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the Libyan people will soon be saved from this situation our prayers are with them).The other one is a review of an unpublished book chapter that I was sent a while ago, and it addresses the effects of the English language on the Arabic language in Gulf schools- anyone interested should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:
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.
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!