Purists alarmed at increasing popularity of Franco-Arabic

Updated 14 January 2015
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Purists alarmed at increasing popularity of Franco-Arabic

Franco-Arabic, the popular language of communication for conversations and chats on social media sites, is increasingly being seen as a threat to the Arabic language, culture and identity.
While the language is commonly used in Egypt and several other Arab countries, it faces resistance from lovers of Arab identity and culture with campaigns such as "Write Arabic" and ‘Enough Franco."
A heady cocktail of Arabic and English written in the Latin script, Franco-Arabic or Franco has gained huge popularity among the youth who relate to it because of its symbols which they can adopt to Arabic. So for example, the symbol ‘3’ is used to represent the Arabic letter ‘Ayn,’ 5 for the letter ‘kha,’ 7 for ‘Ha’ and 8 for ‘Ghain’.
Discussing the reasons for the popularity of Franco-Arabic among the Arab youth, computer expert Ziyad Ata said the the youth who depend on the Latin script to learn computer techniques, become more familiar and feel at home with English keyboards which is one of the major reasons for Franco becoming popular on social media. Another reason is that in most private schools and universities English and European languages are used as the first language and the computer applications and other topics are also taught in those languages. A third reason is the availability of non-Arabic keypads which compels the students to use the Latin script even if they prefer the Arabic language.
A writer in Al-Riyadh Daily Mariam Al-Jaber warns of the risk to the Arabic language which stands in danger of large scale erosion if Franco continues to be widely used. She says that in the long run, Arabic may suffer the same plight as that of Hebrew and Persian.
She pointed out that boys and girls under 18 who are in their formative years, would find it hard to shake off the habit of using the foreign language instead of their mother tongue.
‘’There is hardly any justification for abandoning Arabic. If they find the literary language difficult, they have the option of adopting the slang which is far easier than Franco,’’ Mariam said.
Shedding more light on the issue, Family and Community Medicine Consultant and Vice president at King Khaled University Dr. Khaled Jalban said he noted with concern the increasing trend of writing Franco-Arabic or using the slang with Latin script as the means of quick communication on Facebook, SMS and mobile phones which is fast becoming popular among the young.
"Adopting Latin letters in the place of Arabic threatens our identity and culture. Using Arabic slang is a thousand times better than losing our cultural identity,’’ Jalban said, adding that a number of Muslim countries have replaced the Arabic script with Latin and even those who love to use Arabic are forced to use Latin script because they do not get keyboards with Arabic or because they communicate with people who do not like or are not familiar with the Arabic script.
He attributed the acceptance of Franco as the favorite language online because Latin is more user friendly on various computer systems than the Arabic script. Leading information technology companies such as Microsoft and Google provide translations of Franco texts into Arabic which helps the fast spread of Franco making it a threat to Arabic.
"The solution is to find ways to stop the influence of the Western culture on the youth who are weak in asserting their cultural identity. So the Arabic script should be incorporated on all computer systems and be made part of the curriculum,’’ he said.
Faculty member of Arabic Language at the King Khaled University Ahmed Al-Tihani said the use of Latin instead of Arabic is a threat to the Arab cultural identity. Arabic language is the incubator of values that developed the Muslim Ummah’s identity and it is one of the oldest living languages on earth.


Film Review: ‘Why Cheat India’ is a rocky ride to the murky side of education

Why Cheat India. (Supplied)
Updated 17 min 56 sec ago
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Film Review: ‘Why Cheat India’ is a rocky ride to the murky side of education

  • "Why Cheat India” follows the story of a conman, Rocky
  • Rocky is a sly, quick-talking figure, who runs an operation outsourcing entrance examinations and assignments for wealthy but dim-witted students to whizz kids low on cash

CHENNAI: Exam malpractice, plagiarism and cheating are said to be common in India’s higher education system. With hundreds of thousands of students chasing degrees in engineering or medicine, it’s an open secret that fraudsters and students alike can make good money from those desperate to gain top qualifications.

Soumik Sen’s movie “Why Cheat India” follows the story of one such conman, Rakesh “Rocky” Singh, played by Emraan Hashmi.

Rocky is a sly, quick-talking figure, who runs an operation outsourcing entrance examinations and assignments for wealthy but dim-witted students to whizz kids low on cash. The former get places at top colleges; the latter, meanwhile, are handsomely rewarded, with Rocky taking a cut of the proceeds.

Starting in the 90’s and running to the present day, it is a cold neoliberal treatise (Rocky’s closing speech, betraying no remorse, defends his business for benefitting both poor and wealthy students alike). But it is also a reflection on the hopelessness of ambition for many small-town Indians, powerless in the face of a vast, urbanized society that values money above all.

There are several compelling performances. The story of Snighdadeep Chatterjee’s Satyendra, and his rise and fall through a world of manipulation, greed and high living, is a breath of fresh air. Shreya Dhanwanthary, meanwhile, making her debut in a Hindi film, puts in an assured display as Nupur, Satyendra’s sister, who falls for Rocky’s irresistible charm.

The film is far from a hit, however. It is overwritten, and its drive to push the narrative that, ultimately, all is bleak is too tiring to engage with over the course of two hours. In addition to the overwrought script, the editing is a hatchet job; the combination of the two makes the film both disjointed and, frankly, sloppy.

What is even more concerning is that, Chatterjee and Dhanwanthary aside, the cast and characters are generic and one-dimensional. “Why Cheat India” has tackled an interesting subject matter, an area of widespread organized criminality rarely explored on screen. Yet what Sen has produced, sadly, is not a convincing portrayal, nor compelling action. It is a missed opportunity.