How do we protect Arabic for the future?

Kuwait is in practice a bilingual country. Arabic is the official language but English is fast gaining as the business of language, government and society. There are both positive and negative effects to consider. English is the global language of business and commerce and if Kuwait hopes to compete on the world stage, it and its citizens must embrace English. At the same time, Arabic is a beautiful and important part of our heritage and hopefully, our future. So I want to know: “How do Kuwaitis view their Arabic language and its future?”

There are some concerns that the English language will eventually rival Arabic in the entire Arabian peninsula, and when a nation’s identity is interwoven with its language, these concerns are increasingly critical to our self-image. In this article, I will strictly stress the reality of the situation of my country, Kuwait, that parallels the bulk of the GCC states.
Kuwaitis do use English in shopping malls, in school, in restaurants, and often in the comfort of their own homes when communicating with their children’s nanny or their house help. In the past 20 years, it used to be that we learned English from our school’s curriculum.

But now, even this task is completed by our Asian nannies whose knowledge of English is usually enough for us to communicate with them. Speaking English at home with the help, rather than struggling to teach them basic Arabic, also affords families a bit of privacy. They can language shift to Arabic whenever they want to exercise their privacy. So, when Kuwaitis account for only about a third of the population, should we be concerned about Arabic becoming irrelevant or unnecessary?

In Islam, we believe that the Holy Quran is forever divinely protected, that ensures to us that Arabic will be eternal as well. Arabic once surpassed Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Persian as the language of philosophy and science during the Dark Ages of Europe. But now, the global lingua franca is now English.

In my opinion, all we can do as people from the Arab world is to optimize the chances that Arabic will never come second to English in our countries via inserting Arabic in every technical terminology in any field and replace English with Arabic as the language of pop culture, i.e. movies and videogames and social media, to ensure that English stays as a temporary necessity for gaining momentum in our educational endeavors and business interactions. This is the most humble effort toward the security to our identity, because of the fact that nations’ ideology is only “packaged” by their language, not by their countries geography nor their racial chromosomes.

By Jeri Al-Jeri
[email protected]

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