x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Arabic language is losing ground

An Arab writer says educators as well as parents fail to highlight the beauty of Arabic to the younger generation. Other opinion topics: the Iranian election and access to Skype.

Arab youth move away from their native tongue because they feel superior when using English

Headmasters and Arabic teachers in UAE private schools confirmed to a local newspaper last week that parents keep filing requests that their children be spared from Arabic-language lessons. They say that their children will be going on to English-language universities that do not require Arabic.

In yesterday's edition of the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej, Dr Abdullah Al Suweihi said this trend was consistent with a tangible rise in Arabic incompetence among Arab university students who are not only taught in English, but are more comfortable in conversing in that language.

"The danger lies not in the fact that English is the language of instruction, but in that it has become the language of off-campus communication between students and, in some cases, between them and their parents at home," Al Suweihi wrote.

While educators, students and parents have a shared responsibility, the problem is much bigger, he said.

"In fact, the issue is closely linked to the moral value of the language, a value that is derived from the political, scientific, economic, industrial, intellectual, artistic, cultural and social reality of its speakers," the writer observed.

"The younger generation of Arabs shuns Arabic because they feel inferior when they speak in that language. However, they associate English - the global language of science … computers and technology - with privilege, and with belonging to a civilised society."

Swayed by this perceived sense of "belonging", many Arab youth work hard to nurture their non-Arabic culture, by reading English-language books, watching English-language movies and listening to English music, according to the writer.

"It makes them happy to see their interlocutor confused, unable to tell where they are from - the Arab region or elsewhere? It makes them even happier when the interlocutor concludes that they are foreigners."

Families also play a role in this, with relatives of a new graduate showing great pride in his or her perfect English accent, the author went on.

Also, educators and the media have not done enough to generate positive attitudes about Arabic among students and other young people.

"This generation did not come in touch with the beauty of Arabic. Educators and curriculum developers have not been able to present the language in catchy wrappings, nor did the local or pan-Arab media manage to highlight the graces of this language," Al Suweihi noted.

This issue is not just "a matter of letters, words and phrases"; the issue is about "a historical and decisive stance" that all Arabs must take to pump life back into Arabic, before it is too late, the author concluded.

Atmosphere heats up as Iran elections near

The presidential election in Iran is scheduled for June 14.

As the number of potential candidates narrows, one hopes that the election will progress without a hitch, or at least without the kind of violence that followed the previous one, the Cairo-based newspaper Al Ahram said in its editorial yesterday.

With the former pro-reform president, Akbar Hashimi Rafsanjani, joining the fray just before the registration deadline, alongside Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator and close ally of the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the election is sure to be highly charged, the paper said.

Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, the former office manager of the outgoing president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has also registered.

While the candidates will have to wait for Iran's constitutional council to approve their candidacies, analysts are already talking about the three main forces that will drive this election: the reformists and moderates who support Mr Rafsanjani; the youth and the working class who primarily endorse Mr Mashaei's liberal views on culture and society; and the conservatives who will throw their weight behind Mr Jalili.

Irrespective of the outcome, Al Ahram said, Iran will remain "an important country in the region with an essential role to play in building regional stability and peace."

People in UAE deserve access to Skype

A story on penalties for using Skype in the UAE appeared on the front page of the Dubai-based newspaper Al Emarat Al Youm on Sunday with the headline: Jail or fine for users of Skype phone service.

The information was immediately denied by the country's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), which said in a statement: "In reference to the article published in Al Emarat Al Youm on the penalties of using Skype, attributing certain statements to the TRA: the TRA hereby confirms that it did not make any such statements."

In yesterday's edition of the newspaper, Sami Al Reyami, the editor in chief, conceded that misconstructions sometimes happen in journalism. However, he said that the TRA's denial implied confirmation of an equally important piece of information: Skype is a phone service that does not violate the law, which means that users can take advantage of all of its services without any condition or restriction.

"I hope the TRA is not going to deny it this time around," Al Reyami wrote. "This is good news for users of Skype, a phone service that is available in most countries of the world free of charge. We are an advanced nation in terms of technology and telecommunications, and our users deserve the same access."

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi

aelbahi@thenational.ae