Efforts to ensure proper transmission of Arabic continue

The efforts to save, preserve, promote, transmit, and teach Arabic in the Gulf countries continues into 2016. In January the WORAL (World Organisation for Renaissance of Arabic Language) met in Qatar to discuss how Arabic speaking countries and scholars can work harder to ensure that younger generations of Arabic speakers get the best opportunity to properly learn their language.

In her keynote speech Sheikha Moza, the chairperson of the Qatar Foundation outlined a number of ways in which she believes that the Arabic language can be better transmitted to the next generation and hence firmly preserved:

  1. The “proper” use of technology: I like this one very much actually because instead of criticising technology, she advocates that it be embraced but used to its full potential and in this case to support the Arabic language. This is similar to other efforts across the region to use technology as one effective way of teaching Arabic to children without making it feel as if it is a burden (I will be writing a separate post about technology and language learning).
  2. The simplification of the Arabic curriculum as it currently stands: Yes please, a simplification is needed, I have said before that much of the curriculum on Arabic depends on rote teaching methods or the learning of texts that can never truly benefit a child of today. I am not against the learning and mastering of old important canonical texts, poetry and writings I just think these things can be better planned and distributed across the Arabic language education of a child (spanning over their years of education). We need those old texts because they add a rich context to language learning and in some cases they assist the student to remember grammar rules or certain complex syntactic structures. With much research on language acquisition (both first language, second language, and now increasingly heritage language acquisition) there is no excuse not to implement some of those findings into the education curriculum (especially) because of our globalised world today. By compartmentalising different aspects of the Arabic language and teaching those aspects at different stages (and ages) whilst taking into account the fact that children are constantly exposed to other languages and dialects, perhaps there will be a better chance for them to master Arabic- just not the way their parents did!
  3. The absolute use of Standard Arabic by experts and academics on television: Actually the suggestion was to “force” television programmes to use Standard Arabic, which can be a very hard goal to attain especially if television producers and writers should have a choice of what language(s) their programmes air in. If this rule is imposed and adhered to, it means that anybody appearing on television interviews or the like will have to speak in formal Arabic. A form they do not use in their everyday communication, for some people it may be hard and for others it may be inauthentic. To implement these laws is always so difficult because some speakers will interpret that as a way of controlling how they speak and perhaps even what they (should) mean. Some have suggested that different genres of TV should be required to use different types of Arabic (as I think they do so now), so news, documentaries and the like should use FuSHa (Standard Arabic. Whereas, other shows could be free to use a form of Standard Arabic but mix it with Spoken Arabic.
  4. The coming together of scholars, intellectuals, and other important figures to promote the use of the Arabic language: Anyone who works in language revitalisation, language planning or language curriculum planning would agree with this. It isn’t just the coming together, there has to be some unification and uniformity in the decisions that are made. Difference of opinion in grammar is not a bad thing and anyone who has studied Arabic enough knows that there have always been opinions and camps when it comes to Arabic grammar. But in all that difference of opinion there was a uniformity which is perhaps missing today. The other factor to think about is that globalisation and technology have definitely played a huge role in changing the way native speakers learn Arabic today. Arabic was once the language of enlightenment and technology of the day and so native speakers of Arabic, like native speakers of English today, did not have to work hard to learn the language. It was everywhere, it was the language everyone learned in order to access knowledge. Today the language of education and technology is English, and so speakers of Arabic have to learn English in order to access that knowledge. The challenge therefore is to strike a balance between learning English for advancement and contribution to the world and mastering their mother tongue the Arabic language. The Arabic language which carries the rich, complex and fascinating culture and world view of their forefathers. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.

The WORAL also held workshops and talks covering the following topics: Realities of the Arab Child’s Linguistic Upbringing’; ‘The Effects of Children’s Exposure to Current Arabic Media Content’; and ‘Alternatives to Develop the Arab Child’s Linguistic Future’.  Through four interactive workshops — ‘The Development of Arabic Language Skills for Children’; ‘Creative Writing for Children’; ‘Children’s Programmes on Radio and Television’; and ‘Modern Techniques to Enhance Children’s Use of the Arabic Language’. The even organisers confirm that 300 leading language experts met to discuss these issues and find a way forward. I am in the process of trying to get hold of the report or any written notes from the conference.

Qatar has also implemented some of what it has been saying for the last few years. That Arabic needs to become a language of academia if it is to be preserved, but importantly if it is to make important contributions to knowledge and learning. They did this in two ways: first by improving the Arabic language program at Qatar University and raising the points (grades) which a student needs in order to study an Arabic language degree. Their argument is that if the bar is raised for Arabic language, that will push high schools and colleges to better prepare their students for the degree. In turn this will create a shift in how Arabic is taught in schools in the pre-university stage. They aim to change the way Arabic language is socially viewed because in many Arabic speaking countries students’ university studies are determined by their final high school/college marks. The very brilliant students can go into the sciences, engineering and medicine, and those who do not do well have no choice but to go into Arabic language or Islamic studies! And very few end up in humanities (that’s a topic for another post). This then creates a social ideology about the Arabic language- mastering it is only for those who can’t do sciences, those who cannot think deeply or process complex ideas.

The second thing Qatar has done to combat this ideology and the way Arabic language is viewed is through the opening of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. A state-of-the-art university that primarily teaches in Arabic the following subjects: history, Arabic language and linguistics, media and cultural studies, philosophy and others soon to be added. They emphasise that students need to have a high proficiency of Arabic as well as English. They intend to publish papers, books and journals in Arabic and to make it a research-itensive university on an international level. This way they hope the Arabic language can not only be present in academia but that through the use of Arabic for technical subjects new ‘Arabised’ words can be created. This will put an end to transliterating words from English or French, and instead it will allow for agreed upon Arabic terminology (of course it will still be based on the original English or French). Thus making the Arabic language very relevant in academia and knowledge therefore cementing its future in the lives of native Arabic speakers (I will write more about the institute as I learn about it). It is ambitious but at least they are putting their talk to the test by walking it!

The deterioration in the proficiency of the Arabic language among native speaking children has been a topic of concern among Arabic teachers, educators and policy makers for a while, but the last 5 years has seen an increase in that concern. The steps that Qatar is taking now are based on those concerns, the only question is- will these steps be effective?

Sources:

http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/news/qatar/366681/renaissance-of-arabic-language-forum-from-wednesday/

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/qatar/qatar-to-host-arabic-language-renaissance-forum-1.1656068/

http://www.gulf-times.com/story/475962/Call-to-protect-and-preserve-the-Arabic-language/

http://www.qna.org.qa/en-us/News/16012015090048/The-Second-Renaissance-of-Arabic-Language-Forum-Kicks-Off/

http://dohanews.co/doha-institute-graduate-studies-prepares-open-fall/

That New York Times article, what I really meant & other updates

Many of you know that I participated in a New York Times article discussing the language of instruction in higher education in the Gulf with special interest on Qatar (which has now been copied, pasted, and quoted in many other forums, newspapers and blogs). To get to the point, some readers found it offensive that I blamed the Thai/Philippine accent on the demise or weakness of Arabic among Gulf speakers- I did not. I did not blame any accent and really to make a relationship between the two is nonsensical, immature and unheard of in linguistics. What readers must appreciate is, that the journalist will interview the participant for 15-20 minutes and then he’ll pick and choose which quotes look good where. He has to build his story, each writer has a focus and intention behind the questions they ask and how they want their readers to understand their story of interest. The other thing is that the journalist is not a linguist and so cannot be blamed for linguistic/language learning misconceptions misread in the article, the onus is on us linguists to deliver the correct information. I did explain this on Twitter but felt compelled to do so here in case the same was felt by other readers, this is not an apology – just a clarification. Why did I say that some children in the Gulf speak with a Thai of Philippine accent? Simply to illustrate to the writer the multicultural multilingual environment many children in the gulf grow up in. With domestic maids from the Far East many children’s initial exposure to English is through these maids and so if their parents speak no English (or very bad English) they can only learn from the maids hence the acquisition of the accent.  Thereafter, throughout their lives the linguistic landscape of young people growing up in the Gulf gets ever more complex and in the end everyone worries about the status of Arabic language and it’s future (not to mention the poor English standards as well) etc….something I’ve talked about before on this blog and at length in a book chapter I wrote last year (“Ahyaanan I text in English ‘ashaan it’s ashal: Language Crisis or Linguistic Development? The Case of How Gulf Arabs Perceive the Future of their Language, Culture, and Identity” a bit of a mouthful).  As always I am open to comments/ discussion on this if anyone wishes, just leave a comment on the blog and I’ll be happy to reply.

On a different note, Twitter is now available in Arabic!!! Which means that people who prefer to use the Arabic version can without any worries (simply choose Arabic under languages). There are adequate substitutes for retweet, favourite, direct message and we are still working to translate words so they make sense in Arabic properly (not half-baked translations). If you are on Twitter and wish to follow the progress of this development or wish to participate follow @taghreedat for more info. There are also efforts by the founders of Taghreedat to make the first collaborative online Arabic dictionary so far it’s going well and I’ll update you as more information comes through.

My next post will be on naming rights as an outcome of strong and cultured civilization and what language has to do with it all, it will be based on a video lecture which I will put up….I promise you it will be an interesting video to watch. That may well be the last post (I might also get a guest post on Arabic and humour :))  for a while and I’ll hopefully resume posting after September depending on my thesis writing/revision commitments at the time. Without intending to nag anyone, please avoid plagiarising from this blog, as I hate receiving emails from teachers and tutors about that, at the moment I have been advised to move the site to another platform…please stop copying simply refer to my sources or quote the blog URL (which I usually give permission for, after an email from the student).  Thank you for comments, emails, questions and welcome to new readers from Tunisia, Nicaragua and Poland!

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

 

Qatari Arabization of Twitter: Where even the smile is Arabic!

Qatar, the beautiful hot Gulf country, is small and it might be quite possible to travel the whole country in one day, but it has not allowed its size to affect its place in the modern world. Everywhere you read the name Qatar is present, sports, education, politics, and one wonders is there a way stop this creative country moving forward? I think not. If Qatar continues to move the way it is today, it will become a huge, effective and influential global leader- no exaggeration. Neither am I praising Qatar for my own ends- I am simply stating a fact.  Most recently whilst I visited Doha during  the wonderful month of Ramadan, I learned that the Qatar Foundation had agreed to support an idea to increase the content of Arabic language on Twitter. The post is long overdue but as usual, I will use the age-old excuse of being busy due to other writing commitments.

This post is about the vision and idea of a student by the name of Fatima Al Khater, who wanted to see more Arabic content on twitter, and had consequently suggested that the 31st of May of each year be a day in which everybody tweets in Arabic only.  She says that she never realised that her idea would grow into something so big and that the Qatar Foundation would help her realise her vision, and that it would become an everyday thing. But this is exactly what happened through the Qatar Foundation’s coordination and the help of the Qatar Debates and their director Dr. Hayat Marafee. A debate was hosted, in August, at the Weill Cornell Medical College (Doha) with the title: “This house believes that the advantages of Arabic content on the internet outweigh the disadvantages”. Qatar debates is an established centre that trains young people in Qatar and the Middle East in the art of debating. An important skill I think especially when people do not share the same views, they have to learn how to put their views across and still respect the other side. The debate, of course, had two sides, those who put forward the advantages and those who put forward the disadvantages, and the debaters were high school and university students. It was interesting, stimulating and in the end the advantages of having more Arabic content online was the side that received most support from the huge audience that attended. Attendees came from Canada, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, Bahrain and the UAE, and each went back as an ambassador for tweeting in Arabic.

Qatar foundation is known for its immense care and attention it gives young people in Qatar and in the Arab world in general because it sees them as future leaders and people who will make a difference; the current growing interest and success in this project is evidence of the foundation’s good intentions. Dr. Hayat al Marafi the executive director of Qatar Debate, said that supporting this idea was based on their willingness to support anything that contributed towards the preservation and promotion of Arabic language. She also mentioned that they as a trust have published the first book on ‘the art of debating’ in Arabic language and they hoped to soon hold an inter-university debate between 12 Arab countries. 

The call or main aim of this debate was to raise awareness about the idea of increasing Arabic content online first through Twitter and then through other sites. Fatima al Khater said in her speech at the debate, that she wanted all young people, in all spheres of life and sectors to be conscious of how they used Arabic language. In addition to that she asked for them to publicise the plans to others so that most, if not all, Arabic Twitter users can tweet in Arabic language- and correctly too. I know we have discussed on this blog many times the fact that Arabic language is sometimes not used well, and at other times its importance is overlooked, as I pointed out in the last post.  Such an initiative is a reaction; to some of those feelings speakers of Arabic language have about how they have neglected their language.

The increase in Arabic content will be done through ‘Arabic Twitter ambassadors’ those who will act as role models in tweeting in Arabic, instead of English. This way each ambassador’s followers will be encouraged to tweet in Arabic even if they thought they could not.  Some of these ambassadors have over 4-5,000 followers…the numbers of people reached will be many. Despite the huge number of Arabic Twitter users there is still not a huge linguistic representation of Arabic language on Twitter. Apart from the odd proverbs, verses from the Quran and some broken Arabic one is hard pressed to find tweets back and forth on everyday matters in Arabic only.  Since returning from Doha last month, I have seen a change in the way that a lot of people use Twitter, there is a huge support for this initiative and efforts are being made by users to tweet in Arabic.

Nearly every concept on Twitter has been replaced with an Arabic equivalent (I know some translators or believers in non-equivalence are unhappy with this statement. I know sometimes words can never have translations or equivalents; like the English concept of privacy does not exist in Russian— but I make my point here in a general way) and transliteration is not used. Concepts and words like, follow, followfriday(#FF), followers, tweet (s), hash tag, retweet, mention, and trending topic are all now used in Arabic by those who choose to. Even further is the move from using J the colon, dash and closed bracket to create a smile, to using the third letter in the Arabic alphabet (taa ت) to symbolise a smile – that is creative! All these changes and substitutes are a result of the ambassador’s creativity.

Every day an ambassador posts up a short essay/article about Arabic language (they tweet the URL so we can go and read it in full), some are small notes on how to use Arabic correctly, and others are facts about Arabic language and Twitter and so on.

The complaint is always that ‘well we can’t use Arabic on the internet because it does not accommodate for us, therefore we can only use English’—not anymore! Something else that is exciting is the type of Arabic that will be used given the 140 characters limit, and how with that restriction Arabic language rules are still to be respected. It will also contribute to the wider interest and research in Arabic language and the world of social networking.

Many Arabic twitter users are so excited with this, it is new and it will be a while before we can say “yes Twitter has been Arabized” but so far it seems to be doing well. For one thing, it is an idea that has come to life, and has provided a tool for those who feel strongly about Arabic language presence online. Now it is a matter of choice, if you want to use it you can. It is also a matter of content, the mere presence of Arabic letters is not enough, does the content enhance proficiency in Arabic language? Does it promote correct usage of the language?  When the answers to these questions are yes, then we can say, “Twitter has been Arabized”, but until then it is a process in the making.

If you have a Twitter account go in and see @Taghreedat , the master tweeter in the Arabizing of Twitter. The hash tag used is #letstweetinarabic…I have not publicized personal Twitter accounts of any of the ambassadors due to privacy laws…but if you read Arabic you can easily find them through the master account I named above… I would love to hear your thoughts on this small post as always.

Arabic teaching methods need to be upgraded

Books

Image by Rodrigo Galindez via Flickr

I am putting something here about the work one person is doing to promote the teaching of Arabic to children outside the Arab world. Here is the piece below, without editing as usual- enjoy.

—————-

Jinanne Tabra is promoting Arabic learning among children living outside the Arab region .Doha-May 25, 2011: It is time to upgrade Arabic learning approaches among children as the current ones are “outdated” and “lacking fun elements” which can attract children to learn the language, said Jinanne Tabra, entrepreneur and founder of ARABOH.com.

Tabra, who used to find learning Arabic an “awful burden” during her school days, has started an internationally acclaimed project to help make Arabic easier and more interesting for children, particularly those living outside the Arab region.

“I believe that we do need to look for more effective methods for Arabic teaching in which fun should be a key element,” she said to students at her former school, Qatar Academy, a member of Qatar Foundation.

While still a business student at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar – also a part of Qatar Foundation – Jinanne Tabra realized that Arabs living outside the Middle East had very few options for buying Arab language literature. So shortly after graduation, she founded Araboh.com, one of the first, and most successful, online bookstores dedicated to the Arabic language.

A graduate of business from Carnegie Mellon University‘s Qatar Foundation campus in 2008, CEO Middle East magazine named her as one of the “Top 30 under 30” and her company has become a vital resource for Arabs around the world.The online bookstore – which has sold thousands of books around the world and grown by 200% during the past three years – is now in the process of establishing a branch of her company in the US as part of an expansion plan for the company.

“I believe there is a need for the very best Arabic educational tools to be made available for every family living in non-Arab countries. I believe our children should feel proud to be Arabs and promote the true message of Arab peace throughout the world. I believe this has never been as important as it is today,” Tabra explained. Araboh.com is now visiting schools in Qatar and UAE and hosting Arabic language festivals to promote the language among children.

“We have high standards for books we are selling. They must be fun and attractive,” she said, describing the online bookstore that now delivers books to young Arabic learners in 50 countries around the world. Tabra describes her constant surprise at the achievement her bookstore has become, especially considering her dislike of learning and Arabic.

Born in the UK to a Scottish mother and Iraqi father, Tabra had very few resources for Arabic learning while growing up. She spent ten years in Scotland before her family moved to the Gulf.

“During these years I was struggling to learn Arabic with other Arab children, but the books were very boring and difficult to understand. I hated Arabic so much. The text books were boring and I was a slow reader,” Jinanne told the Qatar Academy grade five students. Jinanne, who maintains that studying at Qatar FoundationQatar Foundation has armed her with the attitude, knowledge and skills needed to achieve great things, stressed that she was not financially driven when she started her business.

“It was passion rather than business which led me to start this project. I was looking for a meaningful thing and seeking for a goal to pursue. And I found that Arabic was a worthwhile goal. I want to promote it to be the first language in the world,” she said.

—— end

Brilliant achievement and I think she has realised something we all realised as young students learning Arabic- the resources were not so great. Filling this gap might actually help students better their Arabic language proficiency and perhaps even love the Arabic language. If one loves a language they then move on to do great things with that language like writing high quality books (and not just translations, no offence to translators they do an absolutely marvellous job) in all areas of reading not just literature. There is a real need to write self-help book in Arabic language by someone who understands the Arab lifestyle and way of being, translations are good but a book that uses examples the readers relate to in reality are always better.  I think she has begun something great and that the next 50 years are bright for Arabic publishing as the demand for good high quality works will ensure this.  I also think that the Arabic teachers in the Arab countries can also take tips on how to improve their resources, although here the intention was to make books for students outside the Arab world I think the region itself is in as much need of those much improved books too (and a renewed teaching style but that’s another topic for another day). There needs to be a change in the resources and in how the students are taught that way students all over the world can learn Arabic in a way that keeps them motivated. It’s all good…slowly but surely.

Source: http://www.zawya.com/story.cfm/sidZAWYA20110525122613

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.

 Source:

http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/qatar/155054-law-on-anvil-to-make-arabic-must-on-billboards.html

Arabic language day: Qatari style

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

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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:

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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.

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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!

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Sources:

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