The Arabic studies professor at the American University of Beirut, the Lebanese Ph.D. Ramzi Munir Al-Baalbaki, considered that the most dangerous factor for the retreat of the Arabic language lies within “the view of future generations towards the Arabic Language and the extent of their use of it in their day to day life”.
While Arabic is considered to be the second most widely spoken language in the world, after English and French, with a number of speakers of approximately 500 million, the lecturer considered that the numerical criterion being used to measure its spread of Arabic confuses between classical Arabic and other spoken dialects.
Baalbaki blamed individuals, educational institutions for the state of confusion, challenges and adversity that the Arab Language faces, considering that the language suffers from contemporary crises that reflect, in its entirety, greater problems facing the Arab nation, in terms of culture, education, and the spread of vernacular and English in the cultural, scientific and media arenas.
At the “The Arabic Language Security between Factors of Reassurance and Anxiety” seminar, organized by ARDD’s “Al Nahda Thought Forum”, Al Baalbaki stressed that “The Nation’s life and sustainability is dependent on its language, which represents its national identity, its unity and the essence of its existence, the basis of its Nahda (renaissance) and its human dimension.”
The prevalence of Arabic on the Internet, according to statistics conducted in 2016, is estimated at 4.7%, and thus is ahead of the languages: Portuguese, Japanese, Malay, Russian, French and German, according to Baalbaki.
This Seminar which was held on the occasion of the International Day for the Arabic Language and in the presence of a group of writers, academics and interested , was moderated by the educational expert, Dr. Touqan Obeidat upon the request of ARDD’s Board of Trustees Chairman, and the director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, Dr. Zaid Eyadat.
Al Baalbaki pointed out that “The colloquial dialect expands at the expense of the classical Arabic language,” which warns of a combined catastrophe “which have grave consequences”, warning that the preservation of the language is by adopting serious means that guarantee its survival and purity.
Baalbaki did not deny, the increasing interest in Arabic in recent years, and the existence of many institutional and individual initiatives interested in this context, but he saw that the gap between the new generations and the sound Arabic language is widening.
Regarding the concept of the historical dictionary in the Arabic language, the lecturer quoted an earlier saying, that its essence “is to monitor the oldest use of each item, and to provide it with dated evidence, and then track its semantic development, if any.”
“From anxiety, the wind was whistling below me,” said the Arab poet Abi al-Tayyib al-Mutanabbi, which intersects with what Baalbaki indicated about his concern about the weak teaching of the Arabic language to children, especially the age groups in the early school stages.
According to him, if we want to understand thought and intellectual production, then we must study the language, and if we want to study the language, we must study its different roles and uses in the society, pointing out that the nature of language is understood only through the society in which the language exercises its functions.
“Is the Arabic language in real danger?” Baalbaki asks in this regard, but he saw that there are catastrophic phenomena that almost befall the Arabic language as a result of disavowing it at times and being ashamed to use it at other times.
One of the attendees, shared the experience of China, with the Arabic language and the extent of its interest in teaching it to children, in light of the presence of more than 300 schools that teach Arabic there, because it is a language that is relevant to all ages and times
In response to a question, Baalbaki said that “Arab unity is achieved every day with the use of proper Arabic language, because each of us understands it and can communicate with the other Arab in it. A healthy language unites us and makes us closer to our identity.”
The lecturer concluded that Arabic is the document that the Arab world possesses today, in face of despotism, and is the broad sea for expressing the conditions in which we live, indicating that the language is a vessel of human experiences, and a witness to its civilizational path.
Each year on the 18 December the world celebrates the Arabic Language, and each year on this day ARDD celebrates through holding lectures by prominent experts, researchers and academics specialized in this issue. ARDD also reaffirms its commitment towards the Arabic language and its security as part of Al Nahda Thought Center research theme, the Arabic Language: the language of AlNahda.
Ramzi Baalbaki is the Margaret Weyerhaeuser Jewett Chair of Arabic at the American University of Beirut and the Head of the Academic Council of the Doha Historical Dictionary of the Arabic Language. He has published extensively in Arabic and English on the Arabic Grammatical Theory and Arabic lexicography. His books include The Legacy of the Kitāb: Sībawayhi’s Analytical Methods within the Context of the Arabic Grammatical Theory (Brill, 2008) and The Arabic Lexicographical Tradition from the 2nd/8th to the 12th/18th Century (Brill, 2014). He has also produced critical editions of numerous classical Arabic texts and co-authored, with his late father Mounir Baalbaki, the famous English-Arabic dictionary, al-Mawrid, and its comprehensive counterpart, al-Mawrid al-Akbar (Beirut, 2005). In 2010, he was granted the King Faisal International Prize for his contribution to the study of Arabic grammar.