Arabic is vital for the UAE identity. Use of the language in its UAE dialect is a key to binding nationals together and encouraging the mutual recognition of their shared heritage and nationality. It is dangerous for the UAE identity in the long term if UAE nationals are unable to speak their own language. In addition, UAE nationals should be completely fluent in their language. There are cases of individuals who can speak Arabic, but are unable to write it properly, since they have been educated abroad, or in some international schools which have offered inadequate Arabic tuition.

In addition, learning and speaking Arabic is something that non-Arabs should also embrace. Using Arabic should be an essential part of living in the UAE and it is unfortunate that not enough foreigners use the language.

It is incumbent on everyone resident in the UAE to learn some Arabic and as a start this can be done at a very simple level: Employers can make sure that they have bilingual signs in their buildings so that people can find their way around in both languages. Individuals should learn and use basic phrases so that they can include them in normal life, but in the end, everyone should make the effort and go and study the language properly.

But these issues are not specific to the UAE and are part of a wider set of challenges that the whole Arabic-speaking region is wrestling with, which were reviewed at the International Conference on Arabic Language which has been held in Dubai this week.

Several speakers made the important point that even if the language is not in danger — since hundreds of millions of Arabs speak it regularly and well — it may be in danger of being dropped from use in some situations like scientific research papers or in business meetings when English becomes a preferred medium.

The Arabic language needs conscious nurturing so that it does not fade into becoming a social dialect, but retains its place as one of the world’s premier languages.