As I was reading I came across this blog posting which sort of affirmed what I said in the last post and what I keep saying- that Arabic native speakers will lose their language if they do not make efforts to learn the language. Once again just to re-affirm Arabic as a language will NOT die not now not EVER, but the people will lose out, especially the native speakers. My claim is always this: Arabic will remain among Muslims as a language of religion but the cultural aspects will be lost, because without native speakers there is no sense to the proverbs or the historic aspects of why words are the way they are. What’s wrong with this? Nothing much but there will be an absence of culture and without culture a people or their way of being will be erased. It’s something that we can discuss forever, language and culture and does it really matter anyway! I have pasted the posting below, and at the bottom I make some comments.
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Is Arabic a dying language?
From where I sit, in Cairo, the question seems a bit laughable. Dying? True, English is a “higher status” language here. Often, when I read a menu, I will find something like this: الآيس كريم That particular word (ice cream) has legitimately made its way into the Arabic language, but you can also find the transliteration of cheese instead ofجبنة and so on. Still, Egypt is a country where life and literature are conducted (by and large) in Arabic. Of course, if I squint at the question sideways, I can say: Sure, sure. After all, I’m dying. You’re dying. We’re all dying! But scholars in the Emirates mean this in a much more urgent way—and perhaps this is part of the reason why so much Emirati money is being laid down for culture: book prizes, poetry channels, literary fairs.
In the Emirates, Tom Hundley writes, Arabic is “no better than the third most-spoken language” after English and Hindi. And since Arabs are a minority in the laborer-laden Emirates, that’s hardly a surprise.
But apparently even Emiratis aren’t interested in their language. Hundley reports that last fall, only five new students enrolled in UAE University’s Arabic language and literature program. And most university students, he says, take their instruction in English.
Hundley says the Emiratis are aware and concerned: A new national plan, unveiled earlier this month and aimed at 2021, the United Arab Emirates’ 50th anniversary, highlights the concern: “Arabic will re-emerge as a dynamic and vibrant language, expressed everywhere in speech and writing as a living symbol of the national Arab-Islamic values,” the plan said. But it offered few specifics on how this would occur. Hundley said that some have called for laws enforcing the use of Arabic.
But he quoted Professor Kamal Abdel-Malek, a professor of Arabic literature at the American University in Dubai (AUD) as disagreeing with this sentiment: “We shouldn’t end up with language police,” he said. “Laws cannot maintain the vitality of a language. I don’t think you force people to preserve a language.”
Agreed. (Although I might like to read a novel where this was happening.) How, then, are we to preserve languages? Perhaps, as the Emiratis are doing, with more money for culture? After all, the death of a language is no small thing: a number of social scientists liken the deaths of languages to the deaths of species. Could we end up in a world with only a few languages, and thus fewer ideas, fewer ways of structuring existence?
I like the way the post ends with powerful questions, we might not have the answers but at least we can begin thinking. I am not sure if money is the answer, it does help, but can it save a language? I think not. It is all to do with how people see their language, what are the benefits of me learning and deeply understanding this language? If the speaker sees no real benefit they will not ‘waste’ their time learning language. Maybe it’s only us linguists and those who love languages, who learn language for the sake of loving words and how they are similar or different from each other (like trying to see the similarity between Spanish and Italian)?! He is right that the death of a language is a serious issue, though I don’t think Arabic will ever make it to that list. He touches on an issue that has gained much attention recently – that of the connection between language and ideas or the perception of reality. I have written on it before, the linguistic relativity theory, so based on the claims of this theory we could say: if Arabic becomes weaker among its native speakers then the ideas encapsulated in Arabic language will also be weakened and not understood so well? Interesting, like I always say I have not made my mind up yet as I am reading on the subject – does language affect the way we think? And if so to what extent? I read a New York Times article on this issue so I will put it up on the next posting. Thanks for reading!