Language of instruction: how Qatari ambition just does not stop!

English: Qatar University Logo

Image via Wikipedia

 

Hello readers! It has been a while since I last wrote and today I will post some interesting articles I have come across that discuss the topic of….Arabic language! This particular one below is great because Qatar has taken seriously the poor Arabic proficiency among its student population, and they intend to address it head on. The suggestion is that the medium of instruction at university (not all) should be Arabic for some subjects. In a situation where over-reaction takes place and emotions blur everything the suggestion might have been that all the subjects be taught in Arabic- as is the argument of many in the Arab countries who call for Arabization of education. But interestingly enough, the choice is to still teach some subejcts in English and only some in Arabic. The subjects of law, media studies, business administration and international affairs will be taught in Arabic, this excites me as a linguist because I would love to see the corpus/lexicon of words used. I already started thinking of the words, sentences, and how the syntax will be in Arabic, of course the instructors will need to have a high command of both Arabic and English, if they are to teach successfully.  Until now all these subjects were taught in English, most probably taught by people from non-Arabic speaking countries/cultures and without doubt they come with their personal experiences of how these abstract subjects relate to the world. Now that they will be taught in Arabic, I think that the subjects will have a different tone or rhythm to them, the subject matter and facts will remain the same, the pioneers will remain the same, but the style of teaching and reception will, I suspect be totally different. Language is a medium, as I always say, that communicates more than words. If successful, I hope it will be, it could be the reference by which all academic papers written in Arabic on these subjects refer back to. That will be an exciting time for the Arabic language as far as academia is concerned….enjoy the original article below

 

—— start (28th Jan 2012)

 

The Issue: Qatar University has been recently asked (the decision was announced this week) by education authorities to switch the medium of instruction from English to Arabic, for some crucial disciplines like law, media studies, business administration and international affairs.

 

The move has been welcomed by those who feel that one should learn a subject in one’s native language and simultaneously learn English to be prepared to pursue higher studies abroad. But what is being doubted is whether the university would be able to implement the change in the medium of instruction in such a short span of time. Spring holidays have begun and the university administration doesn’t really have much time to switch to the new medium of instruction, which calls for not only text books and other reading materials in Arabic for the above key streams but also able and experienced teachers who could impart quality education in these disciplines. Then, the question of what happens to the existing faculty members who have been giving instructions in the said streams in English, needs to be resolved amicably. The university administration should keep in mind that undue delays in implementing the change would make it vulnerable to widespread criticism in the local media from the students, their parents or guardians and the community as a whole. The decision-makers should also bear in mind that the students doing law, media, business and international affairs courses in the university which would now be taught in Arabic are able to compete in the job market. Studies suggest that students learning a subject in their native language tend to master the subject better provided they simultaneously learn the English language, than those whose mother tongue is not English but they are taught a subject in the English medium. Qatar University switching the medium of instruction for the key study streams is thus, laudatory, but the students would do better not to ignore learning English on the sidelines of their main studies. The move is also heartily welcomed because Qatari students, especially, those seeking admission to law, media studies, business administration or international affairs studies were until now required to have high scores (in secondary education) only to be enrolled for a ‘Foundation Program’ of a year’s duration. Only if they acquired a high grade point average (GPA) in this Programme were they admitted to one of the above courses. There were many who couldn’t even qualify the ‘Programme’ to be able to seek entry to the above disciplines.

 

Such students found the ‘Foundation Programme’ that focused on students acquiring basic skills in English, mathematics and computers, not only tough and unwanted but also a sheer waste of time.Many of them were, thus, forced to seek admission to universities in Sharjah or Jordan, among other countries, and ironically, they landed jobs here as well with ease, mainly in the government, once they returned with a graduate degree.

 

But a Qatari graduate, in order to have a graduate degree from Qatar University, had to undergo so much of ‘trouble’.

 

“Now, with the medium of instruction being Arabic for the four major disciplines, Qatar University graduates from these streams wouldn’t have to now waste a year of their life cycle,” a critic told this newspaper not wanting his name in print.

 

He said that there are examples worldwide, and in the neighbouring Saudi Arabia as well, that for a university to be of international acclaim and standard it need not compulsorily impart education in English.

 

“The focus on teaching should be on the content of a subject rather than being on English which is merely a medium of instruction,” said the critic.

 

He said that what had been happening at Qatar University in the above streams was that students were made to concentrate on the learning of English rather than the subject. “So we welcome the move but are suspicious if the university administration would be able to implement the decision in such a short span of time,” he said. The Peninsula

 

————–end

 

Source: http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/qatar/181279-arabic-vs-english.html

 

Advertisements

Arabic language day: Qatari style

The 'dad' arabic letter : Emblem of arabic lan...

Image via Wikipedia

It seems the winter is going slowly and it’s time for those beautiful long walks again, and for those of us who love a challenging walk this is a good time. Though now I’m told the next time I am in Scotland to try the Munro walk, actually I call it a climb, apparently it’s not for the faint hearted so I’ll have a go and see- of course the best part are the breathtaking views.   I have three of four posts to put up, of course I could not resist looking at the speeches of Gaddafi and writing about them from a linguist’s point of view (they are quite interesting, and I hope the Libyan people will soon be saved from this situation our prayers are with them).The other one is a review of an unpublished book chapter that I was sent a while ago, and it addresses the effects of the English language on the  Arabic language in Gulf schools- anyone interested should read it, well-written, well researched. Thank you and welcome to the new subscribers to the blog, I hope you will get some nice posts in your inbox and that you won’t be disappointed; and thanks to the suggestion that I should blog more often. I will do my best, I can only think of one clichéd excuse ‘there is so much work to do’ and I hate to blog rubbish since I think my readers deserve good things.

Right back to our topic, one that is once again at the heart of Arabizi (Arabizi- How we use Arabic today©2011) the fascination and inquisitiveness into how Arabic native speakers use their language today. Is the suggestion, which often offends natives, that Arabic is dying or being lost by its speakers a true statement or one unfounded? Well to answer that you’ll need to carry out some research but here based on newspaper articles we make an analysis of the state of Arabic language right now, since newspapers reflect some type of reality. 

I came across the post below on a Qatari newspaper on the 4th of March 2011, titled: Qatar University holds Arabic language day’. Then it occurred to me that I never quite grasp why it’s important to celebrate one’s language and mark a special day for it, if one uses it every day in all communication?!  But then, thinking this idea over and in looking closely at the context, and my own personal experience in travelling extensively in the region- it dawned upon me:  the Arabic is never really spoken in public. It does not behave like the official languages in other parts of the world. Arabic in Qatar although the official language, in actual fact is only spoken by a minority, the majority speak English, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Indonesian and I think Thai (I don’t know the exact distributions). The schools do not cater to promote proficiency in the teaching of Arabic, and English is becoming ever more popular as a medium of instruction (I will discuss this in the next few posts when reviewing the book chapter I mentioned above). So the result is that the language is in danger of being lost or shifted or…whatever one wishes to label this process- but one fact is real that it is not as stable as a functioning official language should be, hence the worry. Hence the special language festivals and days to mark and reinforce the importance of the language, I cannot say that this is aimed at the non-native speakers for there is also an absence of well organised institutes that teach Arabic as a second language. And the factors go on and on, I will stop now and let you read the  short article pasted without editing and at the bottom some of my thoughts on it:

———————————————————– enjoy!

Qatar University holds Arabic Language Day 

DOHA: Qatar University (QU) College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) held its third Arabic Language Day celebration this week, under the theme ‘My Language and the Other.’

The programme included an exhibition of students’ work highlighting excerpts from Dr Al Bastian’s widely-acclaimed publications, poetry recitation, and discussions on issues of Arab and Islamic communities.

QU VP and Chief Academic Officer Dr Sheikha bint Jabor Al Thani gave the opening address in the presence of Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage H E Dr Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari, guest and founder of the Abdul Aziz Al Babtain Prize for Poetic Creativity Dr Abdul Aziz Al Babtain, members of QU leadership, Supreme Council of Education representatives, CAS Dean and faculty, staff, and students.

Dr Al Thani stressed the importance of promoting and celebrating the Arabic language and highlighted QU’s role in doing so.

“This event encourages communication and interaction with other languages and cultures. Our language is deep-rooted in genuine values and sentiments and is the best channel to showcase our ancient and vibrant heritage. It is everyone’s responsibility to honour our language and we have to exert every effort to develop and preserve it,” she said.

She outlined the many programmes that QU offers especially the Arabic for Non-Native Speakers (ANNS) programme which attracts international students, promotes Arab and Islamic culture, and boosts social and cultural openness.

Minister Al Kuwari pointed out the role the ministry plays to promote Arabic and Islamic language and culture.

He thanked QU for its participation in the activities celebrating Doha as the Capital of Arab Culture 2010.

CAS Dean Dr Kassim Shaaban noted that Arabic Language Day was acknowledged by the Arabic Language, Education, Culture, and Science Organisation (ALECSO) to be celebrated throughout the Arab world. He referred to some of the current challenges the language faces in competition with other languages and dialects.

“This however had the effect of increased awareness and interest in the Arabic language in terms of culture, science, and religion,” he said.

——————————-end

I often talk of the nature of language being more than just words and that seems to be a strong motivation for holding these days/events. Language allows people to understand the culture of the other, for it holds the key to the belief, customs, culture and even way of thinking for the speakers. If the language is lost the culture is lost and it’s as simple as that, I think the more I come across these types of writings the more I am convinced of that fact: language is more than mere words.  At least the Qataris are trying to pre-empt the ‘death’ of their language and by default the death of their customs and culture. I am still on this journey of discovery and I hope one day I will understand the reality of language and its indispensible nature for the human being. Please share your views as always thanks for reading!

————

Sources:

http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/qatar/144591-qatar-university-holds-arabic-language-day.