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






8 thoughts on “Language of instruction: how Qatari ambition just does not stop!

  1. Jonas Rye Nielsen

    Thank you for another good article 😉 It is really interesting if you look at how they will invent the technical terms 🙂 I think they will be inspired by the language academies and the methods used there. What do you think?

    And by the way the statement “students were made to concentrate on the learning of English rather than the subject” is so true and it is not just in the Arabic world English is being used as a teaching tool, which makes it harder to study, because the best way to being taught and learn is in your native tong since it is only here you internally formulate new concepts and learn new material. So let´s stick to our languages and then learn English in order to communicate internationally 🙂

    1. Thanks Jonas for the constructive message, I’m glad you liked the short post. You raise some nice points, I think you are right they might depend, at least initially, on the academies. Right now these Arabic language academies (Cairo, Damascus etc…) are in the background working away to create a corpus of Arabic words that are not borrowed from English or French, and that they hope will be sufficient for academic use. The problem is until now, nobody really knows how they do this or to what extent they all agree on these words that they claim are ‘purely’ Arabic. Perhaps this might be a chance for them to have people use these words in ‘real life’? That for me is the most interesting part of this plan- the Arabization.

      Your comment about the learning of English rather than the subject itself reminds me of Tove Skutnabb-Kangas’s 2008 work titled: ‘Linguistic genocide in education- or worldwide diversity in humanrights?’where she surveys how in some countries in the name of education English takes over and the mother-toingue is lost. Right now I think Qatar is thinking in that mode, let’s give the right education, at the right level but in our language, without getting rid of English altogether. Thanks for stopping by as always.

  2. Wafi

    I’m trying to collect sources for my research topic, which will be about “Arabized English words among Arabic-English bilinguals as prestigious form.” In fact, I did not find enough sources to begin with, and I am wondering if this has not been researched yet or what? To make it clear, the following are some examples of Arabized English lexemes:
    يفبرك، تفبرك، تفبرك، فبركه، ….
    يشيك، شيك، تشييك،…..
    يفرمت، فرمته، مفرمت،….
    يبلف، بلف، مبلوف،….
    Please, if you have any Idea or SOURCE on this topic

    1. Hello thanks for stopping by. Yes there is infact work being done on this topic right now. The examples you give are a good example of prestigious forms used by Arabic- English bilinguals. There are other examples such as:دلت يدلت ‘to delete’ OR فول يفول ‘to file’ sorry I have no harakaat (diacritic markings) so I can’t show the stress (shaddah) but that’s the idea :)- it’s a form that shows the listener that the speaker is “educated”. Please email me at: and I will send you what ever I have in the meantime I’ll email my colleague and see if she can send me some of her data- I hope that helps.

  3. Toni Hassoun

    I can’t really do anything but admire your blog… very unique and I hope you keep blogging…I find myself looking forward to the next one. Thanks for this good news Arabic is taught to Arabs at last…thanks

  4. Reema Masud

    Lovely post happy that they will do this soon, when I was in Qatar they taught only in English and many of my friends failed English enterance exam. I wanted to say thanks for the blog it gives a refreshing touch to the old debate of Arabic being in danger among the peoples of Arabic- shokran.

  5. Arron

    It’s really a great and useful piece of information. I am happy that you at last some one in one of those universities decided to think of the obvious and teach in Arabic. I would respect people more if they kept to their language….thank you for updating us as always 🙂

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