The official language of Syria is Arabic. This is the language of Islam and the Qu’ran. The written form of Arabic is common to all Arabic-speaking countries, but the spoken form differs from country to country. Arabic speakers from Syria might have difficulty understanding Arabic speakers from Morocco, for example.

In Arabic, repetition and overstatement are often considered polite. When one person says marhaba or ahlan (hello), another person will likely answer with marhabtain or ahlain, two hellos. It is also common to refer to Allah (God) in conversation. Instead of saying “I hope,” an Arabic speaker is likely to say Insha’allah (God willing). When people say that they are well, they often add the phrase al Ham dulla (Thanks be to Allah).

Syrians use many gestures in conversation. Orthodox Muslims show affection by patting the right hand over the heart. A quick upward movement of the head with raised eyebrows, accompanied by closed eyelids and a click of the tongue, is used to signal “no.” A downward nod of the head means “yes.” Men shake hands when they meet, but some Muslim men will not shake a woman’s hand.

Arabs have a rich oral tradition. The use of language is considered an art form. According to an Arab proverbs, “A narrow place can contain a thousand friends” which means when people love each other they can fit into even a tight space. Another proverb maintains, “Even paradise is no fun without people.” This shows that Syrians enjoy being in the company of others.

  Did you know?
Many people in the community of Maalula still speak Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus of Nazareth.
Arabic script is written from right to left. The art of beautiful writing, or calligraphy, is highly prized. It is used as a form of decoration, since Islam does not allow the representation of people or scenes from life in art.

Kurdish is spoken by about 9% of the population, most of whom live in the northeast part of the country. There are about 100,000  Armenians in Aleppo and a smaller number in Damascus. The Armenians, who are Christian, publish newspapers in Armenian and maintain their own schools where Armenian is taught. 

There are several communities of Circassians in southwestern Syria. They are escendants of Sunni Muslims from central Asia who migrated to the Middle East in the 19th century. There are also about 20,000 Assyrians in Syria. They speak Syriac, a modern form of ancient Aramaic, which was the language of Palestine before Arabic was introduced in the 7th century.

  English Arabic
  Yes    Eh or na'am
  No   La
  Please   Lau samaht
  Thank you   Shukran
  Hello   Marhaba or salaam
  How are you?   Keif halac?
  I am fine   Tamam
  Wellcome   Ahlan wa sahleen
  Goodbyer   Ma'asalaameh