can say, “Excuse me, professor. What is Arabic?”. In Arabic, you would say, “عذراً، أستاذ. ما هي اللغة العربية؟” (Ozran, ustath. Ma hiya al-lughah al-arabiyyah?)”
  • Informal: You’ve made new friends at an Arabic language meetup and want to initiate a conversation. You can casually ask, “Hey, guys! What is Arabic?”. In Arabic, you would say, “هاي، يا شباب! شو هي العربية؟” (Hay, ya shabab! Shu hiya al-arabiyyah?)”.

Remember to adapt the phrases based on the context and the level of formality required.


Learning how to ask “What is Arabic?” is a fantastic starting point for exploring the rich world of Arabic language and culture. Whether you’re interested in traveling to an Arabic-speaking country, engaging with Arabic literature, or enjoying Arabic music and movies, acquiring even a basic understanding of the language can enhance your experience. Remember to practice, stay curious, and embrace the cultural diversity that lies within the Arabic-speaking world. Happy learning!

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