Connections between Arabic and Hebrew

June 11, 2016 Ahmed Mossad El-Saba

For decades, non-linguists thought Arabic and Hebrew were nearly the same. Especially Arabic speakers, who pronounce Hebrew as (Ebry) and Arabic as (Araby) with the same letters but in a different order.

This blog will cover some comparisons and differences between Arabic and Hebrew.

Arabic Quick Look

Arabic is a Central Semitic language, closely related to Aramaic, Hebrew, Ugaritic and Phoenician. Modern Standard Arabic is a distinct form and more conservative than all of its current spoken varieties and is the only official Arabic language. It's the language of the Quran and the native language for more than 290 million people.

Hebrew Quick Look

Hebrew is a West Semitic language of the Afro-asiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites and their ancestors, although the language was not referred to by the name Hebrew in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible.) The earliest examples of written Paleo-Hebrew date from the 10th century BCE. Today, Hebrew is spoken by nine million people worldwide.

Similarities

gpi-arabic and hebrew-1

Because both languages belong to the Semitic language family, they are similar. As an Arabic speaker, you'll easily notice the strong similarities between both languages if you listen to a Hebrew conversation. You will also start connecting pronunciation and the sounds to figure out how similar they are and wonder "is that true that an Arabic speaker can easily learn Hebrew, or vice versa, as most people think?"

Another similarity is the shared vocabulary structure, Binyanim. Which dictates how verbs are conjugated.

The best way to answer that it is to present some examples from the two languages to show how they are connected.

Examples of similar words between the two languages:

 

English

Hebrew Pronunciation

Arabic Pronunciation

Boy

Yeled

Walad

Girl

Bat

Bent

Sun

Shemsh

Shams

Peace

Shallom

Salam

Day

Yom

Yom

Pronunciation

Arabic and Hebrew speakers with Middle Eastern backgrounds easily notice the strong pronunciation similarities they share. Both Arabic and Hebrew pronunciation systems have more flexibility to pronounce several vowels and some of tricky letters which most European speakers cannot easily pronounce, e.g. ح (pronounced as Ha') & ع (pronounced as Ein). As for the Hebrew pronunciation, it's divided into two main forms/dialects: Sephardic and Ashkenazi. This causes several pronunciation issues easily noticed when visiting Israel.

Differences

gpi-arabic and hebrew-2

Hebrew and Arabic are different languages, so even though there are many similarities, there are also many differences.

  • The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters.
  • The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters.
  • Arabic letters are written in cursive, Hebrew letters can't be joined.
  • Modern Hebrew is influenced by the Romance, Slavic and Germanic languages.
  • Hebrew has two main dialects: Ashkenazic dialect, used by European Jews and their descendants and Sephardic dialect, used by Jews from the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern areas.
  • There are numerous Arabic dialects, including: Levantine Arabic, Mesopotamian Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, Gulf Arabic and Central Asian Arabic.

Summary

Arabic and Hebrew both belong to the Semitic language family making them similar languages. The structure, pronunciations and words resemble one another.  However, they are separate languages. A native Hebrew speaker typically won't easily understand a native Arabic speaker without learning the language structure and vocabulary, and vice versa

Further Resources on Arabic Localization, Arabic Globalization and Arabic SEO

Globalization Partners International (GPI) has extensive experience localizing marketing materials, technical documents, and large, scalable websites into the Arabic language. Due to increased demand for projects in Arabic and other BiDi languages, like Farsi, we have posted a number of useful guides to best practices in this area. Feel free to review our blogs that are particularly relevant:

Please feel free to contact GPI at info@globalizationpartners.com with any questions about our language and technology services.  Also let us know if you have any interesting blog topics you would like us to cover in our future blogs.  You may request a complimentary Translation Quote for your projects as well.

Sources:

https://www.quora.com/Semitic-Languages-How-different-are-Arabic-and-Hebrew

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Hebrew_verb_conjugation#Binyanim_or_derived_stems

http://www.hebrewlanguage.biz/hebrew/dialects.asp

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varieties_of_Arabic#Classification

 

About the Author

Ahmed Mossad El-Saba

Localization Project Manager. Ahmed is a native Arabic speaker from Egypt, Cairo. He has over 12 years’ experience in the translation and localization field working as a Hebrew – Arabic translator and editor. He has also held positions for language Testing Engineer and Localization Project Manager. Ahmed has extensive experience in handling large volume translation projects for software and document localization. He has worked for a range of translation and localization groups and companies including Microsoft, Babylon, Saudisoft, as well as several governmental authorities. He holds a B.A. degree in Translation and Interpreting from Faculty of Alsun Ain Shams University and additionally is a certified Hebrew - Arabic translator with a High Translation professional diploma from the same faculty.

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