The Arabic language is that of the largest minority group living in Israel, and is considered an official second language after Hebrew. Every traffic and advertising sign in Israel will also include the Arabic translation, and the language is also studied in most secular Jewish schools. The official use of the Arabic language began during the British mandate period, before the independent state of Israel was established. The law of “King’s order in council” declared the Arabic language as an official language in Israel, and this law still holds today. This law says that every official government form or notice will be available in both Hebrew and Arabic, and that it is every ones right to address all official government institutions or departments in the Arabic language. Most large private companies such as phone, internet and cable companies also offer service in the Arabic language.
The origin of Arabic is very close to Hebrew origins, and therefore it is easy to see many similarities between the two languages. That being said, a person who understands Arabic will not understand Hebrew and vice versa, but it will indeed be much easier for such a person to acquire this second language. A common class in Israeli schools is ‘literature arabe’ which is used mostly in Arab media, but is significantly different from the commonly spoken Arabic. The legal system is Israel allows anyone to make their statements using the Arabic language, and so does the Israeli Parliament. The official Israeli bank notes also include the Arabic language, as well as the official voting notes in elections.
Similar to many other languages, in Arabic you address men and women differently. Here are some words and sentences that will make your life much easier while visiting Israel. You can also find some free basic online dictionaries on this website, as well as this one.