Iraq's official language is Arabic, which has numerous dialects. In Iraq, most people speak either Modern Standard Arabic, which has virtually the same structure throughout the Middle East, or Iraqi Arabic, a dialect also common to Syria, Lebanon and parts of Jordan. In addition, many Iraqis are able to read classic Arabic, the language of writing for the Koran, the Islamic sacred text. Arabic is written in a distinctive flowing script that is read from right to left.

The second most common language in Iraq is Kurdish and its dialects. Unlike Arabic, Kurdish is an Indo-European language, meaning that it is distantly related to English. Kurdish dialects differ significantly from each other, so that a speaker of the Sorani dialect in northeastern Iraq will have difficulty understanding a speaker of Kurmanji, the language of Kurds in northern Iraq. In Kurdish schools and publications, Sorani is the dialect used. Kurdish is written using the Arabic alphabet, although in Turkey, the Latin script is used. Iraqis of Assyrian descent speak Syriac, while Turkomans speak Turkic. English is a common second language for educated Iraqis and the language of instruction in universities.

As in many Arabic countries, Iraqis often use pronounced hand, shoulder and head movements as part of their expression. For example, a person may say no just by raising the eyebrows and lifting the head back a little, sometimes making a tsk-tsk noise. Shaking the head from side to side means lack of understanding, not disagreement. In general, Iraqis of the same sex like to touch their friends and relatives when speaking with them. In public, women show deference to men and may not look them in the eye. People of the same sex usually kiss when greeting, but public affection between people of the opposite sex is discouraged.

English Arabic
Peace by upon you (formal greeting) Is-salaamu aleekum
And upon you peace (formal response) Wa-aleekum is-salaam
Hello (informal greeting) Marhaba
Good morning Sabaah il-kheer
Good morning (in response) Sabaah il-nuur
Goodbye Selam Alekum
Goodbye Ma'as s-salaama

  Did you know?
Numerous Arabic words that have been accepted into English still show the Arabic article "al". These words include alcohol, alchemy, algebra, almanac and algorithm.