JEDDAH: Asma Al Ghabiri
Published — Saturday 20 April 2013
Last update 20 April 2013 6:13 am
Writings by youth occupy a wide space on the Internet and smartphone applications. Often young people communicate through using a common language that mixes Arabic with English words.
These usually combine Arabic letters and their equivalent in English to form words that can only be understood by those who mastered Internet-speak. This language called “Arabizi,” was derived from Arabic and English. Others call it “Arabish.” This form of language has spread among young people, and is only understood by them.
Parents find it difficult to decipher or understand its meaning. Had they known the language, they would have been able to understand what goes on between their children just by checking their phones.
Hani Mukhtar, an IT expert, said the new language came with mobile phone services in the Arab world. These only had English characters at the beginning, which made users look for a way to send text messages, and spread quickly after that.
“When Blackberry came into existence, youths perfected the use of this language in chat programs,” Mukhtar said.
Mukhtar pointed out: “Users of this language only know a few English words. But it contributed a great deal to their curiosity and motivated them to learn it, if only to add a few words to their chats.”
Wafa’ Al-Mughaidi, an English teacher in a public school, said: “Arabish improved the girls’ standards in English, and they wanted to learn it as they thought they would be considered more cultured and slick by using it in chatting sites on their mobile phones.”
Even though this cyber language is spreading quickly, many people say this way of writing is obliterating the Arabic language and tarnishing its authenticity.
Mona Al-Asmari, an Arabic language teacher for 15 years, said the new language is strengthening the English language and abusing Arabic. In the past girls were much better at Arabic, but Arabish is slowly obliterating the features of the alphabet.
Al-Asmari added: “Children are being spoiled by being given mobile phones with chat websites. This is making Arabic more difficult to understand and less respectable while taking care of English, which has become a source of pride between teenagers.”
Saleh Al-Ghamidi, member of the Language Forum and director of the education office in eastern Makkah, emphasized teachers’ role in educating young people and correcting their behavior. He does not agree with the idea that modern technology has a great role in affecting education if it has a strong basis. Al-Ghamidi said if educators do their job without complacency and complaint, they will have motivated students who defy all odds. Nothing will affect their beliefs, he added.
He said he is not worried about Arabic.
“Our language is the language of the Qur’an, and Allah preserved it with the Qur’an,” he said. “The founding of new languages that accompany modern technology doesn’t mean it is dying. If there is a fault in education, and students find it difficult to learn the language of the Qur’an, the fault must be that of Arabic teachers who are neglecting their duty or not carrying it out in the right way.”