BEIRUT: The organization for the support of the Arabic language, “Fi’l Amr” announced on Monday that it would launch an Arabic Language Festival workshop on January 16 with the aim of promoting and preserving the Arabic language. The organization held a meeting in Beirut to discuss the project, as well as the problems the Arabic language is facing.
Head of the organization Suzan Talhouq explained that Fi’l Amr – Arabic for Imperative – was born at a crucial time because the Arabic language is in a “delicate and sensitive position.” She added that the organization aimed at developing Arabic-speaking communities and increasing the capacities of young people by providing them with a cultural and social background.
“We have turned from a nation that exports science, philosophy, culture and engineering into a nation that consumes everything it is presented, even language,” she said.
However, Talhouq refused to blame Arab governments for the bleak situation and said we should look at the problem and try to solve it.
Talhouq said the goal of Fi’l Amr’s project was to build bridges of communication between linguistics and youths. “The preservation of a language guarantees the survival of those who speak it,” she said. “As long as we have a language, we have a culture and we can survive on earth,” she added.
Talhouq also referred to the international World Conference on Linguistic Rights held in Barcelona in 1996, which mentioned the people’s right to defend their mother language if it was threatened. She said that the Arabic language was able to survive 17 centuries and that it counted today 200 million speakers from Arab origins and 250 million speakers from non-Arab origins.
Nonetheless, she said that despite these facts, the dominance of powerful countries, political and social dependency, former invasions and the colonization of the Arab world especially in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq had led to the mutilation of the Arabic language.
Talhouq gave the example of Lebanon, where English and French are preferred in schools and where foreign languages often mix with Arabic in daily conversations. She added that the Latin alphabet was being used instead of the Arabic one and that foreign languages were typically favored in universities and media outlets.
The representative of the Lebanese Culture Minister and the head of activities of Beirut World Book Capital 2009, Nayla Abi Karam, reiterated the importance of promoting Arabic in Lebanon, saying language was one of the main components of people’s identity.
The former Syrian culture minister and the head of the Committee to Empower the Arabic Language in Syria, Mahmoud al-Sayyed said his committee agreed with the objectives of Fi’l Amr.
He added that the Syrian government took many initiatives to empower Arabic such as adopting it as an official language in all universities, and forbidding the use of foreign names for public and private institutions. “The project of the government aimed at preserving the Arab identity and promoting economic, social and cultural development in the Arab world,” he said.
Walid al-Kabisi, an Iraqi author living in Norway reiterated the importance of speaking Arabic and said the language would become the third international language in 2050 because the number of Arabic speakers would multiply considerably. “We should work on giving Arabic its natural role as a living language,” he said.
Kabisi then addressed the difference between the spoken dialects of Arabic and the classical written language. “Spoken dialects are complementary to classical Arabic and not an alternative,” he said, noting that no language was “completely pure” because languages were not rigid and still.