In an article published in The National (http://www. thenational.ac) Muhamad Ayish wrote “cyberspace will open new frontier for the future of Arabic. This is in spite of the media consistent warning “ the use of Arabic is dwindling and is thus threatening national identity in Arab countries.” (12/26/2010)
The debate on the decline of Arabic in the Arab world has and is always brought up in Arab media. Some prominent writers fear that the new generation is losing its national identity due to its nonchalance or carelessness toward the language.
Articles are regularly published and talk shows are discussing the over increasing usage of text message transliteration and its effect on Arabic. Hady Hamdan in The Jordan Times (9/14/2010) wrote, “Arab linguists were united in their view that transliteration poses a serious threat to the Arabic language.”
This rising concern about the future of Arabic in the Arab world is somewhat related to the recent surge in the number of chatters, twitters and face book users in communicating in what is referred to as Arabizi, a transliterated colloquial.
I was in Egypt during the Revolution of January 25th, 2011 and noticed how popular transliterated Arabic became. The young were exchanging the latest in Arabizi. Even those whose knowledge of English is minimal were still using the transliterated form to communicate in short messages. Even some older people were also using this form to exchange messages via cell phones or face book. When I asked some of my friends why are they using Arabizi their responses were that “it was easier than typing Arabic.” It is indeed becoming very popular as a fast mean to send short messages.
In an article in Arab News, (4/19/2011) ‘Arabizi is destroying the Arabic language’, Renad Ghanem wrote “a non-English speakers does not need to speak the language to communicate with others in Arabizi. Numbers are also mixed in Arabizi to represent some letter in Arabic, such as 2,5,6, 7 and 9,” to replace emphatics and pharyngeal sounds.
In the same article Ghanem quotes some students who expressed either their support or rejection of using Arabizi. Those who supported this innovation in communicating stated that “it is easier when typing on the Internet and sending text messages.” Another said “ she tried many times to write in Arabic or English, but she found it very difficult because she had become dependent on Arabizi.” A third person stated he “does not think there is a problem using Arabizi…. that Arabizi is a valid mode of communication…”and does not see any evidence that it weakens Arabic.
On the other hand those who rejected the use of this method of communication stated that Arabizi does indeed weaken the Arabic language. Some teachers see that it is affecting students’ command of the language and one teacher quoted by Ghanem as saying “The student started creating words from Arabizi and using it in their daily conversation and this is negatively affecting their Arabic language.”
Most of the comments on the article were critical of Arabizi as it will weakens the Arabic language, but there were also comments whereby a commentator stated that the most important thing is” mutual understanding”…If it takes Arabizi, so be it.” He /she ends the comment with “Assalamu Aylaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakat, and Alhamdulillah which I learned through Arabizi.”
Opinions hence differ when it comes to the use of Arabizi, as a written form, to communicate via the Internet. However, this form will never replace the use of Arabic alphabet in writing. I cannot envisage an article written in Arabizi anytime in the near future. The survival of standard Arabic should not be of concern to educators or Arabic linguaphile. What should be of concern is twofold: the increasing tendency to use colloquial in some publications, and the lack of appropriate methods in teaching standard Arabic in both public and private schools.