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The death of the Arabic language? 26, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East.
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Many people in the Gulf that I’ve spoken to in recent years fear greatly for the future of the Arabic language. This is to some perhaps surprising. It is difficult to countenance the notion of a people forsaking their own language when it is such a key feature of their religion, life and culture. Yet although Arabic will clearly never disappear, fears of its increasing marginalisation are real.

Abbas Al Tonsi, known to many an Arabic student for co-authoring the Arabic language text-book Al Kitab, has verbalised these fears. There are primarily two factors at play.

Firstly, the march of the English language, the lingua franca of business and economics as well as a whole host of other spheres, is continuing apace. In – as they say – an ever more globalized world, a firm grasp of English is becoming ever more important. Gulf countries are switching their education systems from Arabic-focused to English-focused to supply their future generations with one of the key skills enabling them and their country to compete effectively: English.

Secondly, compounding this problem, Al Tonsi places the blame on Arabic schools whose teaching styles, as anyone who as been in a government school in the Gulf can testify, leave a lot to be desired. Rote learning, drilling and grammar and emphasized ad nauseum, which is quite at odds with more advanced and interactive methods used in teaching English.