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 31, 2010

The Arabic Language in the News

Recently there were many articles in Arab media related to the Arabic language.

The articles deal with a variation on a single theme – the future of Arabic: such as the preservation of Arabic in the face of globalization, the poor instruction of the language, the outdated books and methods, the dominance of English in business, the mixture of languages, apathy of native speakers to learn Arabic properly, and finally the threat to Arab national identity due to the dwindling use of the language in many settings. These topics have been discussed ad nauseam in all types of media, national and international, and no proper measures seem to be undertaken to remedy the situation.

One specific article worth mentioning was written by Muhammad Ayish in the National Conversation dealing with the future of Arabic. It was written following discussions during Arabic Language Day regarding the future of Arabic in the context of globalization. A day initiated by the UN General Assembly in 1971 and celebrated every year.The article is very much a propos since there seems to be a real concern in the Arab world regarding the decreasing use of Arabic in “everyday settings and professional life.”

Ayish expresses optimism in his article for the future of Arabic, its development and preservation. He maintains that “Cyberspace” will open “new frontier for the future of Arabic. This is in spite of the media’s consistent warning that the use of Arabic is dwindling and is thus threatening “national identity in Arab countries.” Http://www.thenational.ae (12/26/2010).

Muhammad Ayish writes that Professor Yasir Suleiman, the author of The Arabic Language and National Identity sees “huge potential for Arabic to be further developed in cyberspace and the media sphere.” He further adds that Professor Suleiman at a Cambridge conference on Middle East broadcasting “spoke on the potential role for communication media in virtual reality to expand the use of Arabic and encourage a greater articulation of our national identity.”

Ayish in the same article brings up a positive development in the Arab world. He wrote, “The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt introduced Arabic domain names to allow Arabic-speaking users to access Web content.” Furthermore, “Internet content services like Maktoob.com” was “recently acquired by Yahoo.com, operating in Arabic, and Facebook has also launched “its Arabic services to allow million of users …to interact in their native language." “In observing the UN-declared International Mother Language Day” says Ayish… “There was a campaign among the region’s Facebook users to communicate exclusively in Arabic.”

The article ends with a note of caution as well as with anticipation as to the future of Arabic. “I understand,” concludes Ayish, “the challenges ahead are incredible tough, but the opportunities in cyberspace for the development of the language are as expansive as the medium itself.”

The survival of the Arabic language, standard Arabic, should not be of such concern. It is a language that carries a well-established religious tradition as well as an immense literary heritage. It is a language that acts as a unifying force, a common denominator among all speakers of the language in the Arab world. It is an expression of identity. Hence, it is not a dying language. But it is rather a language that is evolving and changing which is an accomplishment of performance.

What should be of concern to all is the ailing system of education in most of the Arab world. A system that is constantly failing to embed among Arabic speakers a sense of pride toward the language and realizing, as Professor Suleiman explores in his book, “the symbiotic link between language and identity…”

Copyright © 2010 Aleya Rouchdy, All Rights Reserved

Dec 12, 2010

Surge in the Teaching of Arabic in the U.S.

On November 17, 2010 I attended the AATA (Arabic American Teaching Association) meeting held in conjunction with MESA in San Diego.

Out of curiosity I asked Dr. Aman Attieh, professor of Arabic and member of the AATA Executive Board, to give me a list of new positions advertised this year. She wrote back stating that “for the academic year 2010-2011, there are at least 22 new positions advertised in higher education institutions to be filled in Arabic.”

Arabic, as a foreign language, has always been taught, but mostly limited to large academic institutions. By comparison other foreign languages, predominantly western languages, were taught in academic institutions across the board.

There is no question that nowadays it is very important to learn and teach Arabic in the USA. This phenomenon is on the increase due to the complex political and economic world events that require an awareness of others, culturally and linguistically. It is a language, along with Chinese, that plays important role on the global stage.

Eric Gorski in an article referring to the languages mostly studied in the U.S. (Bloomberg.com), 12/8/2010), wrote “The highest gainer was Arabic, which jumped to No. 8 from No.10 on the list of most-studied languages. He further says, “Interest in languages often rise with world events, but many experts say Arabic is not a passing fad considering the long-term importance of U.S. relation with the Muslim world.”


Larry Gordon in his article in The Los Angeles Times (12/7/2010) Arabic, Korean and Chinese deemed fastest-growing language courses at U.S. colleges, wrote that in a study conducted by MLA of 2, 500 universities and colleges, enrollment in Arabic “surged by 46% between 2006 and 2009. More U.S. college students are studying Arabic than Russian, a change that officials say reflects a shift of interest from Cold War concerns to current issues involving the Middle East and terrorism.”


In a letter to AATA members, Dr. Elizabeth M.Bergman, Executive Director of AATA wrote, “…the MLA regularly surveys colleges and universities in the United States about enrollments in foreign languages—including Arabic, of course. She further wrote, “the results of the survey for 2006 and 2002 are available on the MLA website (scroll down to “Surveys” at http://www.mla.org/documents#tab06). They documented a huge increase in enrollments in Arabic language classes throughout the country.”

There are numerous articles written about the surge of Arabic studies in the U.S. I have pasted some links for those interested in further pursuing this information and gathering data for a more extended study on the status of Arabic teaching and learning in the U.S.





For further number of articles on American college students studying Arabic, go to:


Copyright © 2010 Aleya Rouchdy, All Rights Reserved