File photo of residents at Abu Dhabi Corniche. Photo for illustrative purpose only. Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Abu Dhabi: Among Abu Dhabi residents, Arabic is perceived to be advantageous compared to English in cultural and creative domains, whereas English fares better in terms of knowledge, new research suggests.

The study by Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC) was conducted to assess perceptions of Arabic language in the fields of knowledge, culture, and creativity, and the levels of language use in conventional and digital media for native and non-native speakers. It was part of the ALC’s research aiming to track the status of the Arabic language across the Abu Dhabi emirate.

The study findings are based on the overall quarterly results of the research conducted over the past 12 months, from mid-2021 to the end of June 2022, with 6,087 participants from the emirate’s population aged 18 years old and above. The initiative supports the ALC’s vision to ensure the Arabic language’s leadership in the fields of knowledge, culture, and creativity, as well as its mission to drive the language’s development and modernisation by supporting authorship, translation, and publishing.

Perception Index

Findings were then analysed to arrive at a number of indicators, mainly including the Perception Index of Arabic language as a language of knowledge, culture, and creativity, where the knowledge pillar includes attributes related to learning the language and the extent of its use in research and science. The creativity pillar describes the language connection to cultural heritage; and creativity pillar relates to the language aesthetic elements and the extent of its use in creative content.

The index is calculated based on respondents rating their perception of Arabic language based on attributes relating to the pillars of knowledge, culture and creativity. Accordingly, the index results indicated that Arabic language is advantageous compared to English in the cultural and creative domains, while English is perceived to be ahead in terms of knowledge.

“When comparing perception of Arabic and English at an overall level among Abu Dhabi population, it is evident that both languages are almost at par, due to the inclusive demographic composition of Abu Dhabi, and the frequent use of both languages within the emirate community. Therefore, it is only natural for the two languages to have a similar general perception,” said Dr Ali bin Tamim, chairman of the ALC.

“The differences lie in the composition of the index, and carry a far deeper value when examined at the individual levels of culture, creativity, and knowledge. In that regard, Arabic came out on top in the culture and creativity indexes, while English had a relative advantage in the knowledge index,” he explained.

Understanding by non-Arabic speakers

The ALC’s research also measured the understanding and use of simple Arabic language by non-Arabic speakers in Abu Dhabi, which stood at 26.7 per cent over the examined period.

“These results represent an important base that will allow us to launch our strategic programs for non-Arabic speakers, namely ‘We Speak Arabic’ programme, which was launched at the beginning of this year with the aim of promote easy-to-learn Arabic vocabulary to non-Arabic speakers of all ages through digital content. An increase of 3.4 decimal points has been recorded on the index score since the launch of the program at the beginning of the year, with 64 per cent of non-Arabic speakers residing in Abu Dhabi expressing a desire to learn Arabic,” Dr bin Tamim said.

read more

Promoting Arabic

The ALC therefore pays special attention to promoting the Arabic language, and supporting its use locally and internationally as a language of science, culture, and creativity, by promoting Arabic content creation, spearheading the adoption of digital technology, and encouraging scientific studies on ways to further develop the language.

It has introduced a number of strategic programmes, including the Kalima project for translation that aims to reinvigorate the translation movement and provides Arabic readers with treasures from world literature.

The ALC has also launched the first-of-its-kind grants programme for research in the field of Arabic language, with the aim of advancing scientific research efforts and support the study of Arabic heritage. In addition, it has launched an Arabic peer-reviewed journal entitled Al Markaz: The Journal of Arab Studies, in partnership with Brill Publishing House.