Akkadian is a language that was widely spoken in ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), and was written in the cuneiform script from about 2400 BC to the early centuries AD. It had two principal dialects, ancient Assyrian in the north, and Babylonian in the south. These in turn exhibit differences in different periods, for example Old Assyrian, Middle Assyrian and Neo-Assyrian; the oldest Akkadian texts are written in what is known as Old Akkadian. As well as being the standard language of Mesopotamia, Akkadian was also used for written communication between peoples speaking quite different languages, Hittite and Egyptian for instance.
The Akkadian language is in the Semitic family, which includes other ancient languages such as Hebrew and Aramaic, the latter being the lingua franca in much of the Middle East 2000 years ago. Modern languages in this family include Hebrew, Arabic, Amharic (Ethiopia), and others. Akkadian and its dialects Assyrian and Babylonian are in the north-east Semitic group, but this group of languages died out when Babylonian was no longer used in speech or writing. Note that modern Assyrian is not in the same group — it is a dialect of Aramaic and belongs to the north-west branch of Semitic. There are no modern north-east Semitic languages; Babylonian and Assyrian left no direct descendants.
Like other Semitic languages, Akkadian is of the inflectional type, meaning that grammatical relationships are expressed by changing (or inflecting) the internal structure of words. The modern method of learning this ancient language is to first learn the grammar, which is well-understood, and then to read the Hammurabi law code, written under the auspices of King Hammurabi of Babylon in about 1750 BC.