‘Our language is our identity’
DUBAI // More must be done to preserve the Arabic language, not least the Emirati dialect, and to improve people’s access to learning, experts say.
“Arabic is our identity, our culture and our soul,” said Hanan Al Fardan, founder of Al Ramsa Institute.
“We want the language to survive and we need to preserve and teach it otherwise it will be lost forever. Arabic language brings peace, understanding and love.”
The institute was founded in June 2014 and has taught Emirati Arabic to more than 270 students from many nationalities and backgrounds, said Ms Al Fardan, who praised the recently launched Emirati dialect instructional channel on Youtube, Emirati Arabic.
“There are many people who are interested in learning Arabic but they can’t afford to, especially the Asians,” she said. “Arabic is a non-compulsory language in the UAE and many people can live in the UAE without feeling the need for Arabic. It’s not required for higher education or work.”
Most of the institute’s students were foreigners who were either married to or were about to marry Emiratis, said Ms Al Fardan, although around a quarter are Emirati.
“We have about 25 per cent of our students who are Emirati who had no chance to learn their own dialect from their families and now feel really embarrassed.”
Others simply wanted to be able to communicate better with Arabic-speaking colleagues at work, Ms Al Fardan said.
“We have people who are working in government organisations who want to understand Arabic to build good relationships with their Emirati and Arab colleagues and understand what’s going on in meetings with people shifting to Arabic,” she said.
“Arabic also helps expatriates to get better job opportunities. People learn Emirati Arabic because they love the UAE and the culture.”
Emirati Arabic was set up on Youtube and across other social media platforms earlier this month after its founder, British film-maker Aqeel Ahmed, could not find resources to learn the dialect.
Elsayed Darwish, acting director of Zayed University’s Arabic Institute, agreed that resources remained a challenge.
“Difficulties include a lack of books and educational sources on teaching the Arabic language using modern and interactive methods that are capable of helping students to learn the language fast.”
The Arabic Institute is carrying out a research programme which looks at the preservation of Arabic and the promotion of local heritage and culture.
Plans are under way to increase the number of courses offered and the use of technology in the teaching of language.
“We want to improve the status of the institute to become a research centre which is concerned with the advancement of the Arabic language,” Mr Darwish said.
Updated: November 1, 2015 04:00 AM