Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is the official language of over 300 million people in all Arab languages, from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east. In these countries, MSA is used on a daily basis in newspapers and magazines, on the radio and on television, in formal correspondence and on official occasions. It is the modern form of the language of the Quran and the language that is taught here at school. Apart from MSA, students also learn a spoken version of Arabic. This part of the programme is realized during the students' stay abroad in the third year.
In daily conversation, speakers of Arabic in the various Arab countries and regions in the North Africa and the Middle East use a variety of vernaculars (spoken varieties). These spoken varieties show marked differences, which makes it sometimes impossible for speakers from different regions to understand each other. A Syrian, for example, would not fully understand someone from Morocco. Spoken languages are usually not used in writing, however. From all the (spoken) varieties, Egyptian Arabic has a special position since it has spread all over the Arab world through the Egyptian film industry.
In MSA, individual words are constructed from a basic pattern of three consonants with a root meaning. The basic meaning of the word is usually made more explicit with the help of set rules, using changes of vowels, prefixes and suffixes. The Arabic alphabet consists of 28 consonants. The three vowels are added above or below the consonants, but mostly not written at all. Arabic script is written from right to left, but numbers from left to right. Arabic grammar has verb tenses and verb forms (inflections). Culture and religion strongly influence the language. This is also an important part of the study programme.