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Arabic and Sudanese Arabic – Language Tip Sheet

The Sudanese Arabic language

Sudanese Arabic is a variety of Arabic that needs to be separately identified and catered for, as not all Arabic interpreters will be able to communicate effectively in Sudanese Arabic.

Arabic is what is called a multi-polar language, spoken in a large number of countries and regions, but with significant variations. A common written form – Modern Standard Arabic – is generally used in all countries, but the spoken varieties vary greatly. Accredited Arabic interpreters will have no difficulty coping with the main varieties of Arabic spoken in Australia – from Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. But Sudanese Arabic is very different.



The differences between Sudanese Arabic and Arabic

Sudanese Arabic is spoken throughout Sudan and differs from standard Arabic in that

a) it has retained some archaic forms, thought to be derived from old Saudi influences, but

b) it has been heavily influenced by the various African languages that are also widely used in Sudan.

Thus there are features in Sudanese Arabic that would be quite foreign to other Arabic speakers or interpreters. Sudanese Arabic also forms the basis of another variety, Juba Arabic, a pidgin that is used as a lingua franca in southern Sudan, though most speakers of this variety will have another language as their first language.


Why asking for ‘Sudanese’ interpeter may not be enough

Clients requiring language services for non-English speakers from Sudan must be careful to ascertain which language is required, as simply asking for ‘Sudanese’ will be inadequate. People from Sudan may speak Sudanese Arabic or other African languages; the majority of Sudanese in Australia are from the South of the country and African languages prominent among them are particularly Dinka and Nuer. Many people from the Sudan have also spent considerable time as refugees in other countries, which also may influence their linguistic preferences.

Ethnologue estimates there are some 15 million speakers of Sudanese Arabic





This Language Tip Sheet is one in a series of informative publications published by InterpreterLine and All Graduates Interpreting and Translating Services.  The downloadable Language Tip Sheet may be an abridged version of the information published here.

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