What is the language in Syria? As a predominantly Arab country the main language of Syria is Arabic, but with such a rich culture and diversity of peoples, there are also a number of other languages spoken within the country.
To read if it is ethical to travel to Syria click here.
Language in Syria – Arabic
Syrians for the most part all speak Arabic, with even people that do not use it as their mother tongue embracing it as the lingua franca of the country. Of course though Arabic comes in many forms, with the dominant forms in Syria being standard Arabic, Levantine Arabic in the east and Mesopotamian in the northeast of the country.
You can read about Mesopotamian here.
These dialects though are just that and are mutually intelligible with each other, thus making Arabic the language of business, as well as the lingua franca of the country.
What other languages of Syria are there?
So, while Arabic, or Syrian Arabic is the national language in the county, the historical significance of the area, as well as the ethic diversity of Syria means that there are a number of other languages spoken within the country.
In order of number of speakers the languages of Syria rank as follows, Kurdish, Turkic, neo-Amaraic, Turkish, Armenian and Greek. There are also a number of lesser known languages that fall within the umbrella of dialects within the country, such as Syriac.
Language of Syria – Kurdish
Kurdish is a language spoken throughout the region in the area known as Kurdistan. Alas despite the Stan designation there is no Kurdistan state, with the area traversing Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq, inc which none of these nations it enjoys much of an official status as language.
To read about the Stan countries click here
The exceptions to this are in Iraqi Kurdistan, which is self-governing and the Kurdish controlled part of Syria which is now an anarchist state of sorts – but alas not available to visit as a tourist.
To read about Rojava click here.
Ancient languages of Syria
When it comes to Language in Syria the most interesting are by far the Neo-Aramaic or Modern Aramaic languages, these include at least 4 dialects in Syria, with this seen as the language of, or at least the closest surviving relative of the language of Jesus Christ.
The people speaking this language and indeed the historical sites surrounding them were deeply affected by ISIS and the other Islamic Fundamentalist belligerents during the Syrian Civil War.
This was a point brought up to me by a member of Hezbollah who stated to me “You think we went into Syria for selfish aims, but it was us not Christians who saved the people who speak the language of Jesus. We did this because it was the right thing to do”.
We are obviously not pro-Hezbollah before anyone goes all cancel culture on us, but it was certainly an interesting point.
To read about the Hezbollah Disneyland click here.
Other lesser-known, or weird languages spoken in the country include Circassian and randomly Chechen. The story of Chechens in Syria is a particularly interesting one, with the Muslim population mainly fleeing here due to the Russo-Chechen conflict. This though has also meant a number of them fighting against the government as members of the various Islamic Fundamentalist groups that have wreaked havoc within the country, such as the Islamic State.
Conversely there are now also Chechens fighting on the side of the Syrian government as part of Russian Federation battalions and even within the war in Ukraine.
Circassians are another very interesting group, with many looking like they are from Western Europe. This makes Circassian another language within Syria whose roots lie within the Caucasian language family, rather than the Arabic one, although it is written in Arab script.
You can read more about Circassian and their people here.
Do Syrians speak French?
Syria was formerly an integral part of the French Empire and one they wanted to turn into a tourist Mecca. This meant the building of such places as the legendary Hotel Baron, but also of many people learning French. There are still a number of older Syrians who speak French and very well.
Younger people though are much less interested in learning the language and you will find scant younger French speakers in Syria.
To read about the Hotel Baron click here.
Languages of Syria – Do they speak English?
Not speaking Arabic in Syria need not be a problem with people, specifically the young having a very strong grasp of the language, with it now being taught in schools, as well as the private English school phenomenon also spreading to the region.
When it comes to your guides, or at least the ones employed by Young Pioneer Tours they tend to speak near perfect English and, or other languages too. We can also ask for speakers of various languages should you wish to book a private, or independent tour to Syria with us.
And last, but least do they speak Russian in Syria?
The relationship between Russia and Syria is indeed a complex one, but one that has gained much more importance since the start of the Syrian Civil War. Syria was generally a Soviet ally during the years of the USSR meaning that a certain portion of Syrians have always learned Russian.
Things though have changed a lot though in the last 10 years and you will see not only Russian troops as you travel, but also vehicles with iconic and indeed controversial “Z”symbol on vehicles. This means that you will find a lot more Russian speakers in the country now, and while not exactly a full on language in Syria, still holds more importance in contemporary times. Russian is also known if not fully embraced by the Chechen emigres residing within the country.
And that is the story of language in Syria, you can check out our Syria tours and our independent packages on our dedicated page here.