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.

Jan 26, 2010

Arabic Novels in Translation

This post might not be related to the teaching of Arabic directly, but it is within the spirit of the blog.

Learning the Arabic language, or finding out how it is used to express the way people think, should also be of interest to readers of this blog.

In an article published in the New Yorker (1/18/2010), Claudia Roth Pierpont wrote about the translation of Contemporary Arabic Novels. She said, “We need to learn about the ways that people think and work and suffer and fall in love and make enemies and sometimes make revolutions….”

Contemporary Arabic novels will indeed teach us about contemporary Arab people, whether we read them in Arabic or in translation.

The author offers a detailed exposition of contemporary literary Arabic works, of their authors, and of the names of their translators. It is indeed worth reading. And, it would be of interest to any teacher of contemporary Arabic literature, of comparative literature, and definitely to teachers of Advanced Arabic.

Actually, the author’s following statement prompted me to write this post. She said “Arabic novels, while not yet lining the shelves of the local bookstores, have been increasingly available in English translations, offering a marvelous array of answers to question we did not know we wanted to ask.”

 From my perspective as a linguist, I think that students of advanced Arabic language should read in abundance modern novels. Possibly, they will in the future become translators of further novels. There are still many other interesting novels to be translated.

Copyright © 2010 Aleya Rouchdy, All Rights Reserved

Jan 20, 2010

Is Arabic Threatened?

Copyright © 2009 Aleya Rouchdy, All Rights Reserved

The article “Workshop Aims To Promote Arabic Language “ by Carol Rizk (1/16/2010) prompted me to write this post.

Rizk was reporting on an organization ‘Fil’Amr’ that sponsored an Arabic festival “with the aim of promoting and preserving the Arabic language.” She quotes Suzan Talhouq who wrote, “…The Arabic language is in a delicate and sensitive position.”

This is somewhat true. I have expressed a similar point in an earlier post ‘The Demise of the Arabic Language in Egypt’. However, the word ‘preserving’ is not appropriate when we refer to Arabic.

Talhouq in discussing the state of the Arabic language was in connection to a conference, she must have attended (The International World Conference on Linguistic Rights held in Barcelona in 1996). The attendees at the Conference discussed “ the people’s right to defend their mother language as it was threatened.”

The Arabic language is definitely not threatened. Languages such as Basque, Scottish Gaelic, Nubian might be threatened due to their contact with a dominant language, that is, there is a “tip” in favor of some other languages, such as Spanish, English, or Arabic.

Talhouq further says that “invasions” and “colonization” has led to “the mutilation 'of Arabic' in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq”

In my opinion “mutilation” is also too strong of a word. It is rather a situation of language contact where Arabic came into contact with other languages.

Whenever languages are in contact, three major processes occur: code switching, borrowing and interference. These are linguistic processes that affect all languages in contact and, hence, can explain the changes that have occurred in the Arabic of Cairo, Beirut, Amman or anywhere else where Arabic is the dominant language.

Language in contact is not a recent phenomenon. It has always occurred and will always occur. As David Wilmsen commented on this bog. “It simply shows that the language is indeed living.”

In the same article, Walid al-Kabis, an Iraqi author living in Norway, notes that Arabic will “become the third international language in 2050 because the number of Arabic speakers would multiply considerably.” That says it all.