x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Teaching Arabic needs serious push

Action is needed to revive Arabic from its current state of decline.

With approximately 400 million fluent Arabic speakers worldwide and a billion more Muslims who have at least some working knowledge of the language, it would be absurd to suggest that Arabic faces extinction.

But there is little doubt that it finds itself challenged like never before.

Despite those millions who do speak Arabic every day, a number of experts claim the language is in decline, citing such factors as globalisation, colonialism and the increasing influence of other languages, especially English, as reasons for this grim assessment.

Many young Arabs now prefer to either speak a foreign language or a hybrid, popularly known as "Arabizi", that relies heavily on imported words.

Unfortunately, some of Arabic's problems are also self-inflicted. Outdated, monotonous and often lackadaisical teaching methods in schools ensure many students drop Arabic studies as soon as they are allowed to.

One frustrated parent in Dubai described Arabic lessons at her children's school as a "disaster".

Talking to The National, she said: "I had to choose between a school which is good in Arabic or the overall quality of education. I chose the latter. Unfortunately there is no respectable school which can provide both."

Reinvigorating teaching methods and investing in classroom resources can help tackle this issue - a feeling echoed by Dr Farouk El Baz, the chairman of a panel convened to investigate the state of Arabic, who said: "We need to teach it as you would a science - start with the basics and slowly build on that."

Of course that will not happen overnight, but steps must be taken to foster a culture of reading, writing and speaking Arabic among all students at all schools in this country.

Hiring top-quality teachers would help too, as would encouraging international schools to treat Arabic as a core subject, rather than as a necessary but essentially unloved adjunct to the portfolio of core subjects they offer.