We’ve all tossed around the idea of the Arabic language meeting a slow but sure demise in Lebanon. It was only very recently that a friend and I figured we should strive to lessen mixing languages during our day to day discussions. This has proven to be especially difficult seeing as our day to day discussions stem from elements in our lives where Arabic is as dead as dead goes.
As an example at the top of my head, there are next to no Arabic words that I’m aware of with which I can describe what goes on at the hospital. So I simply revert to the language that makes such descriptions easier. It’s a simple matter of convenience.
However, there are now tangible numbers as to the state of the Arabic language today. Out of more than 61,000 brevet students, only 33.7% managed to get the required 30/60 to pass their Arabic exam, one that has been easy by all standards:
I’m guessing such news comes as no surprise to anyone. I also don’t see this pattern reversing anytime soon, no matter how much the Arabic curriculum is changed or the exams made easier as the LBC reporter suggests.
For starters, the bulk of your education, be it at school or at the university level, doesn’t happen through the mother tongue, not that I’m complaining. The last thing I want to do, honestly, is to study Maths and science in Arabic. However, when you are priming a student for years and years not to use his mother tongue in almost all the dealings of his everyday life, isn’t it expected for him to slowly move away from that language?
This lack of Arabic use in education reflects clearly on the extent with which Lebanese use Arabic outside of their education as compared to neighboring countries. For instance, many of my Syrian friends find chatting, texting or doing anything of the sort in Arabic completely normal because of the extent that language is used in their education. Is that the case for us? Obviously not.
Upon leaving high school and going to college, the Arabic you get exposed to is directly correlated it with how much Arabic you are willing to take. For most, that is the one required course in order to graduate – an easy course at best, with many struggling to make it through as I’ve witnessed personally. If you’re not majoring in Arabic literature and have no interest in languages in general, there’s next to no use for you to pursue this language further. Couple this with the fact that your exposure to its components becomes non-existent and the populace suffering a decline in their Arabic proficiency becomes certain.
Back in our days, we were not overwhelmed by a lack of Arabic as the newer generation is today. We didn’t go home to countless Internet pages and smartphones that beeped to no end. How much of our laptops and devices are Arabic-equipped?
How many Internet pages that we actually use are written in Arabic? How many of the Arabic pages that are present do we normally use? Outside of the news ones, I can think of none. Horoscopes, maybe?
Moreover, the entire online presence of the Lebanese population, the youth particularly, is one which doesn’t rely on the Arabic language. We use arabizi out of convenience. We revert to English and French because even arabizi has some aspect on which we fail to agree and its use becomes tedious for those who are not that used to it. Who of us regularly tweets using Arabic? It comes as a surprise for many if some of us actually do that. Who of us has set their Facebook account to Arabic? How many of us even feel it’s easier to blog in Arabic even though it should give us a wider base? My MacBook Pro, for one, doesn’t have an Arabic keyboard.
There are a multitude of jokes about Achrafieh women who are proud of their children not knowing a word of Arabic. The reality though is that in a world as changing as this and with a people as malleable to circumstances as the Lebanese people, the Arabic language simply doesn’t seem to find a place of use except as being the language we were born hearing and speaking. Is that enough? Perhaps not.