There are many different languages spoken in Iraq, but the overwhelming majority speak Mesopotamian Arabic, also known as Iraqi Arabic. This language, along with Kurdish, is recognised as the official languages in the country. The Mesopotamian variant of Arabic is one of the many mutually-intelligible Arabic languages of the area. This language is also split into two recognised variants in Iraq. Gelet Mesopotamian Arabic is spoken in the southern part of Iraq, and the southern (Gelet) group of languages includes Baghdadi Arabic. The group of languages associated with the Euphrates region, known as Euphrates Arabic, and the Gelet variety is also spoken in the Khuzestan Province of Iran. Qeltu Mesopotamian Arabic is used in the northern area of the country, and the group includes the north Tigris group of languages, known as North Mesopotamian Arabic or Maslawi (Mosul Arabic).

Approximately 75-80 percent of the country speaks Mesopotamian Arabic, and 20 percent speak Kurdish as their primary language. The primary language in Iraq used to conduct foreign business or diplomatic relations is English. Mesopotamian Arabic is also used in some areas of Iran, Syria, and Turkey as well as Iraqi refugees who fled the country during the two Gulf Wars.

Arabic is a hard language to master and pronunciation of Arabic words takes practice. The Arabic alphabet looks overwhelming to beginners when written, but phonetically, the language is more straightforward than it appears on paper. As-salam alaykum is a common Arabic phrase meaning “peace be unto you” and can be used as a casual greeting as well as a formal one. The correct response to this phrase is “wa alaykum as-salam” which means, “and unto you, peace”. The people of Iraq are very hospitable and the phrase “shuk-ran”, which means thank-you, will be used a lot on a trip to this amazing country.

Minority languages in the country include Armenian, Feyli Lurish, Mandaic, Persian, and Shabaki. Assyrian Neo-Aramaic is a minority dialect that is recognised regional language in Northern Iraq. Regions within Iraq can hold referendums if the majority of the population of the area wants a new official language based on the majority of people speaking it. Iraqi Sign Language is also an officially recognised minority language of the country.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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