Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia, used in business and for other communication purposes. Its population of an estimated 27 million mainly speaks Modern Standard Arabic, which is the most widely spoken version used in media, schools and published works. The classical version of Arabic, Classical Arabian, is considered an exclusive language rather than a spoken one, as it is rarely used in regular, day-to-day communication. Instead, Classical Arabian is mainly encountered in the holy book of Quran and other classical works, as well as in poetry and by religious scholars. In the country, there are three standard dialects of spoken Arabic, which include Najdi Arabic, Hejazi, and Gulf (Khaliji) Arabic.

Regional Dialects of Spoken Arabic in Saudi Arabia

Najdi Arabic is used by about 8 million speakers in the central region of Saudi Arabia where it is spoken as the first language. It has four major sub-dialects: Northern Najdi – spoken in the regions of Qaseem, Jabal Shamaar, and Zufi in Saudi Najd, Central Najdi – an urban dialect spoken in the capital of Saudi Arabia, Southern Najdi – spoken in south-central Saudi in the city of Kharj as well as the towns and villages around it, and Badawi Najdi – spoken in the Najd region of Saudi Arabia by the nomadic people.

Hejazi Arabic or Western Arabian Arabic is spoken mainly in the western region of Saudi Arabia by about 8 million inhabitants. Hejazi has two main dialects: the urban dialect, which is the urban dialect spoken mainly in Mecca, Jeddah, Yanbu and Medina, and the rural dialect which is spoken by the rural Bedouin population.

Gulf Arabic or Khaliji Arabic is similar in dialect to the other Gulf Arabic dialects in other countries save for a few distinctions. It is spoken along the shores of the Persian Gulf in Saudi Arabia.

Other Languages in Saudi Arabia

Apart from the standard dialects of Arabic, Saudi Arabia is also home to some other minority foreign languages, brought in by the large foreign population attracted to the lucrative oil business. The foreigners speak their native languages inside the country, so it is possible to hear the following languages in Saudi Arabia: Tagalog, which is spoken by the Filipino expatriate population of about 700,000 people, Rohingya, mainly a written language used by the people of Myanmar; in Saudi Arabia, the language is spoken by about 400,000 Myanmar expatriates, Urdu, which is the official language spoken by the 390,000 Pakistani expatriates working in Saudi Arabia, as well as the Egyptian Arabic, the spoken dialect used by the native Egyptian expatriate community in Saudi Arabia, the 300,000 of them, as well as the Saudi Sign Language, used by approximately 100,000 individuals in Saudi Arabia who have some kind of hearing impairment.