Frisian is a minority language, with only around ½ million speakers, but I have chosen to include it in this A-Z because it is notable for being the language most closely related to English. English evolved from Old-Frisian, which was spoken by settlers living all along the East coast of England.
It is currently spoken in parts of the Netherlands and parts of Germany. There are three dialects forming Frisian: West Frisian, North Frisian and East Frisian. West Frisian has joint official status with Dutch in the Netherlands. North and East Frisian, on the other hand are not official languages, although they do have protected status in Germany.
If you fancy learning a little Frisian, you’ll find a course on FutureLearn.
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Arabic is the name given to the languages spoken by about 221 million people in several countries in northern Africa and in the Middle East. Note use of the word languages, in the plural, since it actually comprises over 30 dialects which are so different that an Arabic speaker in Morocco would struggle to understand an Arabic speaker in Iraq. The most common of the dialects is Egyptian.
There are two standardised forms of Arabic which are understood by all speakers, regardless of their dialect. One of these forms is Classical Arabic, the language of the Qu’uran; the other is Modern Standard Arabic, which is the language used by politicians and the media. This is language learnt by people who study Arabic as a foreign language
It is written from right to left, although numbers are written from left to right. It has 28 letters which have four different forms depending on whether the letter appears at the beginning, middle or end of the word, or in isolation.
Arabic has given us several words especially ones to do with mathematics, such as algebra, cypher and zero.
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