Welcome to the Arabic Language Discussion Forum
Being a retired professor of Arabic and Linguistics, I have elected to publish an archive on how the Arabic language is used in America and across cultures.
I hope to establish a dialogue with people interested in the language, the teaching of the language, the learning of the language, and the interaction of Arabic and English while learning the language.
I am also interested in having a discussion as to the use of Arabic within the contexts of globalization.
Arabic is very much a language that binds a culture and defines a people. This blog is dedicated to understanding how American use, learn, and teach the Arabic language, and how Arabic, in Arab countries has been impacted crossculturally.
Dec 28, 2009
Nov 30, 2009
In the previous post "Which Arabic Ought to be Taught," I discussed the ongoing debates between Arabic professors about how to begin Arabic teaching, i.e. the use of colloquial versus MSA.
Recently, I read an article I thought might be of interest to all of us, and specially to those teaching Arabic to Arabic speakers.
A study conducted by Dr. Raphiq Ibrahim and published in the Journal of Psychology Research and Behavior Management examined the "cognitive status of spoken Arabic versus MSA in the brain."
Dr. Ibrahim concluded that MSA is "expressed in the brain of an Arabic speaker as a second language and not as a mother tongue."
I have always discussed with my students, the difference between MSA and colloquial, and pointed out exactly what Dr. Ibrahim has stated in his study. However, my discussions were not based on any concrete research. It was simply common sense.
It is, however, important to examine the learning of Arabic, both literary and spoken, within the proper domain of language acquisition: first and second language acquisition.
Doesn't this imply that the instruction of Arabic to Arabic speakers ought to use new techniques?
Specially the teaching of Arabic in the Arab world.
Read the whole article on Dr. Ibrahim's study in Science News, and do post your comments.
Nov 18, 2009
Nov 2, 2009
A call for papers to be published in an issue of The International Journal of the Sociology of Language prompted me to write this post. The theme of the issue is "Language and Religion." It is, nowadays, a very a propos topic.
The question is how does religion impact a language? This can partially be answered by examining, as an example, the use of Arabic in the US.
Religion is one form of identity, and when identity formation is sought, the need for ideological support arises. There is no question that there is a religious revival among Arab Americans Muslims, and Muslims in general in the US. It is an extension of the religious revival that has occurred in the Arab world and Muslim world.
The cause of such revival, although interesting, is not the topic of discussion on this post.
The question is how does religion play a role in the maintenance /shift of the Arabic language among Arab American Muslims?
Most studies of minority languages or ethnic languages are consistent in their conclusions that the use of ethnic language gradually decreases with successive generations due to a process of assimilation. There are certain events, however, that might lead to an ethnic revival. Religion is one such event.
The earliest groups of Arab Americans, those who immigrated after World War II, Christian and Muslims, tried to disassociate themselves from their ethnic heritage, especially its language, because of how they were viewed by others. Actually, as a reaction to the prevailing anti-ethnic feeling and the pressure of conformity and assimilation, some Arab Americans went so far as to Anglicize their names to escape discrimination at work or when applying for jobs, such as: Mohmad became Mike, Saleh became Sally, Bushra became Bouchard...etc.
Since the mid 1960s there has been a shift toward acceptance of ethnicity. This shift is due to three major social changes, both in the US and the Arab world: the civil rights movement in the US; the convoluted political events widespread in the Arab word continue to provide strong reasons for immigration, hence, the number of fluent speakers is increasing in the US; the revival of Muslim identity has created a need for the language with which one can fulfill his/her religious duties. In other words, this revival of Muslim identity has created a special function for Arabic - a religious function - because only Arabic can be used to fulfill the obligation of the most important pillar of Islam, the prayer.
This revival of Muslim identity is apparent on Fridays in Dearborn, Michigan, where most mosques are full at the time of the noon prayer and where women walk to the mosques wearing Islamic attire.
Did the political events following the 9/11 attack on the US affect the maintenance of Arabic among Arab American Muslims? It did not.
Recently, in Detroit, there has bee a revival in the use of Arabic among Arab Americans. This revival is reflected in the increasing number of Arabic television programs, newspapers, and cable networks that transmit directly from the Arab world. Furthermore, national religious academies have been established; private schools, where Arabic and Islamic studies are taught, have been opened. Arabic as a foreign language is taught in some public schools. Moreover, there is a definite increase in enrollment in Arabic classes in universities in Michigan, as well as other American universities (see post 8/26/09 on Can Arabic Survive in America).
I would like to conclude this post by stressing the fact that although religion is related to the maintenance of Arabic in the US, increasing interest in the Arab world plays also a major role in the preservation and expansion of the language among Arab Americans and many Americans with no Arabic background. This is mainly due to political and economic reasons.
There are many other examples where religion plays an important role in the maintenance, shift or revival of a language.
Any contribution to this topic is welcomed.
Oct 26, 2009
Professor Fallou Ngom commented on my previous post 'Spoken Languages - Foreign Scripts,' and sent me two articles where he discusses, among other things, the use of "Ajami" in Senegal. I will add the references at the end of this post.
Professor Ngom deals with the effect of a modified Arabic script on the phonology of African languages. He said that "the influence of Arabic in the languages he works with is primarily lexical, but the phonology of Wolof and Fuuta Jalon Pular, is virtually intact."
"Wolofal refers to the adaptation of the Arabic script to transliterate Wolof. It involves the addition of new diacritics (mostly dots called "tomb" in Wolof) on some Arabic letters to transcribe Wolof sounds that do not exist in Arabic. This system is widely used among older Senegalese Muslims." p. 110, quoted from his article on Etnic Identity and Linguistic Hybridization in Senegal.
According to Professor Ngom, the early spread of Islam (14th century) accounts for the "linguistic influence of classical Arabic. However, the Arabic language has never been used as a major medium of communication in the daily life of the Senegalese people. Its use was and is still primarily restricted to religious sphere." p.96, quoted from the article mentioned above.
Professor Ngom's research would be of great interest to anyone interested in Sociolinguistics.
Such as in the topics of languages in contact, borrowings, calques, creole, and/or identity and linguistic varieties.
References of articles written by Professor Fallou Ngom:
1. Ethnic Identity and Linguistic Hybridization in Senegal. Int'l. J.Soc. Lang. 170 (2007), pp. 95-111.
2. Sociolinguistic Motivation of Lexical Borrowings in Senegal. Studies in the Linguistic Sciences, Volume 30, Number 2 (Fall 2000), pp. 159-172.
Oct 23, 2009
Hence, Arabic alphabet was used to write the local African languages. This reminds me of the Nubian language in Egypt written also in Arabic. However, in the case of Nubian the contact with Arabic has affected the Nubian language and led to a tip to the dominant language, Arabic. Interference has affected the phonology, morphology and syntax of Nubian in general.
Oct 12, 2009
Recently in Egypt, there has been many discussions regarding the obvious regression in the teaching and in the use of the Arabic language.
In an Arabic TV interview in Egypt, Dr. Ahmad Darwish, member of the Academy of the Arabic Language,* began his discussion on the status of the Arabic language with a question: "why do we demean our mother tongue?"
Of course, due to the phenomena of language contact, Arabic-English, borrowings cannot be avoided, especially the borrowing of technical and scientific terminologies in both colloquial and fusHa. This is acceptable since it is time consuming to begin translating every technical word before pursuing any research or scientific discussion.
The major problem according to Dr. Darwish, lies in the educational system in Egypt that allows the regression of Arabic in schools. According to him "we are the cause students hate the language."
Many private schools do not teach Arabic in Egypt. The language in each of the private school (German, French, English) becomes the primary language of education. Even if Arabic is taught in some private schools, incompetent language teachers whose methods discourage students usually teach it.
Dr. Darwish concludes by saying that every civilized nation strives to protect its mother tongue, while in Egypt we are assaulting our language. Our mission in the Academy, he further states, is to make sure that the language 'is to be used as a gateway to national renaissance rather than being driven to the tomb.'
I could not resist adding this post after hearing the interview with Dr. Darwish on the Egyptian channel Al Masriyya.
Any comment will be welcomed.
*NB: The Academy of the Arabic Language in Egypt was founded in 1934 in order to develop and regulate the Arabic language.
Oct 7, 2009
اللهم اجعله مكسورا عندها منصوبا عندي
اللهم اجعلها من أخوات كانت .... وأجعلني من أخوات صارت
اللهم اجعلها مفردا واجعلني جمعا
اللهم اصرفه عنها واجعلني ممنوعة من الصرف
اللهم أجعل معاملتها بالشدة والجزم ..... واجعل معاملتي بالضم والسكون
اللهم اجعله عندها ظرف ...... واجعله عندي حالا
اللهم اجعله عندي مبتدأ واجعله عندها خبر
اللهم اجعله عندي فاعلاً واجعله عندها مفعولاً به
اللهم اجعله عندي مرفوعا واجعله عندها مجروراً
اللهم اجعله عندي معرباً واجعله عندها لا محل له من الاعراب
اللهم اجعله عندي جمع مذكر سالماً واجعله عندها فعلاً ماضياً ناقصاً
اللهم اجعله عندي فعلاً صحيحاً واجعله عندها فعلاً معتلاً
اللهم اجعله عندي ضميراً متصلاً واجعله عندها ضميراً غائباً ...........
Sep 27, 2009
Language contact or language conflict situations explain the changes that occur in the Arabic spoken by first, second, and third generation Arab Americans.
Arab Americans are quite diverse. They have emigrated from different parts of the Arab World. They use different dialects. They constitute a linguistic community that incorporates many different 'speech communities.'
In the Detroit metro area there is an interesting double contact situation. Different Arabic dialects come into contact, as well as two different languages come into contact: Arabic and English.
What will then be the future of Arabic as an ethnic language in the American diaspora?
The diglossic nature of Arabic, colloquial versus standard, is a factor that ought to be taken into consideration when examining the future of Arabic as an ethnic language.
Standard Arabic acts as a unifying force between all speakers of Arabic who belong to different 'speech communities.' It creates an interesting relationship between the learning of Standard Arabic as a foreign language, and the maintenance of the different dialects. However, the learning of Standard Arabic will not prevent the changes that occur whenever, the different dialects or languages come into contact. These changes result into a lingua franca, that acts as a bond among Arab Americans.
Strangely enough, the rise of a lingua franca used by Arab Americans might lead to the maintenance, or learning of one's ancestral language - as a foreign language.
In future posts, I will give some examples of the Arabic used among Arabic Americans belonging to the different 'speech communities.'
Any comment or addition to the above post on the Arabic used in the U.S.A will be informative.
Sep 25, 2009
An Egyptian newspaper, al masry al yom ( 9/25/09), quoted a statement made by the American ambassador in Egypt, Mrs. Margaret Scoby.
The ambassador maintained that 43% of American diplomats working in Egypt do not know Arabic. She further said, that such inability will limit any form of communication between the diplomatic staff and the Egyptians, and prevent them from understanding the culture of the country.
Some countries make it a requirement that their diplomatic staff learn the language of the host country in order to be able to communicate with the people of that country.
Since the Arabic language is taught on many American campuses, it is in our interest to make sure that diplomats going to the Arab World learn the language in order to be able to communicate with Arabic speakers.
If one controls the language, one controls the mechanism of communication.
Sep 17, 2009
Is the teaching of Arabic as a foreign language in the USA on the increase?
When it comes to learning a foreign language, Arabic should be a choice for students at all levels.
Recently, there has been an increase in the number of schools offering the Arabic language. It was reported that in Kalona City, rural city in Iowa, "230 students from kindergarten to fifth grade...are learning Arabic."
Today, the Montana's News Station reported that the US Department of Education awarded Missoula County Public Schools over 700.000 in grant money to bring Arabic language into schools. The program was developed jointly by the University of Montana and the public school officials.
Opportunities to obtain funds for the teaching of Arabic in schools and colleges are, hence, available.
We need here in the US all the Arabic speakers we can have.The reference to Arabic as among 'the less commonly taught foreign languages' should be reversed. Both Arabic and Chinese ought to be among the most commonly taught foreign languages.
Sep 7, 2009
The importance of learning Arabic in the business world is on the increase.
The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) launched an Arabic language version of its corporate website in order to create better communication and understanding in the world of business.
Furthermore, it was recently reported that Yahoo Inc. has acquired the Arabic website Maktoob. Such move will increase the use of Arabic online, since Yahoo stated that it will translate many of its content in Arabic.
Yahoo will reach millions across the Arab world. The company chief executive, Carol Bartz, said "the acquisition will accelerate Yahoo's strategy of expansion in high-growth emerging markets where (she believes) Yahoo has unparalleled opportunity to become the destination of choice for consumers." August 25, 2009
This is a reflection of the increasing global interest in the learning of the Arabic language. The knowledge of such language will facilitate linguistic and cultural communication in the business world
Sep 4, 2009
Despite the fact that the US consists of numerous ethnic and racial groups, its educational system has failed terribly to emphasize the importance of learning foreign languages and cultures.
Recently, however, there were discussions in the American media about the lack of American aptitude in understanding people in different cultural settings, and on the significance of learning foreign languages. The events of 9/11, the Iraqi war and the crisis in Iran and Afghanistan spurred such discussions.
In a statement by Dr. Robert O. Slater, Director of the National Security Education Program (NSEP), before the House Armed Services Committee (9/23/2008) stressed the need "to more effectively communicate in a wide array of critical languages" and to be more "adept and adroit in regional and local culture."
The NSEP "from within" the Department of Defense has been working with the US Education Department to create programs that will train Americans to be linguistically and culturally aware of other cultures.
In 2004 the Department of Defense and the Center for Advanced Study of Language at the University of Maryland sponsored a Language Conference to address the issue of how to increase the number of Americans learning critical foreign languages. The President formally announced the plan in January 2006 as the "National Security Language Initiative (NSL).
Presently, there are many federally funded programs that academic institutions have competed for and obtained. Many institutions have created effective educational language programs (see details in the full report by Robert O. Slate ,9/23/2008).
It is obvious that the study of foreign languages in our American academic institutions has taken a different path. The discussion of international programs offerings has been politicized, and the teaching of foreign languages and cultures is considered a contribution to national security.
Some academicians are still objecting to the NSL language planning initiative. However, we are all aware that the US is a leading power in advocating globalization, and that the American education system must drastically improve the "concept of global education." Hence, we have to train Americans to be linguistically and culturally more suave and aware of other cultures.
Do you have any constructive suggestions about the teaching of a critical language, such as Arabic, in American academic institutions?
Aug 26, 2009
Is Arabic maintained among Arab Americans in Detroit? Can it survive the contact with English the dominant language?
The above questions were partially discussed in an article, I have written, entitled Language Conflict and Identity: Arabic in the American Diaspora in an edited volume "Language Contact and Language Conflict in Arabic."
Should Arabic as a heritage language be maintained?
For a good discussion I would like to add the following quotation.
"One's native language is so much a part of one's identity that to denigrate it is to effectively deny one's human ability to communicate" by Nessa Wolfson and Joan Manes in Language of Inequality.
The discussion should deal with identity, ethnicity, bilingualism, and the teaching of foreign languages in schools.
Arabic is spoken by over 300 million in the world today. The importance of the Arabic language propelled me to begin a discussion about the Arabic language in general and the Arabic language in the US.
Arabic is taught in many American universities and a number of government sponsored language schools. Actually, Arabic was taught in the US before the signing of the Declaration of Independence ( see Ernest McCarus in The Arabic Language in America edited by Aleya Rouchdy).
The question now is: should Arabic be taught in elementary, middle and high schools in the US?
For the sake of discussion,I would like to add that Chinese is taught in some middle and high schools.