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Oral culture

Yemeni popular culture reflects the roughness of life, climate, and terrain, but Yemeni language and speech can be very eloquent. Conversations are laden with proverbs and sometimes turn into verbal jousts. This may reflect zamil, a form of traditional tribal poetry with pre-Islamic roots, in which short poems are made up on the spot or recited from memory. Tribal disputes and modern social conflict – many problems have been solved through the chanting of zamil. Few poems are written down. Yemenis do not read much, but they do have well-trained memories. Age-old stories, songs, and poems are passed on orally to new generations.

All Yemenis speak Arabic, the Sanaa dialect in the north, the Taizzi (or Adeni) dialect in the south. As many as half a million people in the eastern Hadramawt, and the Hadrami diaspora in East Asia, speak Hadrami Arabic. About 60,000 people on the island of Socotra speak Socotran (Soqotri), a Semitic language distinct from Arabic; it has been influenced by Indian and African languages, and by Portuguese. Most Yemenis speak no foreign language.

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