Amir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani issued on January 14 this year, Law No. 2019/7 on protection of the Arabic language.
The law consists 15 articles and also contains a set of measures to achieve the vision of His Highness on support the Arabic language. These measures includes: negotiation procedures, memos and correspondences of government institutions, and agreements that the State signs with governments, regional and international bodies and organizations, as well as conferences.
The Law stipulates that universities and higher education institutions of the State of Qatar to teach in Arabic Language and conduct studies and scientiﬁc researches as well in Arabic. The law also indicated that names of commercial companies and trademarks should be in Arabic, where articles 11 and 12 identiﬁed the punishments to impose in case of violations to any of these articles by anybody. It is worth mentioning that the content of article 2 of the law, obliges ministries, government entities, public corporations and institutions to use Arabic language in their meetings, discussions, names, programs, publications, and in their audiovisual or written advertisements.
In regard to Arabic Language, in fact, we face two important issues. The ﬁrst is the reluctance of students from learning Arabic language, not because it is diﬃcult, but because the previous curriculums, the cumulative experiences of the educational perspective, and the role families, have signiﬁcant role in the poor achievements of our students in learning Arabic.
Currently, we see university students lacking command on Arabic language; therefore its usage among students is minimum! For instance a childern at the age of seven or eight and study in a foreign school, ﬁnd themselves unable to pronounce words and make correct Arabic sentences, because they spends about seven hours in school using English language, communicates in English and when comes back home keeps using English for ﬁve hours with the maid, perhaps they may use Arabic with parents for sometimes.
Without forgetting the fact that the childern also spends 3-4 hours a day watching TV programs or playing games whose language is English! So how we could make such childern comply with the law requirements?!
The question that imposes itself in this context is whose responsibility is it? Is the school, university, or the family, which feel comfortable, if the child remains for ﬁve hours watching a foreign channels, as long as he/she does not disturb the mother! Here we are not only talking about language, but about the culture that the foreign language carries, and concepts that take root in the child’s mind. Therefore, the responsibility here is on the family in the ﬁrst place, and secondly: on the educational institutions which must endear the learning of Arabic to the students giving them incentives to master it, as their conscience and culture is formed through the language they master.
Currently, there is a clear weakness among the university students in Arabic, and I strongly believe that the new law will “alert” those who are in charge of education system and make them to rethink about the curriculum and teaching aids, so as to ensure the implementation of the law in a way that serves the objectives of the State.
Another issue is the media language!? We are witnessing a decline in the media performance – radio and television - where programs try to emphasise on local dialect, disregarding standard Arabic, which is the incubator of Arab and Islamic civilization. Article (2) of the law has made it clear that Arabic must be used the media.
In the 1970s we were not allowed to sit behind the microphone and screen, unless we pass the screen and Arabic examination!? We also had daily debates, which were noted by my colleagues at that time (Abdelwahab Al-Mutawa, Mohammad Ibrahim, Dr. Youssef Al-Ibrahim, the late Fawzi Al-Khamis, Professor Zuhdi Abukhail, Professor Kawthar Matar, Laila Al-Atrash, and Zahabi Gabi) and others who were engaged in heated discussions about our news presentation in the previous night and we were learning much from these discussions.
Furthermore the then director of the TV (1974) Javad Maraqa, used to call me after I ﬁnish presenting the news and give me a yellow piece of paper which includes mistakes I made during the presentation. Not only that, but he was threatening me that he will terminate me if I repeat these errors in the next news.
The next day, when Zuhdi Abu Khalil sends notes containing errors made by the announcers, we feel shame. So this was making us work hard to learn Arabic language, and some of us specialized in it at the university.
Today, we note that 90 percent of Radio and TV programmes use local dialect, contradicting the current law on protection of Arabic Language, therefore I believe that this requires reconsidering the selection of announcers and news editors?! This is because the State language is the classical Arabic based on the identity of the State, as has been stipulated in the constitution.
Then this law has come to re-emphasise the importance of using Arabic language, in accordance to the provisions of this law.
Therefore, the tests for admission of Radio and TV broadcaster should be based on the provisions of this law, keeping away from courtesies or partiality because announcer, who is not ﬂuent in his language, will not convey the message properly. Of course, currently we are witnessing broadcasters who have not developed for 15 years, and some of them prefer talk shows in dialects, but when an oﬃcial news come from the government, then confusion and stuttering appear on the announcer, as he/she is not able to deliver the news written in standard Arabic.
This Law is a road map to reform the course of education and media in our country. We say this, in recognition of the mistakes and trying to rectify it without taking a defensive position against those who believe that “The pioneering generation of media professionals adhere to a rigid Arabic language, which does not ﬁt the new generations”.
This is not acceptable, because had the Arabic language been rigid and static, then the Holy Quran would not have been revealed in it; and science, knowledge, poetry and music would not have been preserved in it.
Arabic is a civilization, identity preserver, and we want our sons and daughters to preserve this identity, because it is the future, and it is ﬁne to master another language besides it. Finally, I believe that parents and educators should pay attention to this issue, and they should not feel proud that their children are ﬂuent in English, while they know nothing about their mother tongue the Arabic language.