x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Bel Arabi encourages Arabs to Tweet, Facebook, and Instagram only in Arabic for 24 hours

The Bel Arabi initiative will kick off at midnight on December 18 and will encourage youth across the Arab world encouraged to communicate only in Arabic throughout the day across all social media platforms.

ABU DHABI // Arabic youths worldwide are being asked to write only in their native language on social media for a day.

The request is part of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation’s Bel Arabi (In Arabic) initiative, which begins at midnight on December 18.

The campaign is aiming to encourage the use of Arabic among the younger generation.

“This initiative will help protect and promote the Arabic language, which is a part of our core objective,” said Jamal bin Huwaireb, managing director of the foundation.

“The language is spoken by nearly half a billion people around the world and carries the region’s identity, values and vision as a unique agent of cultural diversity.”

The foundation launched the initiative after being approached by a group of students from colleges and universities across the UAE.

Mehdi Al Ghafari, 23, who is credited with coming up with the idea, said he was grateful it was becoming a reality.

“Among the half a billion people who speak Arabic as a native language, only 140 million people use the internet,” said Mr Al Ghafari, an engineering graduate from the American University of Sharjah.

“The Bel Arabi initiative will encourage this entire population base to express its love for the mother language.”

The foundation will collaborate with educational institutions including the Higher Colleges of Technology.

“There is an urgent need to encourage the use of the Arabic language among our youth,” said Dr Tayeb Kamali, vice chancellor of HCT.

He said the colleges had introduced several key initiatives to the curriculum to facilitate and promote the use of Arabic. These include a dean of Arabic being appointed.

“We will encourage students to publish tweets in Arabic as it is important for our institute to reinforce the Arabic language among our students,” Dr Kamali said.

Emirati Amal Al Maamari, 33, a mother of three in Abu Dhabi, supports the initiative.

“Children are not taught classical Arabic anymore and speak the dialects they are brought up with,” she said.

She said this discouraged youngsters from using Arabic on a computer because much was lost in translation between different dialects, causing misunderstandings.

“When I was in school in the 1990s, classical Arabic was taught in Arabic and Islamic studies class,” she said. “Now the children are taught in colloquial and pass these classes without learning the classical Arabic.

“We need to focus on teaching them classical Arabic from a young age and introducing typing in Arabic at the high school or higher education level.”

Mr bin Huwaireb added: “At a time when the Arab world is looking to emerge as a global powerhouse, the use of the Arabic language will serve as a cohesive force in projecting a strong regional voice.”

The online initiative is set to coincide with the first United Nations Arabic Language Day, on December 18, and will last for 24 hours.

tsubaihi@thenational.ae