Kuwait is one gulf country where English language proficiency is very well known and many Kuwaiti students struggle with their mother tongue- Arabic. Based on the research I have carried out this is due to many reasons and the learning o English is just one of them but not the main reason. There are countries in which English language is taught and learned but not at the expense of the mother tongue , I have just completed a book chapter on this very topic as soon as it is out I will announce it. So it is a great to see that Kuwait is still committed to teaching and encouraging its young to master and use the Arabic language in creative ways.
I read an article published last month (3rd April 2010) reporting that at a recent Arab League’s cultural contest, which had participants from 14 Arab countries compete in using Arabic eloquently. This was probably done in the form of poetry and perhaps using Classical Arabic as opposed to gulf Arabic, and maybe a story or an extended text. The judges would judge on the topic, content, context and how the writer has used Arabic eloquence to deliver their message to the audience. Kuwait took away two of the top 5 places so of course they were very pleased and took their place among the cultured Arabs.
In recent years there have been efforts to highlight the strong eloquent oral tradition that Arabic had (and still has) through its poetry and poets. One such effort is the Abu Dhabi based poetry competitions the first is-‘Shaaír Milyuun’, which literally means ‘The poet of a million’, it is a 10 week competition where poets from all over the gulf come and recite Nabati poetry(for the Arabic site). Nabati poetry is in gulf Arabic and not Classical Arabic (CA), it has its own style, metre (iambic or otherwise) but the themes of the poems are similar to CA poetry- love, the lover and the beloved, the desert, honour, leadership, and war scenes- the one’s where the hero always wins with his sword. To see a video of the show click here: this poet was also very popular watch and listen and you will see why his style is something so original a desert style that is very rare today. Here he is performing in front of an audience you can really see that he loves the attention- enjoy!
The second competition is called ‘Ameer ash-Shua’araa’ which means ‘The Prince of Poets’ and this is only in Classical Arabic and is very demanding because not only is it open to all Arabs but the judges want to see something new , they demand eloquence at the highest levels. (See this report in English about the first series now it is in its fourth edition and it has gained a lot of popularity in the UAE, people usually go all the way to Abu Dhabi just to attend the weekly live shows. If you read Arabic you can visit the official website and read about the aims and visions of the pioneers behind it. This is a video as a taste of what the show is like, listen out for the rhyming, the obvious clarity in his words and his eloquent performance, this poem made this poet extremely popular as you can tell from the audiences reaction. Compare the two different types of poetry and you will see why people make sure they do not miss the live shows every on Thursday evenings.
In sum, although there seems to be the idea that Arabic language in danger it appears that there are efforts to not only revive Arabic among the youth but the rich almost forgotten culture that goes with it. This is a different type of post I usually write about the fears and worries Arabs have over losing their language but this is a positive move.