World Arabic Language Day: Taking steps to protect, promote the language

World Arabic Language Day: Taking steps to protect, promote the language

The Semitic language, which basically started to spread to the Middle East by the 7th century A.D., is now the 6th most spoken language in the world, the official language of 26 states, and is spoken by more than 422 million people worldwide.



The Arabic language is not just a cultural vehicle or a national framework. It is rather a symbol for Islam and Muslims, a strong shield of the Arab civilization, a voice that expresses the identity of the Arab nation and interconnects its people.

Though considered for centuries the predominant language for science, literature and arts, Arabic is now falling prey to a seriously challenging crisis, mainly due to negligence and cultural invasion.

Despite being the language of the Holy Quran, Arabic has become more like a deformed mixture of words coined from other languages, as if the Arabs are no longer proud of their own tongue.

The Semitic language, which basically started to spread to the Middle East by the 7th century A.D., is now the 6th most spoken language in the world, the official language of 26 states, and is spoken by more than 422 million people worldwide.

During the Middle Ages, Arabic was a major vehicle of culture in Europe, especially in science, mathematics and philosophy. Thus, many European languages have borrowed and lent many Arabic words.

Ali Musa, coordinator general of the International Council for Arabic Language, said there is an urgent need to amend the process of Arabic language education. “We have to adopt extensive projects to translate as many foreign international books and encyclopaedias into standard Arabic.”

Dr Redwan Al Dibsi, director of the Arabic Language Protection Society, Sharjah, said the UAE society is suffering a linguistic overlapping because of the many foreigners staying here (over 200 nationalities), let alone the far diverse Arabic dialects.

“It is our duty to protect and speak the Arabic language in every nook and corner of the country. At home, on the street, and in the shopping centres and academic institutions, hold regular Arabic courses for non-Arabic speakers, and make it compulsory for signboards, and recruitment of foreigners.”

There is an urgent need to develop and update Arabic syllabuses, provide schools and colleges with veteran Arabic experts and the latest technologies and equipment. “The UAE Arabic dialect must be protected from others, and we have to open a complex for Arabic language as is the case with Cairo and Damascus.”

Fuad Zaidan, a media person, said the population imbalance and dominance of English, which is widely used in the labour market, pose a grave risk to Arabic.

“We are in need for more associations to protect Arabic, which is undoubtedly a national security issue for being a critical pillar to protect the society, ensure its identity, and sustain citizens’ loyalty,” he said.

Many families are now giving more attention to English instead of Arabic in the hope of better careers, he added. “However, studies and researches have confirmed that proper academic performance at all stages of education may only be achieved through the national Arabic language with enough attention to English.”

Abdullah Ibrahim, chairman of Arabic Language Protection Association in the UAE, said Arabic has fulfilled the society’s needs over decades.

“We should all protect the standard Arabic language, boost its use in all academic institutions, and review learning and teaching techniques and methods, to meet the needs of the age,” he said, urging all the officials concerned to strictly process all government transactions in Arabic as instructed by His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.

Obeid Al Shamsy, assistant director-general, Dubai Municipality, said they have carried out various awareness activities to deepen the basic ideas of the language and create Arabic words for the ever-emerging technical words in the field of job and services.

“We are now publishing an online monthly bulletin for DM employees. It is also conducting training sessions in Arabic calligraphy and Islamic art for the municipality employees as well as for other government departments.”

Answering queries related to the language raised by the employees over various communication channels such as phone and websites is one of the daily activities carried out by the team, he added.

Sherif Al Wakeel, an Egyptian businessman who graduated from Al Azhar University, said he is proud of Arabic as it is very rich and clear both in wording and meaning. “Arabic is the most eloquent language for communication among people.”

Echoing the sentiment, Rania Mohammed, a Syrian, said she likes Arabic because it is the language of Islam, the Holy Quran, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him), and angels. “It is to be spoken in Paradise, and therefore I am training myself to speak standard terms.”

Columnist K.M. Zubair told Khaleej Times that 90 per cent of the world’s Muslims do not speak Arabic as their native language. Yet, when reading the Holy Quran, Arabic rolls off any Muslim’s tongue readily. “Regardless of Muslims’ linguistic, cultural, and racial differences, they form one community of believers, among whom Arabic serves as a common language.”

Though translations have been done into various languages, Muslims still need to make every attempt to understand the rich and poetic classical Arabic language to fully understand the magnificent words of their Lord, he added, urging Arabic speaking countries to launch programmes for this purpose.

Meanwhile, the United Nations is to celebrate December 18 as the first “World Arabic Language Day” to bring around shared values and strengthen the ideas, ambition, culture, and values of the Arab world, and to promote mutual cooperation and sustainable global development at a time when a lot of foreign influence is witnessed in the culture with the integration of six official languages in the nation (French, English, Russian, Spanish, Chinese).

Such a move coincides with an integrated strategy announced by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to establish Dubai as the centre of excellence for the Arabic language, protect and promote the language in the UAE.

“Our national identity is integrally linked to the Arabic language, which serves as an effective medium to express our values, culture and heritage. Promoting the language will enable our future generations to connect with our roots, society and values more effectively.”

Shaikh Mohammad announced wide-ranging initiatives to promote the use of Arabic, including the setting up of an Arabic language charter and the formation of an international committee of experts to promote Arabic as the language of science and technology.

An educational facility is to be set up at Zayed University to promote Arabic education for non-Arabic speakers, and a faculty of translation is to be established at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Media College. There are also plans to enhance Arabic content online, and run poetry, writing, calligraphy and reading competitions for schools.

ahmedshaaban@khaleejtimes.com


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