The official language of Yemen is Arabic. This Central Semitic language is part of the Afro-Asiatic linguistic family along with being related to a number of Semitic languages. The official language is known as Modern Standard Arabic (or Literary Arabic). The language used by a large portion of ordinary citizens in the country, however, is known as Yemeni Arabic. Those residents living in the eastern region of the al Mahrah Governorate as well as the people who inhabit the island of Socotra also speak a number of languages which are classified as being non-Arabic.

Arabic is the dominant mother tongue in Yemen as it is in many other Arab countries located in this region of the world. The particular Arabic language widely spoken in Yemen, Yemeni Arabic, is considered to have numerous classical features and is thought to be very conservative. In 2011 it was estimated that over fifteen million people spoke this particular regional language. Used in everyday conversation Yemeni Arabic has no official status. Modern Standard Arabic is the language used in matters relating to areas such as education, media, and commerce.

Common words in Arabic include, “marhaba” or “ahlan” meaning “hello” and “Ma'assalama” which translates to "Goodbye”. To say “yes” in Arabic one would use the word, “na'am” while the opposite reaction of “no” can be achieved with a response of, “la'a”. In Yemen it is commonplace to hear residents say, “As-salam alaykum” or “Peace be with you” which is customarily followed by the reply, “Walaykum as-salam”, which means “and to you peace”. In the Arabic language the numbers one through ten can be translated to, “wahad, itnin, talata, arba'a, khamsa, sitta, saba'a, tamania, tisa'a, and ashara”.

Minority languages often heard throughout the country of Yemen include English which is used to conduct business as well as for official purposes. In the far eastern region of the nation known as the Mahra area local residents speak a number of non-Arabic languages including Mehri which is classified as being a South Semitic language. Other such languages include Soqotri and Razihi. Yemen is also home to many people who speak Russian as well as Cham, which is a language that originated in Vietnam.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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