The language center will be based at Zayed University, to “revive Arabic as لغة العلـــــــوم والتكنولوجيــــــــــا (the language of sciences and technology)”.
The announcement was made at the opening session of the first Mohammed Bin Rashid Policies Council, a new channel of communications with the community and a platform for creative and innovative ideas.
“We have to be proud of our language and start to teach it to others,” said a student of Arabic literature at the same university.
“It will start from ourselves, not from others. Sheikh Mohammed gave us this charter but after that, what will we do with it? It will come down to the people to make use of it.”
UAE’s expats often have no clue about… UAE!
The new decision comes amid concerns that the UAE may have lost some of its local identity due to the incredible influx of مُهــــــــــاجرين (expats) over the past two decades.
Expats represent more than 80% of the UAE population. A February report indicated that seven out of ten expatriates in the UAE do not understand the country’s local عادات وتقــــــــــاليد (customs and traditions.) Only 60% of expats claim to know the basics of UAE culture, while 11% confessed to not even bother learning.)
Expats receive Arabic lessons in UAE, free of charge!
Underlining the 2,000-year heritage of Arabic, Sheikh Mohammed said: “A focus on nurturing the language was important to uphold the Emirati national identity for الأجيـــــــــــال القــــــــادمـــــــة (future generations.)”
“Our national identity is integrally linked to the Arabic language, which serves as an effective medium to express our values, culture and heritage. Promoting the language will enable our future generations to connect with our roots, society and values more effectively,” he said.
Other initiatives announced include the setting up of a dedicated educational facility at Zayed University to promote Arabic education for non-Arabic speakers, and establishing a Faculty of Translation at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Media College.
Dr Maher Bahloul, an associate professor of language and linguistics at the American University of Sharjah, said the first step towards popularising Arabic is to change the “archaic” rote-learning methods used to teach it.
He suggested that expatriates learn 500 Arabic words so that within three months they can communicate the basics. In the classroom, he recommends الأفـــلام (movies), المســــــــرح (theatre) and الأغـــــــــاني (songs.)
The initiative will focus on Standard Modern Arabic and target expatriates and Arabic-speakers alike. .
“As we say in Arabic, it’s like the soul has come back to the body, because language is very important for the level of the people, the level of the identity, مُستــــــــــوى الحضـــــــــــارة (the level of civilization),” said the chairman of the department of Arabic language and literature.