UAE: Too much English, Arabic risks extinction

Anglophone school curriculums increasingly popular

23 January, 15:39

Burj Dubai [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20100104 ] Burj Dubai [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20100104 ]

(ANSAmed) - DUBAI, JANUARY 23 - After decades in pursuit of the best of the western world - education, lifestyle and business - the United Arab Emirates is dealing with the price it has paid until now: a minority presence in their own country, a distorted national identity and a dying language. The process of Emiratisation, a political and economic objective for the past few years that aims to restore control to the native Emirati people, must shift its sights ever further downstream to schools, pre-schools, and the first years that children are educated, say linguists and educators. A government-commissioned study on early childhood revealed that only 2% of workers in pre-schools are native Emiratis. Another 5% come from another Arab country, a figure that is "too low to guarantee an appropriate development of the language", denounced Samia Kazi, one of the consultants that conducted the study for the Social Affairs Ministry. The most highly sought-after curriculum programmes by Emirati parents are the British Early years and the Montessori method, also conducted in English. This trend continues in subsequent school years, during which, in order to assure the best possible future, Arabic seems to be increasingly taking a backseat to English, which is seen as a certain ticket for success at home and in the world. If measures are not taken immediately - warned linguist Christopher Morrow, a teacher at Al Ain University, during a recent interview - Arabic, which is even one of the six official languages of the UN, risks becoming a mere language of religion and folklore in the UAE. A more conscious turn towards Arabic has begun to be undertaken by the publishing houses, especially those for children, which are starting to turn out more desirable literature. While preserving the Arabic educational, moral and literary content, the graphic aspect is changing, with lighter page layouts and more attractive pictures to compete with western books in English, much more popular with Emirati teens. The return to Arabic for older readers has already been undertaken, although in a much more gradual way: Arabic menus are offered by law next to English versions in restaurants, while roads are being given their original names back, although transliterated with the Latin alphabet, and bilingual forms are appearing in government offices. (ANSAmed).

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