What Language Is Spoken In Saudi Arabia?

Asma Wahba


Asma Wahba

What Language Is Spoken In Saudi Arabia?

If you want to know what language is spoken in Saudi Arabia, then it might surprise you to discover that "Arabic" is an oversimplification. Like other Arabic-speaking countries, the official language of Saudi Arabia is technically not spoken as a native language by its inhabitants (see below). Arabia has a rich cultural and linguistic history stretching back thousands of years being at the crossroads of many civilizations over time.

What language is spoken in Saudi Arabia?

Arabic (Najdi, Hijazi, Khaleeji and Modern Standard Arabic)

Saudi Arabic is the dominant spoken language of Saudi Arabia. However, it's important to highlight that the term "Saudi Arabic" encompasses three major subdialects: Najdi, Hijazi and Khaleeji (Gulf).

Najdi Arabic is spoken in the Najd region of Saudi Arabia, which is located centrally. It is the most dominant dialect in the country.

Hijazi Arabic is spoken right up and down the west coast of Saudi Arabia, and into parts of Jordan and Yemen. It's also the closest Saudi dialect to Egyptian and Sudanese.

Khaleeji Arabic (Gulf Arabic) is spoken in Eastern Saudi Arabia, as well countries like Qatar, Bahrain, UAE and Kuwait.

It's important to note that the official Arabic of Saudi Arabia is, in fact, Standard Arabic and not the spoken dialects. MSA is the literary language that is derived from its ancestor, Classical Arabic (the language of the Quran). Although the entire country is able to read, write and speak the standard dialect, it is not used in day-to-day spoken discourse outside of professional contexts (media, academia, politics, etc.) or, in the case of Classical Arabic, religious dialogue.

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Other languages in Saudi Arabia

Faifi, one of the only remaining Old South Arabian languages, is spoken by approximately 50,000 native speakers in the Faifa Mountains to the south (approx. 7,000 feet altitude). While there are still monolingual Faifi speakers in the region, it has become an endangered language with the younger generation speaking it as a home language and code-switching with the Arabic dialects mentioned above.

Other dialects of Arabic are also spoken by foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, such as Egyptian and Levantine.

In addition to Arabic, English is widely used or understood, particularly by younger Saudis.

Other foreign workers from the Indian subcontinent and the Philippines speak a variety of languages within their respective communities (e.g. Urdu, Bengali, Hindi, Tagalog) but these remain transient rather than established.

Saudi Sign Language is also used by the Saudi deaf community.

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