I read a column by Dr Suad Al-Sabah in Al-Rai yesterday about a topic that has been on my mind for many years. Guys, it’s about the decline of our beautiful Arabic language. Thanks to Dr Suad for her effort in raising this serious issue, especially how it’s being taught to children. As a language, it should be taught when you are young – anything you learn when you are very young will stay in your memory. Children are like sponges – they absorb everything, and especially languages, 100 times better than when they are older.
I still remember poetry that I was taught in school at the age of six or seven. If you give me two lines of a poem today to memorize, I think it will take me one week. With regards to Arabic, I want to also add another aspect that needs discussing – that as adults, we are ignoring our language. I have noticed that in many societies, English is prevailing. Even when we are walking or talking as a family or with friends, we are not using Arabic – even our slang is mostly English.
The problem is that many of us started to consider speaking English as a mark of status. Wow. Cool. I hear young Arab mothers at the co-op or at the airport or shops talking to their children in English. They seem to be more focused on demonstrating to everyone that they know English and that their kids know English, rather than really communicating with their children. Sometimes, I even laugh as some of them make mistakes while speaking, but insist to keep speaking in English.
I’m not against any language and I love languages, actually. I’m writing in English because this is an English-language paper and there is no harm in this. All our kids should know English and other languages of the world. But first let’s master our own language and this is what my generation was forced to do. Master Arabic before learning a second language.
I understand that the whole world has become a village, and thanks to globalization, our interaction with the rest of the world is mainly in English. So that maybe is one of the reasons why many people want their children to learn English. Also, the social system in Kuwait means that children are often exposed to domestic help from Asian countries and often end up communicating in English.
Despite all these snags, we should try our best and concentrate more on learning Arabic and force our children to master their native tongue as early as possible.
By Badrya Darwish