Arabic is the official language of the Kingdom of Bahrain as stipulated in the constitution. Most government and private institutions use Arabic. There are two dialects of Arabic spoken in the country: Bahrani Arabic and Gulf Arabic. Bahrani Arabic is the most prevalent and it differs widely with standard Arabic. Arabic is a Central Semitic language that developed in northwestern Arabia during the Iron Age and is currently Arab World’s lingua franca. Bahrani Arabic uses the Arabic alphabet, the codified Arabic script used in writing all forms of the Arabic language. The alphabet has 28 letters written from right to left in a cursive style. The original alphabet had only consonants (abjad).

Almost all citizens in the capital city, major cities, and Shia villages speak Bahrani Arabic which is a blend of classical Arabic, modern standard Arabic, and several other local dialects. Less than 5% of the population speak Gulf Arabic. Arabic language is central to Bahrain to an extent that political representatives have to be fluent in the language to get to vie for elections.

Being an Arabic and Islamic nation, formal greetings are important in Bahrain and common even among strangers. Salaam a’laykum (Formal hello) and Wa’ laykum Salaam (Formal response to hello) or Halla (Casual hello) and Halla Walla (Casual response to hello) are the most common words a person will most likely use or hear around. It is common to refer to Allah many times in a conversation, therefore, visitors should expect to hear Insha’Allah (God willing) and Al hamdulillah (Thank God) many times. Other important day-to-day words and phrases for non-Arabic speakers to get around quickly include Shakhbar? (How are you?), Ib cham? (How much does this cost?), Cham akher? (How much?), Shukran (Thank you), Sabah il-Khair (Good Morning), and Masa' il-Khair (Good Evening) among others.

Though not a minority language, English is prevalent especially in the cities, and Bahrainis often translate most documents into English. Many immigrants with a long history in Bahrain also speak Persian or Farsi, the official language of Iran. Malayalam, Tamil, and Hindi are also spoken in addition to English and Arabic. However, these minority languages have little effect on the general public and are only popular within the members of the respective communities.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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