Qatar leads the way in Arabization: Cleaning up the linguistic landscape

ARABIC_ads 036

Image by hopie11 via Flickr

A few days ago on Twitter I was discussing the issue that some Arabic language purists claim  Arabizi is affecting the Arabic language in a negative way and that Arabization was the way forward. This afternoon whilst browsing the internet I came across an article in the Peninsular reporting that Qatar has made a law to Arabize all its billboards how strange? To make it simple Arabization is the idea that all things be in Arabic- the news, public signs, newspapers, language in the workplace and the emphasis being that Arabic is alive it’s visual for all to see. Some linguists study the linguistic landscape of a country, this would be looking at things such as shop signs, billboards, adverts on the highway, government notices….and some study how the linguistic landscape supports or hinders the language identity of that country. Others connect the languages with more subtle issues like the impact colonisation had on a country and how that reflects in the linguistic landscape. If Arabization was successful this would mean that everybody travelling to an Arab country would need to have a good command of Arabic in order to communicate with the locals(if you’ve lived in Egypt or Syria you’ll know what this means in contrast to living for example in Dubai or Doha). This move was discussed a few years ago by countries that have very high expatriate populations that speak languages other than Arabic like Saudi Arabia; they saw that the status of the national language of the country was overtaken by English and something had to be done about it. I don’t know the progress of the project and this would be something to look into. Below I have pasted the short report from the Peninsular without editing, I only added the links on the highlighted words- enjoy!

———-note: I have put some pictures so you get the idea of the current situation

Law on anvil to make Arabic must on billboards 

DOHA: A law to regulate street hoardings is on the anvil which seeks to make the use of Arabic in all such advertisements mandatory. A foreign language, including English, could be used only with Arabic.

“One more language can be used along with Arabic,” suggests a Cabinet memo on the draft of the proposed law which has been forwarded to the Advisory Council for review.

The proposed legislation would regulate all street hoardings, apparently including those that are put up on top of buildings, on the walls as well as on buses and taxis. Permission from building owners will, however, be required, suggests the draft.

Advertisements have been defined in the draft as writings, visuals and drawings displayed using wood or plastic materials and they even include neon signs.

The Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning will be the licensing authority and there are proposals to penalise violators up to QR20,000. The legislation, once implemented, would replace the existing law that was implemented 31 years ago, in 1980.

All such hoardings must take ample care and not breach in any way Islamic values and traditions as well as local customs and traditions.

The places of worship will be out of the limit for any hoardings and publicity material, warns the draft. Trees and heritage buildings are also barred for use for such publicity materials.

Anyone wanting to use loudspeakers for publicity of goods or services must also seek the permission of the municipal ministry.

The Cabinet has urged the Advisory Council to review the draft and forward its recommendations as early as possible suggesting that the proposed legislation might see the light of day sooner rather than later.

————– end of report

A fine! Well maybe this is the way forward in order to fulfil the law there has to be consequences. Arabization is a huge project and one that needs effort from all those involved in it to determine its success on the ground. It is an issue of the mind as well as of landscape both policy makers and speakers of Arabic must believe in their law if the outcome is to be effective. At least alongside the Arabic there will be English as well and there will be no billboards in English only or those that offend the local population. I wonder what they’ll do with the signs written in Arabizi- is it Arabic or English or will it be allowed because it’s a fusion of both? Let’s wait and see, linguistically it’s a good move at last all the talk is over and the action is beginning.