One of the main reasons for me to move to Saudi Arabia was to learn Arabic. But after moving here, I began noticing a particular problem. The Arabs didn’t speak Arabic to foreigners! (Well, at least not the same version that they used to speak to their fellow Arabs.) Let’s look into some of the biggest challenges faced by anyone living in the Gulf countries who “dreams” of learning Arabic (because that’s what it remains as for most of them – just a dream).
1. Unsupportive environment
When I lived in New Zealand, I came across many language students who had travelled to New Zealand to learn English. Many of them were able to pick up the language within few months of their stay in New Zealand. Language students found an environment to support their goals of learning English if they had the will to learn. However, if someone wants to learn Arabic in one of the Gulf countries, the situation can be quite different.
What I noticed with the local New Zealanders is that they always spoke in perfect complete English sentences with everyone. Regardless, if the other person is fresh off the boat with no English or a native English speaker. He/she made no distinction between the two types. Whereas in the Gulf regions, the local Arabs use a broken Arabic language to converse with foreigners! (You! come! go! sort of a thing) But when they speak to their fellow Arabs they speak in perfect complete sentences. This led to many foreigners learning a different type of Arabic, which is another version of the street-Arabic (apart from the one they already use).
This is a major problem at least in most Gulf countries (I’m yet to find out about the situation in other Arab countries). Most Arabs don’t realize the damage they cause to their language and culture by using this broken language with foreigners. This is something the Arabs should learn from the West in terms of how they value and hold their language with high esteem, which takes us to our next point.
2. Arabic is not a mandatory requirement
If you ponder over it, why do all English speaking countries require a mandatory language exam to be passed before anyone gets admitted to study or work in any of those countries, yet we don’t have any language requirement for anyone to work in the gulf countries.
Just imagine, if all the gulf countries had made it mandatory to learn Arabic before entering their country, how many Muslims would have been speaking Arabic (In some gulf countries, the expat population exceeds the local population!). How many of them would have understood the Quran? How much of frustration and depression could have been avoided because of miscommunication and lack of self-expression?
3. Lack of professional Arabic language centres
There are not many language centers to teach Arabic professionally. One of the reasons is that Gulf countries don’t issue international student visas to learn Arabic unless you’re enrolled in one of the government-owned universities. These universities accept a limited number of students and usually have age restrictions. Also, I haven’t heard of any well-known language centres catering to the local non-Arabic speaking expat population.
Allah (SWT) chose the Quran to be revealed in Arabic language not only because of its eloquence and beauty, but also because the Arabs were the masters of rhetoric and literature at the time. Today, unfortunately, the same cannot be said. The Arabs have to wake up to this fact and rectify the situation by taking it upon themselves to revive this Ummah (Muslim community) by being a beacon that spreads the knowledge of Arabic language.