Arabic is a Central Semitic language of the Afro-Asiatic family. The current form of the language which is taught in Oman is known as Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), and it developed from Classical Arabic. Modern Standard Arabic is not the native language of Omanis, but rather a literary language which is mostly used in formal circumstances. The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters. Arabic is written using the Arabic Script. Most letters within Arabic words connect directly to adjacent letters, and the words are written from right to left. Dots are an essential part of letters in the Arabic alphabet as they are used to distinguish between similar letters that represent different sounds.

Arabic is spoken all over Oman although it features several dialects. About 2,140,000 people in Oman comprehend Modern Standard Arabic. Omani Arabic is native to an estimated 1,850,000 people living mainly in the Al Hajar Mountains region and some of its neighboring coastal areas. Omani Arabic comprises Dhofari Arabic which is the local language of the people of Dhofar Governorate, and Shihhi Arabic whose native speakers occupy Musandam Governorate. Bahrani Arabic is another variation of the language, spoken by the Baharna people of Oman and Eastern Arabia. There are around 10,000 Baharna Arabic speakers in Oman, who mainly occupy the Al Batinah region and Al Dhahirah Governorate.

Although a majority of Oman’s population can read and understand English, visitors can still find some use for the Arabic language during their stay in the country, especially if they are exploring sites located away from cities and towns. The Arabic expression for general greetings is as-salām ‘alaykum, to which one responds with wa ‘alaykum as-salām or marhaban in informal situations. When welcoming guests, Omanis use the phrase ahlan wa sahlan and the visitor can say shukran to mean thank you. The Arabic word for sorry is āsif, and to say please, one uses the words mīn fādlīkā.

There are several minor and non-indigenous languages in Oman. Some of them like Baluchi are widely spoken in the country. There are about 312,000 Southern Baluchi speakers in the nation, most of whom are not Omanis. They reside mostly in Muscat Governorate. There are also minority languages with more than 1000 native speakers. They include Luwati, Kumzari, Mehri, and Shehri. Other minor languages include Harsusi which has approximately 600 speakers, Hobyot with about 100 native speakers, and Bathari which is spoken by around 200 people. The Bathari language is nearly extinct in Oman. Non-indigenous languages in the nation include Swahili and Persian, which have approximately 44,200 and 56,300 speakers respectively.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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