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Arabic literature key to identity: Power of the written word

‘Arabic literature key to identity’: Power of the written word

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The weather is getting colder by the day and we are all waiting for the snow right now, as usual there is too much work to do, too many deadlines….but it’s all fun at least. A few weeks ago I came across this article and it struck me as important because it connected reading to identity 🙂 a two favourite topics of mine. Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, made the statement, which is the title of this post that, Arabic literature is the key to identity. I would add also the key to preserving the Arabic language amongst the readers. I have pasted the article below as it was written in the newspaper, and as usual without editing from myself.

What I found interesting about this book prize were the conditions. It got me thinking of the books I read as I was growing up, I realised that actually they did promote the formation of my identity, the ideas were never abstract or alien to me. They were all in line with what I knew the only new aspects of reading as I grew up were the increasing complexity of vocabulary and perhaps the lengths of the books, but nothing else. I like the condition that the books must be in line with Arab culture and not translations of English books. This I thought was important and a very thoughtful condition, because a child growing up in the UAE can never quite understand what autumn and winter really mean. For them they have the heat and some rain that’s it; so I am often puzzled when I see these type of non-related translated books in the book stores over there. The other thing about translated books is that the Arabic reader can never fathom the real context of the book as it was meant by tha author. I don’t mean that they will not understand the story, that they will, but they will not capture the underlying ironic, satirical and idiosyncratic nature of the story. An example of this is the Arabic version of Oliver Twist – yes you read correctly- Oliver Twist. How do they translate the cockney English? How do they differentiate between that and the other more formal English? How can the reader who does not understand Victorian England appreciate the suffering and manipulation of Oliver? How can they read the underlying criticisms Dickens makes about Victoria England, through his use of the English language? How can Arabic capture that? I am not against translations but these are issues I have with people promoting readership through translated works. I myself have experience in interpreting and translating, but I always feel a piece of literature always carries the characteristics of its author and his/her society with the language it is written. I think Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi’s decision is an important and succesful one.

The award is significant in pushing forward the love of reading among Arabic children, in their language, about their values. This award and the book fair coming up next week in Sharjah, are projects that will ensure Arabic language will stay around for a long time. It will also hopefully promote advanced Arabic reading skills among young Arab children, so that they can read Arabic without struggling to understand the words they are reading. There is much excitement for the up coming book fare in Sharjah and schools will also participate by taking the kids in during the day- this will foster a love for reading among the students.

The comments made by Sheikha Bodour are deep, insightful and very true not only from a linguists’ point of view but from a writers point of view. Publishing has its responsibilities and it’s great to see that at least somewhere someone is ensuring Arabic language and values are reflected in print.

SHARJAH // Original Arabic literature is the key to maintaining cultural identity in the Middle East, says a royal advocate for children’s books.

Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, daughter of the Ruler of Sharjah, is the founder of a Dh1 million literary prize.

“The Arabic language is a key element of the national Arab identity and is central to raising children who are proud of their Arab roots,” Sheikha Bodour said.

“Reading helps develop awareness among children not only of their own language, but also of their culture and their heritage. In addition, books highlight important issues that children face while growing up.”

In 2009, she established the Etisalat Prize for Arabic Children’s Literature, one of the most valuable book awards in the world, to raise standards and improve quality in Middle East publishing.

Nominated books must be original Arabic-language works, rather than translated, and their content must conform to the values, traditions and customs of Arab communities.

Half of the Dh1m prize money goes to the publisher of the winning book and the rest is shared by the author and illustrator.

The scheme is run by the UAE section of the International Board on Books for Young People. of which Sheikha Bodour is president.

“Only home-grown books can address the issues faced by Arab children accurately and fairly, as they take place in a setting that they understand and can identify with,” she said

Isobel Abulhoul, the director of the annual Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai, said an absence of Arabic literature would leave Arab children searching for identity.

“One of the most important issues in today’s world for everyone is identity, and one of the key elements of identity has to be your mother tongue,” she said. “Without having home-grown books for children in their mother tongue they will feel alienated and lost.

“People can write books about this part of the world but unless they are themselves native speakers of Arabic, unless it is a region where they have grown up and imbibed the culture and history through the air they breathe, they don’t actually get it, they don’t understand it.

“That is why the Etisalat Prize is hugely important.”

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, the chairman of the board of directors and director general of Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority. said: “There is strong evidence that no matter what language is used, a love of reading improves a child’s performance in a whole range of subjects.

“Children need access to books they want to read.”

Ten books have been nominated for this year’s prize, and the winner will be announced at the 30th Sharjah International Book Fair next month.

“This year’s long list covers a range of diverse topics, some of which are friendship, love, being kind to everyone including family, being respectful towards parents and elders, and also raising our voice in support of social causes,” Sheikha Bodour said.

“I think these themes reflect the changing times as well as a growing confidence among Arab children’s authors.”

Last year’s prize was awarded to the author and illustrator Walid Taher, and the publisher Dar El Shorouk of Egypt for Al Noqta Al Sawda (The Black Dot).

The 2009 prize went to Nabiha Muhaidali and her publisher Dar Al Hadaeq of Lebanon for a series of books called Ana Aheb (I Love).

Ms Muhaidali said the award gave her a new sense of responsibility to provide quality books for her readers.

“I now consider every book as a project for an award,” she said, speaking on the sidelines of last year’s fair. “We have to be careful with every element as a publisher.

“Awards are passports; they take you forward but you need to be aware of the example you’re creating.”

Sharjah International Book fair opens on the 16th- 26th November 2011, in its 30th edition. There will be authors from both the English and Arabic publishing worlds- if you can go it’s an experience. There will be workshops and opportunities to meet the regions most influential authors and publishing houses. Literature will always be key to the identity of its readers, I’d love to hear what you think especially on the issue of translation.

Thanks for reading!

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Hi thanks for this super post, I admire the work being done there I lived in Sharjah for many years but never realised these things happen there. Thank you for enlightening us. As for the translation I agree, I read Oliver Twist in French and I felt reading it in Englis was better, I like your explanation to why some translations can be not so useful. I think even some of the stories we have in India for them to be translated into Englis their whole soul or background will be destroyed because the language carries that part of the story. thanks keep blogging

Thanks Krushnen for the comment, yes I think that’s what I was saying. The story as in the plot, the heroes and so on wil be be very well portrayed, but I think it’s that what you refer to as ‘soul’ that I felt would be lost. Thank you for the kind words and keep reading!

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English is the language of survival

English is the language of survival

Published: 23rd March, 2015 Last Edited: 23rd March, 2015

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

English is the language of survival in the present battle of life .This prevalence of English language came as a result of the British colonizing movements previously and the present economical and political power of English speaking countries that imposed themselves and as a result imposed their language on the globe[1]. The essay will include the causes of the dominance of English in the world, its part in the world and in my life as well as the negative results of this dominance.

The present wide spread of the English language worldwide is obvious from the huge number of its users which is about 1.8 billion speakers [2]. as well as the increasing rate of its learners which approaches a billion[3].

This remarkable interest in learning English which can be noticed from the huge number of its learners reflects the leading role it plays in our world today. This leading role has various aspects. For instance, the globalized world that English created, presents a way of connecting the whole world together, politically by generating a common area of communication between different ethnic groups which is the use of English language and economically as it led to free trade that resulted from globalization [4]. Moreover, as it is the main language of teaching science, it helped scientists and researchers around the world to share their knowledge and scientific results which led to the developments we witness today [1]. Furthermore, it plays a vital role in the cultural exchange by translating other cultures' books to English as there are considerable numbers of English users who can benefit from these translations.

English language also has its significant role in individuals' lives which I will discuss through my experience. It has been 14 years since I started learning English which has affected my life positively since then. The first and most important thing is that it helped me to enter the university, because without having a certain level of knowledge in English, it is almost impossible to think of studying a scientific major in UAE [5]. In addition, it acts as an access gate for me to other cultures by having the power of communicating with individuals from any part of the world through using English. Moreover, I had the chance to practice my favorite activity which is reading by having a look at English literature depending on my knowledge in its language.

Despite of the usefulness of the spread of English language, I believe it has some negative aspects on both learners and native speakers. When it comes to English learners, learning any language is fairly challenging [6]. For me, I can say I started learning real English since five years only and the other nine years were nothing but a waste of time because learning any language requires an extra personal effort in mastering it rather than the knowledge we get from school. As a result, the learning process is long as well as frustrating. In addition, it caused a cultural conflict for non-native speakers as many of them started losing the strength of their mother tongue language because of the extensive use of English language [7]. As an example, in the Arab world we now have what is called the Arabizi generation. Arabizi is a word that is used to describe the mixture use of both Arabic and English languages which was caused by the general interest of mastering English by Arabic native speakers [8]. This trend of mixing Arabic and English resulted in weaken the hegemony of Arabic language especially with children which led to an issue of identity for them.

The side effects of the spread of English on native speakers are limited but important. One thing is that English native speakers lost one aspect of their uniqueness which is their language, as they are not longer the only ones who use it. Another disadvantage for the next English native generation is that they face the threat of ending up of having only one language while the whole world is forced to learn English in combination with their own mother tongue language which will have its cultural political and economical threat on them [9].

Although mastering English is of major importance, people shouldn't neglect mastering their own mother tongue language in order to maintain their identity and distinguishing themselves from other nations and cultures. It is also important for English people to start learning other languages to keep up with rest of the world.

[1] D. Crystal, Thecambridge encyclopedia of the English language. Â New York: Â Cambridge University press, Â 2003, Â pp. 106

[2] G.  Schiltz. (2004, Jun 2).  Lecture 7: World-Wide English. [Online]. Available: http://www.ehistling-pub.meotod.de/01_lec06.php  on 21 Apr 2010

[3]K. Beare . (n.d.). How many people learn English globally. [Online]. Available: http://esl.about.com/od/englishlearningresources/f/f_eslmarket.htm  on 21 Apr 2010

[4] J. Korpela. (2003, Sep 2). English – the universal language on the Internet?. [Online]. Available: http://www.cs.tut.fi/

jkorpela/lingua-franca.html   on 21 Apr 2010

[5] T. Morgan. (2008, Sep 21). UAE: Poor English limiting university access. University world news.  [Online]. 0045.  Available: http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20080919100258584  on 21 Apr 2010

[6] The Language Chronicle.  (2008, Aug 3).  The Challenge of Learning a New Language.  [Online]. Available: http://thelanguagechronicle.com/the-challenge-of-learning-a-new-language/ on 21 Apr 2010

[7] R. Rubdy and M. Saraceni, English in the world.  NY: Continuum,  2006, pp.  187

[9] M. Taylor.  (2006, Feb 15).  Global spread of English ‘a threat to UK’.  TheGuardian.  [Online]. Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/feb/15/students.tefl  on 14 Apr 2010

Arabizi is destroying the Arabic language’


Published: Apr 19, 2011 22:25 Updated: Apr 19, 2011 22:25

JEDDAH: Arabizi, a term that describes a system of writing Arabic in English, is now more popular than ever, especially online.

Parents and teachers are becoming more concerned over the popularity of this new trend. Some see it as a threat to the Arabic language.

A non-English speaker does not need to speak the language to communicate with others in Arabizi. Numbers are also mixed in Arabizi to represent some letters in Arabic, such as 2, 5, 6, 7 and 9.

Most Arab Internet users find this way easier than typing in Arabic. Teachers fear that this will weaken their Arabic language ability or even replace the language in the future. Arabic professional professors from the Arab world consider it a war against the Arabic language to make it disappear in the long run.

Miral Dibawy, a 21-year-old university graduate, is using Arabizi because she finds it easier when typing on the Internet and sending text messages. She also admitted that it has weakened her Arabic language ability when it comes to writing.

“I was so addicted to this language when chatting and sending texts to my friends. When it came to my research paper, I was finding it hard to write in Arabic. I had to write it in Arabizi first and then translated it into Arabic,” said Miral.

She confirmed that she tried many times to write in Arabic or English, but she found it was very difficult because she had become dependent on Arabizi.

“When I start writing in Arabic, I found myself committing many mistakes and typos and sometimes had difficulty finding the words I wanted to express my thoughts.” She said that some writers used Arabizi when writing books and Internet blogs.

Dina Jamal, university student, agreed that Arabizi weakens the Arabic language and said she only uses Arabic or English when communicating online.

“I do not care if Arabizi is modern or elegant, all I care about is protecting my mother language,” she said.

She added that it is sad that people ignore Arabic, the best language to express feelings, and use Arabizi instead. She said that it is better to use it sparingly and only online and not make it a language that in the future could replace Arabic.

Ali Nasser is a private company employee who does not think there is a problem using Arabizi. He said that Arabizi is a valid mode of communication inside the company and used when emailing other co-workers.

“For me, it is difficult to express myself in Arabic. I cannot write slang in Arabic because it is difficult, while in Arabizi I can. I do not see any evidence that Arabizi weakens my Arabic. The same could be said about weakening the English language but it is not true. I think people are oversensitive about this issue.”

Taiba Al-Amoudi, a private middle school Arabic teacher, claimed that Arabizi was negatively affecting her students’ command of the language.

“The student started creating words from Arabizi and using it in their daily conversation and this is negatively affect their Arabic language knowledge,” said Al-Amoudi

Hossam Gouda, an Arabic language teacher at a private school in Jeddah, believes that Arabic speakers must use Arabic only, the same rule applying to other languages.

Gouda said that there had been a noticeable decline in the performance of students when it comes to Arabic.

“Using Arabizi has a negative effect on the Arabic language,” he said.

He confirmed that Arabic speakers must protect the language and make it stronger.

“What’s happening is that Arabic speakers are weakening the language by using Arabizi, and destroying it in the process,” he said.

Gouda added that it’s better to use Arabic online for as long as possible to prevent it from disappearing in the long run.

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With The Name Allaah and (All) Priase, is resticted only for Allaah, Who’s-Highly Glorified and Exalted from all deficiencies associated with Him-Aameen. May He continue to send the Highest and noblest of His priases, peace, and blessing’s. upon the seal of all his Prophet’s and Messengers. Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullaah, his family, and companions-all of them and those who? Follows thier way in righousness-Aameen.

May Allaah’s peace blessing’s and mercy be upon us all-Aameen.

As for the topic at hand, this will never happen. Why? because as long as there’s “Fusha”-then, what ever mankind ties to invent will never exceed the language of His Creator. “Fusha ‘Arabeyyah”, is Allaah’s language. As for htose Who? Have worries about, the disapearance of “Lughaatul ‘Arabeyyeh”. I say to you, where’s your trust in Allaah’s ability, to do all thins-Aameen.There’s a verse in the Book of Allaah-that say’s-Allaah, will never allow, the disbelievers, to vitoreous, over the believers.

As to the matter of those Muslem Men and muslem Wemon, Who? Have adapted the mothodology. I say to you all:

1. Where’s your Taqwatullaah,
2. Wehre’s your Khawf Mennallaah,
3. Where’s your ‘Ebaadatullaah,
4. Where’s your Hayyatullaah,
5. Where’s your Tarbeyyah Wattasfeyyah.

I could go on forever-asking you.Where’s your “ETC”. It makes me sick to here of such deviation’s. Why? Because I am, an American Muslem-Strugling in America to practice this deen of ours. My struggles are hard, But Who? Am I, to complian. Even if I could complian, I wouldn’t. I’ve studing ‘Arabic for guite some years now. I find it, a great reward, to be chosen by My Lord:

1. To be Muslem,
2. to Struggle to be an obedient Muslem,
3. To Struggle to learn the language of Allaah,
4. To Struggle to recieve the Barrakah, of trying to learn one Harf correctly-if you know the narration of the Messenger of Allaah etc.

And you have those, who? where born with the lughah, and they want to throw it away, for some invented man made trash-i.e. “‘Arabeze”. Where is this word, in the Qur ‘aan, The Sunnah, or the Narrations from our ‘Righous Predecessor’s. Suches the Companions of the Messenger of Allaah. Eemam Muslem, Bukhare, Shafe ‘e, Malek, ‘Uthaymen, Ben Bazz, Abu Hurayrah and the other ‘Rightly guide Khulafah.

In closing: The messenger of Allaah-siad There will be a day etc. And He also siad, some of my Ummah willfollow, the ways of the people’s of the book so much so, that if they crawelled into a lizzard whole we woukd follow them in it. Oh! How True, a messenger He was. The only thing, that will change, is the language of those Muslem’s; Who? adapt, to this ideology of ‘Arabeze-that’s all. al-Lughaatu Fushatun, will never change.

P.S. Whatch what you say-Becuase when you say, “I am affraid that that the ‘Arabic language wiil fade away. When you incorperate that type of thinking into your mind set. Then your actually saying, ‘The Qur ‘aan, will fade away. The laghah, is in the Qur ‘aan. Now if you don’t mind, i have an ‘Arabic class to attened.

Your Brother in Eslam forever,

‘Abdullaah Tasneem Salaahhuddeen Khaleel ibn Bazz
Wallaahu Musta ‘aan.

Wassalaanu ‘Alaykum wa Rahmaatullaahe wa Barakaatuhu-Aameen.

As-Salaamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullaahi wa Barakaatuh

Well said Br. Al-Hamdulillah. Anyone who has been born bred, raised and spoon-fed on khufr can well appreciate your words. Al-Hamdulillah Rabbil Al-Amin we are Muslims. By Allaah, every second of the day I know this powerful Mercy and gift Allaah azza wa jal has bestowed on this servant. Allaah can do ANYTHING HE WIllS. For those with any doubts return again and again to the Quran and Sunnah. Know the history of this world and mankind. And Fear our Lord ta’ala as He should be feared. And hope for His Mercy and Shade on the Day that is surely coming closer with each passing Day. Allaahu Akbar.

Wa`alaykum us-salâm warahmatullâhi wabarakâtuh

This article and others are not posted with conviction or belief in their conclusions but rather for the sake of news. The points that interested me the most are how some people who use Arabizi are starting to slack in their Arabic. If anything, Arabizi is destroying some people’s level of Arabic, not the language itself as it’s the language of the kitâb of Allâh.

14/09/2012. Actually its seriously alarming, the concept of ‘arabizi.’ Why? Because Arabic as we know is the languge of the Qur’an, the language of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), the language of al-Jannah. It is obvious that the anti-Islamic posture and mentally adopted by the West, the Ahl al-kalaam will not hesitate to grasp whatever, even the slightest micro-opportunity to undermine this important language. In the western orientation, they view the slightest grammatical error as a serious crime against effective communication and their goal – wealth generation. They have launched a propaganda against Arabic language and its unfortunate that they have recruits amongst us! So the easiest means to retaliate is for us to launch an equally effective propaganda design against their languages – englizi, frenchizi, germizi, italiazi, russiazi etc. With my elementary level of Arabic language, I will not find it difficult to struture some engiizi words: ‎‏ ‏co-worker = ‎كو-وكا ‏‎; negatively = ‎نيغيتبلي‎. Ma as-salam

Meanings of ‘Nahw’

"The word 'nahw' (grammar) is used in the Arabic language to signify a number of meanings. From them is direction, as it is said, "I went nahw so-and-so" meaning in his direction. And from its (meanings) is resemblance and likeness as it is said, "Muhammad nahw `Alî" meaning that he resembles and is like him. "
Muhammad Muhyî Ad-Dîn `Abd Al-Hamîd; Tuhfah As-Saniyyah

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