Arabic language day- A Twitter perspective

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After more than 200 tweets I decided to post something on the fact that  it is Arabic day today ON TWITTER, so I thought I’d share the news. Speakers of the Arabic language celebrate their language on this day [though I have not checked out the origins of the day yet] and they make it an issue to raise awareness about different issues surrounding the Arabic language.

The things people are doing today is, for example, all twitter users are writing only in Arabic and are apologising to their non-Arabic speaking followers for their use of Arabic only, for example- Dear Non-Arabic speakers/readers tweeps: Today is #ArabicDay so please tolerate the Arabic tweets for the day 🙂 .. Have a wonderful day 🙂

I think most people are tweeting in Classical Arabic only- which is great because you get to see people’s language skills. There are excellent quotes about Arabic as a language, as an item that defines a people, a people who are proud to be speakers of Arabic.  SO what happens now is that someone makes a cup of tea and tweets that in Classical Arabic with all the right grammar and diacritics I’ll paste it here for readers of Arabic-ما أجمل اللغة العربية , قمت باعداد كوباً من الشاى he writes here- how beautiful Arabic language is, I have made a cup of tea… and it’s all grammatically correct. Another example- في طريق العودة للمنزل #Arabicday— trans- on my way back home.. Which makes me wonder how would they have written it if they were not making an Arabic emphasis?  In English perhaps.

The issue of identity comes up in the tweets aswell اللغة هوية ….اللغة حضارة …. #ArabicDay trans– language is identity….language is civilization. It seems language is seen as a marker of identity by this speaker and as a  foundation of civilization and culture. An issue that is often discussed in Linguistics in how does language reflect identity and so on.  There are also other tweets that demand everything to be written in Arabic and not with English letters or what they call Franco-Arabic [which I think is what we refer to as Arabizi] they think that it spoils Arabic and English interesting.

The most interesting aspect of these  tweets and wall posts is not in the praise of Arabic language- no- it is actually in how the speakers are critical of their neglect of Arabic. They criticise themselves and how they are not using Arabic as much s they should be- but the nice bit is that it is all in Classical Arabic…which really emphasises their point.

The criticisms or points that people point out are the same ones we have discussed here on the blog. So I’ll try my best to sift the best ones, it’s hard when there are 93 tweets a minutes going up. Here is one from a Saudi tweeter; criticizing the choice of universities in not using Arabic as a language of instruction for Arab students, especially if it is a subject like Computing and he sees this as wasting the life of the student whilst his Arabic could have improved.

 #arabicday المناهج الجامعيه في كثير اصبحت بلغه غير لغتنا .. يضيع عمر الطالب في الجامعه يدرس الماده على انها لغه اضافيه وهي ماده كمبيوتر مثلا

Another critical one- يقول أحد المستشرقين : ليس على وجه الأرض لغة لها من الروعة والعظمة ماللغة العربية=#ArabicDay

ولكن ليس على وجه الأرض أمة تسعى بوعي أو بدون وعي لتدمير لغتها كالأمة العربية —he says ‘one of the Orientalists [someone who writes on Arabic issues but might not be an Arab themselves] says- There is not a language on the face of the earth with such beauty and greatness like Arabic, but there is not a nation on the face of the earth that consciously or unconsciously works to destroy its own language like the Arab nation’. WOW- it is a heavy statement to make and there are those who agree with him and others do not.  One can see the passion with which such tweets are delivered, he went out of his way to find and type up this quote…seriousness here.

I will not make this a very long post it was just something I thought I’d share for those interested and since it is in line with the blog’s topics. Generally, Arabic speakers feel that they are neglectful of their language and they feel that they have to do something about it.  I wonder if this will become a permanent day each year….

Source- Twitter [if you have an account you can go in and see]

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Jordan: Giving Arabic its rightful place?

Petra's Treasury (al-Khazneh) in southern Jordan.

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The Jordan Times reported that the president of the University of Jordan, has urged lecturers to do their utmost to speak formal Arabic in the classrooms. This has been met with mixed feelings as some people agree whilst others are skeptical of the idea. Below, as usual I have pasted the article without editing…

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Standard vs. colloquial Arabic debate surfaces on campus

By Thameen Kheetan

AMMAN – Several students at the University of Jordan (UJ) have criticised UJ President Khalid Karaki’s suggestion that standard Arabic be used in lectures, while many professors welcomed the idea. Last week, Karaki sent a letter to the university’s teaching staff asking them to “do their best to… refrain from utilising colloquial Arabic [amiyya] inside lecture halls,“ because he said amiyya usage affects the national Arabic identity.

“Using the colloquial in addressing each other, in addition to being lax on standard Arabic grammar… is an indication of bad taste and intellectual shallowness,” said the president, who is an Arabic language specialist. He noted that amiyya has become widespread at the expense of formal Arabic, and considered this a threat to the Arab world’s “cultural identity”.

Several students said they would not accept lectures in standard Arabic because they are not used to it in their daily lives and it could lead to difficulties in understanding the course material.

“It’s weird, students will laugh at each other when they speak classical Arabic in class,” 20-year-old Haneen Bisharat told The Jordan Times. The business major pointed out that standard Arabic could be used in language classes that are obligatory for all Jordanian students, as well as optional lectures and activities in order to preserve the classical language, which she admits is fading out.

“I do not agree with the president,” said history student Rami, 21, who added that although he understands the standard Arabic, “I would face difficulties since I am used to amiyya”. Second-year marketing student Zuhdi Abu Issa agreed with him.

“The colloquial dialect creates an atmosphere of fun and comfort,” he told The Jordan Times, and described standard Arabic as “strict, formal and depressing”. Saba Obeidat, who studies theatre, explained that the colloquial makes her feel closer to the professors “as if I am talking to someone in my daily life”.

But many lecturers were partial to Karaki’s proposal. Political science professor Omar Hadrami believes amiyya undermines the language and affects Arabic thought. “It has been taking the place of standard Arabic and the biggest danger is that English words like ‘hi’ and ‘hello’ are being introduced to amiyya,” he told The Jordan Times.

Noting that the president’s suggestion is “very applicable”, he said, “I can feel this in my lectures, during which I always try to speak standard Arabic.” Geophysics and seismology professor Najib Abou Karaki also lauded the idea, but said it would take time to be totally applied on campus.”The main goal should be to make the student understand… it’s OK to adopt classical Arabic as a general trend,” he said, adding that it should be applied in a “flexible” manner so that the language used in lecture halls is also acceptable to students coming from different Arab countries, “who don’t have to master the Jordanian dialect”.

Abeer Dababneh, an assistant professor in the faculty of law noted that many lecturers employ a mixture of standard and colloquial Arabic.She said the implementation of standard Arabic would be difficult in the beginning, but over time, “people will get used to it and won’t find it strange”.”In an academic frame, there should be a formal atmosphere because we are not talking about personal issues,” she told The Jordan Times.

Not all students, however, are averse to the idea.Among them is Obada Shahwan, who studies Sharia (Islamic studies).”Of course I agree… the Koran came in classical Arabic and we should protect our language,” the 22-year-old pointed out.

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The most positive aspect about this article is that at least the difference of opinion is in which type of Arabic to use, not the fear that Arabic is not used- something I have not shown for a long time. As far as I know the Jordanian education system emphasises the use of Arabic as a medium of instruction making their students strong and proficient users of their language. They excel in literature, science, and in learning English, and their English is very good which reminds me of a theory in second language acquisition (L2) that states- one’s proficiency in their mother tongue (L1)  will determine their level of proficiency in the second language (L2). So could it be that their English language is so good, often better than those in other Arab states who learn English from nursery, because they were well grounded in Arabic?  Anyway that’s a whole different topic, maybe we can discuss it next time.

 Due to the fact that their Arabic language is so good many of the Arabic teachers in the Gulf schools and universities are Jordanian (and Syrian, Yemeni and Egyptian which gives one an idea of the place Arabic takes in their education system and yet they too worry about the demise of Arabic!) and their early Arabic instruction allows them to be able to teach Arabic at advanced levels.  Both sides acknowledge the importance of Arabic and yet have good arguments for their point of view, I hope that these types of discussions can continue because at least Arabic has been put on centre stage and is not fighting to reclaim its rightful place in an Arabic speaking country.

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Source: 

http://www.jordantimes.com/?news=15959 (The Jordan Times)

Is the Arabic language “dying”?

I should really be enjoying myself now that I am on holiday! But as usual I could not help it when I came across the article I am about to paste below, I am tired but looking forward the break just as soon as I find a decent cup of  English tea I will be fine! It’s all coffee here, it’s so early in the morning but my body clock has not adjusted yet or the clock on the blog?!  Hopefully I will try posting as mush as I can in the next few weeks.  Right, another posting on the so-called death of Arabic language, and some future predictions of what the fate of this powerful language will be. It does make for a melancholic read, and as usual could be a wake-up call to those who regard Arabic language as part of their culture and heritage to do something.

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bilde

DOHA // Abbas al Tonsi sees something wrong in a future where citizens of Gulf countries wear dishdashas and abayas but are unable to speak Arabic.

“How can you say ‘I am an Arab’ if you don’t know the language?” said the professor of Arabic at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar.

For Mr al Tonsi, who has written several Arabic textbooks and has been teaching the language for almost 40 years, the crisis is personal. “I am afraid that after 20 years,” he said, “Arabic will just be a language of religious ritual.”
The native tongue for more than 300 million people and used regularly by 1.6 billion Muslims, Arabic is in no danger of extinction. But because of the dominance of English, its usage in everyday life is under threat in several of the Gulf’s smaller states.

A senior official at Qatar’s ministry of culture, arts and heritage recently acknowledged Arabic’s decline and underscored the seriousness of the problem. “Language is the key issue for the identity of a society,” Marzook Basher Binmarzook said last month.

Mr al Tonsi’s forthcoming study of Arabic instruction reveals how Qatari schools are helping to erode that identity. Standards are vague and not communicated well to the teachers, he said. “It’s easy to say, ‘Meet this level of efficiency’. But how do you guide the teachers to get the students there?” said Mr al Tonsi. “What exactly are the main ideas? In these standards, there are no indicators of intent, no uniform lesson plans or content.” Secondly, he said, most of the Arabic teachers were inadequately trained and relied on outdated methods. “The teachers mainly teach grammar, and it’s mainly teacher-centred,” Mr al Tonsi said. “They lecture rather than engage the students.”

Finally, schools use a wide variety of textbooks, which complicates proficiency testing. They also lean too heavily on grammar, according to Mr al Tonsi, and use simplistic drills that fail to develop critical thinking. Further, most books are overly proud and authoritarian, he said.

“‘We are the best, we are the bravest’ – you feel this is nonsense if you’re a young person,” said Mr al Tonsi, who co-authored Al Kitaab, an Arabic textbook used in about 700 universities worldwide.

In addition, fewer Gulf nationals are opting for teaching careers because of low pay and a lack of cultural respect. And a major reform programme in Qatar has instituted a more westernised curriculum.

Gulf culture has in recent decades shifted towards the West. Arabs represent a minority population in Qatar, as in the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain. English dominates business, and is more common in many public places, such as malls. Many schools now favour English as the primary medium of instruction. And Education City in Doha, American University in Dubai and Sharjah and New York University in Abu Dhabi point to a higher educational system that is embracing English. Many students and their parents see it as the best route to success.

“Many Arab families now want their children to learn English before they learn Arabic,” said Jinanne Tabra, the founder of Araboh, a producer of contemporary Arabic learning materials. “There is this ridiculous impression that English is somehow superior to Arabic.”

But instead of becoming bilingual, most students in Qatar lack fluency in any language. In the past four years, only five to seven per cent of primary and junior high school students in Qatar achieved acceptable standards in national tests for Arabic and English. He urged schools to improve teacher training and create extra curricular activities in which students could converse in Arabic – book clubs, speech groups, drama clubs and poetry readings. He also thinks schools should use audio and video as the main texts, and teach an Arabic that is challenging, enjoyable, respectful of young minds and develops critical thinking.

Maybe learning Arabic could even be fun. “You will never learn a language unless you are willing to learn it,” he said. “No one learns a language by force.”

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What a predicament for the Gulf countries! The more I read these articles and the more I think about the issues raised even by top government officials of the concerned countries; and I constantly ask myself , “what are they doing about it”?  To what extent does Arabic in their countries need to deteriorate in order for something to be done about it? Or is it that simply no one cares enough to do something about it? You might think that putting a law in place might be the solution, but people usually have this tendency to break the law when they can, so how effective is the law that Arabic must be used in all public buildings? When most of the workers are foreign or even if they are not all the software and interface used in the workplace is in English and has no Arabic equivalent what are the chances that Arabic will be used?  I could go on, but the more I am reading about this the more I am surprised that nothing of real substance is being done to save “their” language.  As I always say let’s give it five to ten years and see what will happen will Arabic still be in decline or will it not? I am collecting every article, every conference paper, every book and news/entertainment article on this issue and I am hoping to compile a corpus on the issue of Arabic being in ‘danger’. After five years it will be an excellent source of research and discourse analysis to see where the rhetoric is going and how the discourse on this subject is being shaped.  As usual your emails on this topic always interest me and I am grateful to those who email me with new ideas and links to other similar topics. Keep reading!

Source:  http://araboh.com/blog/2010/03/is-the-arabic-language-dying/

How Hindi and Urdu might just take Arabic over in the UAE!

Arabic language is in a huge decline- yes we are talking about that again- and really it is becoming tiresome! The new article I am putting here is taken from the Khaleej Times (online), and it addresses the decline of Arabic in the UAE. There is even a hint that Hindi and Urdu might take over the status of Arabic as a national language, both in terms of the number of speakers and how easy they are to learn and communicate in. Here is the article (without any changes):  

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‘Arabic language use on decline in its own lands’ 

 Is Arabic the lingua franca of an Islamic-Arab state of the stature and eminence of the UAE? The spectre of doubt sweeping through the minds of Dr Nasser Shrouf, Editor of Deutsche Welle, the state-owned German TV/Radio and Internet portal in Arabic language has brought forth the answer in the negative. Dr Shrouf, a Syrian national, said he was surprised by the fact that the use of Arabic language is on the decline in its own lands although he did not venture to advance reasons for the plight. Dr Shrouf, who was the chief guest at a dinner reception hosted by Erwin Ganzer, Head of Chancery/Press Affairs of the German embassy in the capital recently, said his Arabic was “showing signs of rust”, as he had a long stint in Germany to develop the online web site for the Arabic programmes of Deutsche Welle, and that he was looking forward to interesting interactive sessions with residents here which may serve in good measure to refresh his knowledge of, and conversational prowess, in his mother tongue. “But I do not find people, including those whose native language is Arabic, conversing in the language,” he said with a lump in his throat.  It is up to the academicians and connoisseurs of Arabic language to examine the cause, he said, referring to students in schools here who have undergone more than a decade of academic exercises, but were unable to even spell out their names in Arabic. “When I return home to file stories on the online Arabic web site of my organisation (www.dw-world.de), that was created in January this year, I shall make it a point to muse over this dismal state of affairs,” he said. A heartening feature, however, is that since the web site was created, there have been over 1.5 million impressions from residents of the UAE, second only to Egypt, and considering the relatively small geographical size of the UAE. This is a matter of joy.  A cross-section of residents spoken to, whose mother tongue is not Arabic, said they would love to learn the language, but did not know where or whom to turn to. Private tuitions are expensive and the language institutes are not up to the mark, as at the end of the sessions, “you are where you were at the beginning of the course”, is the common refrain. Muslims are particularly eager to develop functional prowess in Arabic, as it is the language in which the Holy Quran was revealed. But they have also not gone far in realising their dreams, including many Pakistani and Indian expatriates whose mother tongue is Urdu, and are therefore, quite familiar with the script, although their comprehension of the text of the holy book in pathetically wanting. There are educational institutes in Syria which offer three-month courses in Arabic for a nominal fee and those who can take time off can benefit from the exercise. “But how many employers will let you off the hook to pursue the ambition?” is their query. Krishna Bihari Tiwari, a teacher of Hindi at the Abu Dhabi Indian School, wondered how Hindi and Urdu, apart from of course English that is credited as the universal language of business and commerce, could spread so fast, while even those with a flair to pick up languages, could not come to terms with Arabic language. He suggested that popular film songs, that come in audio and videocassettes, should carry the lyrics in Arabic, so that people can understand the meaning and hum the tunes as well. The film is a popular medium and the songs and dialogues can help popularise the use of the language, he averred.  Tripati made a pointed reference to the classical Sanskrit language, which also languished in similar plight, and ultimately perished and is no more a “living language”. The longevity of a language is not measured by the scale of human life, counted in generations, for it to vanish from practice, but takes eons to fade out unless the protagonists take appropriate steps. It will be a sad story, for any language suffering neglect, particularly in its own citadel, he added. 

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I don’t think any Arab wants Arabic to be like Sanskrit! It is a good read though, it makes people think especially the language planners and those in the education department. 

  

Source: http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle.asp?xfile=data/theuae/2005/December/theuae_December37.xml&section=theuae&col=

Arab culture and language in danger: Qatar and the UAE

Yet another posting on this interesting issue, Arabic as a language seems to be neglected in both the UAE and Qatar. I quote a recent article, which is short and yet to the point. The author makes it clear that Arabic is in real danger because there is no encouragement for the speakers to use it in all spheres of their lives, even the education system cannot ensure Arabic (or English for that matter) is learned and taught correctly.

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Arabic’s Uncertain Future Has Troubling Cultural Implications

by Sarah Amandolare

Arabic is being replaced by English in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, prompting concerns about the preservation of national identity and culture.

Fallout of the Shift to English

According to Tom Hundley in a piece for Global Post, Arabic has fallen behind English and Hindu to become only “the third most-spoken language in the United Arab Emirates.” Although this is “hardly surprising” since most of the population consists of foreign workers, the loss of Arabic would also mean a loss of “their sense of national identity,” writes Hundley.

There are “more than 300 million native speakers” of Arabic around the world, so the language will likely “survive as one of the world’s major languages.” However, in specific places, including UAE and Qatar, Arabic has become “endangered,” experts tell Hundley. In some cities, such as Dubai, children have adopted “a kind of pidgin Arabic” from their caretakers, often nannies from Pakistan or the Philippines.

Higher Education in the Gulf region is also rapidly shifting to English as universities from the U.S., Britain and Australia set up campuses. However, sources tell Hundley that the issue begins in primary school, where students are being taught a combination of English and Arabic, but failing to perfect either one.

Demand for Arabic speakers

While Arabic has become less desirable in some parts of the Middle East, the U.S. is sorely in need of Arabic speakers to fill foreign service positions. The need for U.S. Foreign Service officers in the Middle East “has skyrocketed” since 9/11, explained Josh Kurlantzick in a 2007 piece for The New Republic. With that, the U.S. government faces the added pressure of training “a new generation of Arabic, Farsi and Chinese speakers,” he writes.

Background: Languages in danger

In April 2009, the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger showed more than 200 languages had become extinct. The United States is one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world, but it also has one of the largest numbers of endangered languages. India, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico are all countries with similar linguistic situations as the United States— many spoken tongues, but also many endangered or extinct languages. Of the some 6000 languages spoken worldwide, it is thought that nearly half of them are endangered.

In a 2007 TED talk focused on cultures at the far edges of the world, National Geographic Explorer Wade Davis explained that nearly half of the languages spoken on Earth are no longer taught to children, making these languages essentially obsolete. Davis cited a statistic that a language dies off almost every two weeks, and went on to describe how languages shape the way we think, and can represent a complete history of a people.

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It is quite ironic really that those outside the Middle Eastern countries are working hard to learn Arabic language, and yet those who have Arabic as a first language are losing it, for many reasons (as we have discussed in previous postings). So on the one hand we have those who will lose the language and the culture and all that relates to Arabic, and we will have those who selectively learn the language (without the cultural implications of course) for their own purposes.  As I have said before, this region is one to watch over the coming decade, if Arabic as a language survives at all levels of society (not just governmental or in classrooms) then Arabic has a future. Otherwise it may be that one day when reading about these countries in an atlas or Encarta, we might read an entry like: COUNTRY (UAE or Qatar) languages spoken, English, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic…. (in order of number of speakers). Did I exaggerate? Some linguists might argue that a decade is too long, since for some language conservationists look at languages on a day-to-day or week to week basis. Whatever the truth of the matter (I have presented in this blog many discussions about this topic and many have research evidence) there needs to be a quick investigation into the issue and it must be resolved for the sake of the people in the region. Many Arabs perhaps feel that their language can never die, but I say that a language lives as long as its speakers have faith that through it they can express themselves and through it they can feel like any other people speaking their language and feel a sense of belonging. Without faith in a language, the language dies and so do the values, histories, and stories of that language.

Source:  http://www.findingdulcinea.com/news/international/2010/mar/Arabic-s-Uncertain-Future-has-Troubling-Cultural-Implications.html/

See also: http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?pg=00206/   (Unesco’s world languages in danger)

Original article in the Global Post: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/middle-east/100216/arabic-endangered-language/

 

Sheikh Sultan Al Qasmy: “Plant love of the mother tongue in the hearts of Arabic speakers” Part 1

Speaking last month (Feb 21st 2010) at the Society for the Protection of Arabic Language based in Sharjah, UAE Sultan Al Qasmy the ruler of the Emirate of Sharjah, called for new important and necessary steps to restore Arabic as the rightful language of the natives.

Celebrating the UNESCO Mother Language Day 2010(www.unesco.org/en/languages-and-multilingualism/) Al Qasmy gave a speech about the central  importance of Arabic language to those who consider it their mother tongue. However, in the same breath he went on to express his sadness and disappointment in the deterioration of the language among its speakers. This is especially because, in his opinion, it is the most important marker of a speaker’s identity. Additionally he added that it is only through the Arabic language that culture and customs can be preserved and their symbolic meanings understood by speakers today and ultimately those in the future.  He also emphasised that Arabic language if learned and used correctly could act as a bridge-builder between all speakers of Arabic despite their dialects. Often Arabs from different countries are sometimes forced to speak a foreign language (such as English or French) in order to communicate because their dialects are unintelligible to one another (a topic for another post!).

He further emphasised that: “…the increasing interest our Arab society has for foreign languages because of the need to communicate with the world for reasons of education, culture and humanitarian benefits should not mean that we feel less pride or disregard our Arabic language”. He went on to describe what he has noticed among the young, that they use Arabic incorrectly and make basic mistakes whilst speaking. And there is also their consistent use of English in everyday conversation not out of a communicative need but out of style and habit.  This final observation echoes the statements that Sheikha Mouza, first lady of Qatar made this month (see previous post of Sheikha Mouza here on Arabizi) about the danger Arabic language faces because of its over-mixing with English.  As you can see I am quoting two high-profile figures in the Middle East airing concern about the current state of Arabic. These are the people on the ground and due to their positions we can say that they meet many people across the Arab world and so are better suited to make such candid statements and comments. What is the solution to all this? There are people at grass-root levels also complaining about the state of Arabic language and its future (see any blog discussing this) and now there are individuals at the top echoing the same fear. If everybody feels this way surely there can be no doubt that Arabic is under threat and action needs to be taken.

This is the second time this month I am posting something on the worry over the current use of Arabic and anxiety over its future.  This cannot be considered as an unfounded fear or panic without evidence, it seems that everyone who makes this claim has evidence. So what is happening to Arabic and why? It has so many speakers and yet all this fear- what is the reality?

Sultan Al Qasmy continues passionately: “Arabic language is the only way we can express our happiness, sorrows, sadness, and victories; it is a part that cannot be separated from our beings and we cannot leave it or allow it to weaken for by that we allow ourselves to be weakened”.  To show his seriousness and to qualify this statement he went on to say that there is now a heavy and important responsibility on those in leadership positions, positions of responsibility; and most notably those in the education and teaching sector and anybody who felt strongly about Arabic language and grammar. Proposing a possible  solution Al Qasmy went on to suggest that one effective way would be for teachers and educators to find new ways of making Arabic fun and attractive to children in a bid to plant the love of Arabic in the hearts of children and young people. He said teachers and educators should move away from traditional, often boring, methods of instruction and use modern more attractive teaching formats; and move away from making the subject one in which students expect to fail and cannot connect it to their everyday life.

I will translate the rest of the speech in the next post.  Taken and translated from the original Arabic to English from: http://ae.2lex.org/2010/02/22

 

 

Sheikha Mouza: ‘The Arabic language is in danger because of “trendy English phrases” ‘

Alarabiya.net 23rd March 2010 reports on Sheikha Mouza’s trip to a Jeddah women’s college. She addressed the women about the importance of education for them as Gulf citizens and her firm belief that women deserve the same educational opportunity as their male counterparts. Qatar’s first lady is very popular among young Gulf women especially those in education or university students because she understands what it means to live in that part of the world and to be a woman. 

For any researcher this is excellent data, a type of reality of how Arabic is used on the ground, and a testimony by a speaker themselves not an outside researcher! 

 She spoke about education and its importance and in the same breath warned against the weakening of Arabic because of English phrases. It is very common for a televison/satellite channel presenter to begin speaking Arabic (Modern Standard or slang)  and then insert many English phrases in place of Arabic ones, even though the Arabic lexicon has words that can express the same meanings.  A lot of codeswitching takes place and some people do not see the use of it. For example they might say (excuse the non use of IPA characters still working on getting them on this blog:

Tayyib ya jama’ah naakhudh BREAK wa narja’  BYE

okay everyone let’s take a break and then come back bye

Both these English words are available in Arabic but the switching still took place. There are many other examples but I do not have them at hand.

The most frequent codeswitching I have seen is on shows that discuss fashion and beauty or movies.  All the information will be given in Arabic and then there are continuous insertions of English words, such as; lip gloss, style, hair, dryer, perm, colour, eyeshadow and many others etc..  Is Arabic that weak that it does not have these words available for its speakers? 

It is interseting that the first lady chose to speak about education and language threat at the same time! Do the two relate to eachother? If so how? Most of the higher education in the Gulf is in English and increasingly so is the medium of instruction in most secondary schools- so why the sudden warning? Is Arabic really under threat? This is what I asked in one of my initial postings. Do we blame English?  Part of the answer may lay in the symbolic meaning of English as a language in the Gulf. It may stand for sophistication,  a certain prestige or more precisely a status marker meaning that perhaps the speaker is educated. But seriously is English forced upon these speakers?

Is English to blame or are the speakers the reason? The so-called danger English poses to Arabic is a topic of great debate in the Middle East. Many different opinions and many different suggestions of how to overcome these fears are becoming increasingly popular. The situation is very complex and those in charge of the language planning and policy perhaps need to look closely at language use in Education and other spheres of interaction. If many people, both unknown and those of a high profile such as Sheikha Mouza say Arabic is in danger may be they have a point.  But the solution?