Purists alarmed at increasing popularity of Franco-Arabic

Updated 14 January 2015

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.


REVIEW: US remake of ‘Utopia’ comes up short

The cast of 'Utopia' (Amazon)
Updated 22 October 2020

REVIEW: US remake of ‘Utopia’ comes up short

  • Lavish conspiracy drama misses the spark of the UK original

LONDON: Adapting a UK show for US (and, thanks to the reach of streaming platforms, international) audiences is a risky proposition. There have been far more misses than hits, with the British style of programming often proving difficult to recreate with anything other than the original cast, setting and tone.

It’s even more of a surprise that a US remake of “Utopia” was green-lit when you consider that the original 2013 UK run, though now regarded as something of a cult hit, was a divisive mix of graphic violence, head-spinning conspiratorial doublespeak and terrifyingly brilliant dystopian foreshadowing. Indeed, the original incarnation of the show was cancelled after just 12 episodes.

So how does the US version stack up? The premise is largely the same. A group of online friends, obsessed with the idea that a mysterious comic book has been predicting the world’s catastrophes, meet in real life when word leaks out of a newly discovered second volume. The misfits, each with their own distinctive foibles, find themselves on the run from a sinister organization that is hellbent on getting the book back. The only person they can turn to is the enigmatic Jessica Hyde, the ‘star’ of the comic book’s first volume.

In many ways, the US version simply transplants the action, characters and plot from the original, albeit it with the high-gloss buffing of modern TV production dollars. Sadly, in most cases, the 2020 version doesn’t fare well – Sasha Lane’s Jessica Hyde and Christopher Denham’s Arby, for example, lack the charisma of Fiona O’Shaughnessy or the horrifying blankness of Neil Maskell from the UK show.

Sasha Lane as Jessica Hyde in 'Utopia.' (Amazon)

There are some nice nods to the more modern setting – not to mention horribly unfortunate relevance, given the current global pandemic – and some big names making up the supporting cast (John Cusack and Rainn Wilson), but more often that not, the 2020 show lacks the claustrophobic menace that pervaded the UK original.

“Utopia” is still an enjoyably uncomfortable watch, and is (at times) still chillingly sinister. Those who missed the UK original might find something here, but those who caught the show first time round may feel a little underwhelmed.