Arabic second most common Australian tongue

Syndey Opera House from my Balcony

Image by RobAbroad via Flickr

The last few posts have been somewhat negative and so in a bid to reach a balance I am putting up a positive post today! It is about the number of Arabic speakers in Australia the article appeared in the Strait Times in April 2011, although I was planning to post it up I completely forgot and it’s been in my drafts folder all this time.  The article says that according to the Australian government Arabic language is the second most spoken foreign language in Australia. If you’ve ever been to Australia you will definitely agree with the report it is very possible not only to eat all types of cuisine but to also hear all types of languages spoken by the people ‘down under’ as we call them here in England. The article as usual has no editing apart from the links I have out on the highlighted words.


SYDNEY – ARABIC is the most commonly spoken language after English by young people in Australia, a study has revealed, with about one in eight multilingual children using it at home.

The Australia Early Development Index, a government-backed study of more than 260,000 children in their first year of school, found that 18 per cent spoke a language other than English.

Despite no Arabic nation making the top 15 countries of birth for Australia’s children, some 5,565 spoke the language at home, 11.8 per cent of all multilingual children.

‘The Australian population is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse in the world and this is represented in the children surveyed for the AEDI,’ the study said.

Vietnamese was the second-most prevalent, at 8.4 per cent, followed by Greek, Chinese dialects and Hindi, each spoken by less than 5.0 per cent. England, New Zealand, India and the United States were the top countries of birth after Australia, followed by the Philippines, China, South Africa, South Korea and Sri Lanka. Fewer than 100 children spoke any single local tongue, the study found. — AFP


This has to be good for Intercultural and Multilingual scholars and may perhaps offer other ethnically and linguistically diverse communities a model to follow in language teaching and policy. Australia is one of those countries that has had much linguistic success not just in its language planning and policy but also in keeping alive the local languages that were under threat from English. It would be an idea for some Arab countries to look to Australia for inspiration and ideas- how do you accommodate all these varied and diverse languages and yet still keep the national language as one? I know the histories are different between the Arab world and Australia, and also the situations are different but at least there is one important similarity here: many migrants (workers) and many languages. It will not be a copy and paste operation however it will provide a tried and tested model of successful linguistic diversity management. Just an idea.  I wonder what the linguistic landscape will look like in ten years time when these children become adults.



‘Arabizi is destroying the Arabic language’:Arab News


Image by Travel in Istanbul via Flickr

I saw a link to this article on twitter and thought I’d paste it here and share it with my readers. It discusses the topic of Arabizi (see the page a taste of Arabizi to get an idea of what it is) and how it has become so popular now that there are fears it could destroy the Arabic language in the future. I have pasted it aas usual and there are no changes made to it. I have put some brief comments about it at the bottom, further discussion can be found in earlier posts.



Published: Apr 19, 2011 22:25 Updated: Apr 19, 2011 22:25

JEDDAH: Arabizi, a term that describes a system of writing Arabic in English, is now more popular than ever, especially online.

Parents and teachers are becoming more concerned over the popularity of this new trend. Some see it as a threat to the Arabic language.

A non-English speaker does not need to speak the language to communicate with others in Arabizi. Numbers are also mixed in Arabizi to represent some letters in Arabic, such as 2, 5, 6, 7 and 9.

Most Arab Internet users find this way easier than typing in Arabic. Teachers fear that this will weaken their Arabic language ability or even replace the language in the future. Arabic professional professors from the Arab world consider it a war against the Arabic language to make it disappear in the long run.

Miral Dibawy, a 21-year-old university graduate, is using Arabizi because she finds it easier when typing on the Internet and sending text messages. She also admitted that it has weakened her Arabic language ability when it comes to writing.

“I was so addicted to this language when chatting and sending texts to my friends. When it came to my research paper, I was finding it hard to write in Arabic. I had to write it in Arabizi first and then translated it into Arabic,” said Miral.

She confirmed that she tried many times to write in Arabic or English, but she found it was very difficult because she had become dependent on Arabizi.

“When I start writing in Arabic, I found myself committing many mistakes and typos and sometimes had difficulty finding the words I wanted to express my thoughts.” She said that some writers used Arabizi when writing books and Internet blogs.

Dina Jamal, university student, agreed that Arabizi weakens the Arabic language and said she only uses Arabic or English when communicating online.

“I do not care if Arabizi is modern or elegant, all I care about is protecting my mother language,” she said.

She added that it is sad that people ignore Arabic, the best language to express feelings, and use Arabizi instead. She said that it is better to use it sparingly and only online and not make it a language that in the future could replace Arabic.

Ali Nasser is a private company employee who does not think there is a problem using Arabizi. He said that Arabizi is a valid mode of communication inside the company and used when emailing other co-workers.

“For me, it is difficult to express myself in Arabic. I cannot write slang in Arabic because it is difficult, while in Arabizi I can. I do not see any evidence that Arabizi weakens my Arabic. The same could be said about weakening the English language but it is not true. I think people are oversensitive about this issue.”

Taiba Al-Amoudi, a private middle school Arabic teacher, claimed that Arabizi was negatively affecting her students’ command of the language.

“The student started creating words from Arabizi and using it in their daily conversation and this is negatively affect their Arabic language knowledge,” said Al-Amoudi

Hossam Gouda, an Arabic language teacher at a private school in Jeddah, believes that Arabic speakers must use Arabic only, the same rule applying to other languages.

Gouda said that there had been a noticeable decline in the performance of students when it comes to Arabic.

“Using Arabizi has a negative effect on the Arabic language,” he said.

He confirmed that Arabic speakers must protect the language and make it stronger.

“What’s happening is that Arabic speakers are weakening the language by using Arabizi, and destroying it in the process,” he said.

Gouda added that it’s better to use Arabic online for as long as possible to prevent it from disappearing in the long run.


It seems that Arabizi affects the proficiency of Arabic language in its speakers, interesting to see the views of those for and against this trend. It is not something new but I think many people now are waking up to the fact that there might be a possibility that Arabs will lose their language how unfortunate if that happens! There might be the situation where non-native Arabic speakers will speak and understand Arabic better than the so-called native Arabic speakers. This was an issue I recently wrote about in a book chapter to be published soon, what is the future of the Arabic language among it’s native speakers?



Internet destroys Arabic language or is it the slang?

The weather is looking good these days and let’s hope it stays that way- I must say that it’s distracting me from loads of reading. I think in the winter it’s easier to work as you have no choice but to remain indoors, so you go through books so quickly- there are no picnics, walks or cycling to think about. I am also pleased that the number of subscribers for Arabizi has hit the three figure mark- thanks for trusting and reading my blog! Right back to Arabizi related items, a question should we blame the internet or Arabic slang for weakening the Arabic language? How do we even begin to ascertain that Arabic is being weakened? So many questions and not enough clear and accurate answers. In thinking of those issues I came across this post from:, I have posted it below without editing:


This week, Qantara explores the sometimes-literary Arabic bloggers’ magazineWasla. The magazine culls from blogs around the Arab world and publishes them in a free print magazine; it’s being billed as a bridge between online and offline worlds.

The Qantara piece notes that while Elias Khoury and Sonallah Ibrahim have lauded the activities of young bloggers—Al Masry Al Youm reported that both were interested in being a part of the venture—it quotes other writers, notably Rifat as-Saїd and as-Sayyed Yassin, as calling blogs the result of “political uncertainty and intellectual impoverishment.”

Yes, “intellectual impoverishment.”

Perhaps these are two separate issues, but this split reminded me of a p.s. to a Tanjara report on a discussion between fos’ha Arabic defender Bahaa Taher and colloquial defender Elias Khoury.

During the event’s Q&A:

A young woman in the audience asked Taher what he thinks of new Arab fiction writers. During a recent visit to Egypt she had picked up examples of a novels by young Egyptian writers produced by a small publishing house. Such writers are, for example, “really experimenting and improvising in fus’ha and dialect.” When Taher asked her for an example, she mentioned Ahmed Alaidy’s “Being Abbas el Abd.”

Interesting that Taher focuses here on his “good relations” rather than the art ofBeing Abbas el Abd, but anyhow:

“That’s a very good novel” he responded. “There is a very promising new generation of writers in Egypt in their early twenties: they are presenting a new wave in Egyptian writing which is very welcome. And I can say I have very good relations with all of them including Alaidy.”

Then he tacked on a strong warning:

“They face a problem in a way. They are very talented, they are trying to do things, they are trying to be new blood in Arabic literature especially in Egypt, but they are facing a problem which you have spoken about now – this writing in slang sometimes, and not mastering their own language. Writing in slang they are defeating themselves. Why? I know writers who write in slang and they were very popular like Yusuf Idris [1927-1991] for example, he wrote in slang and he was read all over the Arab world. At that time Egyptian slang was understood everywhere because of Egyptian films, because of Umm Kulthum, because of Abdel-Halim Hafez – the famous Egyptian singers Egyptian slang was common in all the Arab world and could be understood.

“Now the situation has changed. I don’t think that Egyptian slang can be understood in Morocco, Tunisia, as it was before. So they are restricting their readership, this generation of young writers. They wouldn’t have the possibility to address themselves to Arab readers everywhere, they are addressing themselves only to Arab readers in Egypt – or if they are writing in slang in Syria, they are addressing themselves to Syrian readers.”

And, in the other corner, the venerable Elias Khoury:

“I write colloquial, what my friend calls slang. I use colloquial, and I don’t agree with him – I think we have to use colloquial. And when I read any novel in any language there are some parts which I don’t understand – you make an effort, if I am reading an English novel I make an effort. So if you are reading an Arabic novel why not make some effort to understand that the Tunisians say nejim [?] to mean I can? It seems very bizarre to us in the Levant.” (To laughter to he said that ‘ma nejimish’ means “I cannot” and that he knows Tunsian very well). So I don’t agree about this point.I think the only way a language will be alive and renew itself is through the spoken , we cannot write without the spoken. I think one of the merits of what we can learn from the Egyptian novel actually, from writers like Sonallah Ibrahim and others is the use of colloquial.”


Interesting points raised and very enjoyable due to the fact that it was written very well by the author. What would it be like to write a complete novel in slang and read it in slang or colloquial Arabic? It is becoming ever more popular these days and colloquials are easy to understand due to satellite tv in most Arab households? What do the readers think about this point? Does colloquial weaken Arabic or not? It might be nice to start a discussion about that here.