Abu Dhabi: Why do Arab students grow up and graduate with poor knowledge of their own mother tongue? A concern has emerged in the past years about the future of the Arabic language and challenges learners are currently facing in assimilating the language.
Dr Mohammad Hasab Al Nabi, head of the Education Department at Al Hosn University, addressed the issue in his lecture "Challenges in learning Arabic Language in the 21st Century," at Sultan Bin Zayed Cultural and Media Centre.
He attributed some of these challenges to many factors including curriculum and approaches in teaching and textbooks that do not compete with their modern counterparts in teaching languages like English or French.
"The Arabic curriculum lacks systematisation and progression. It does not match students' ability to learn, nor take into consideration the interests of each phase of age in choosing literature," Al Nabi explained.
Additionally, Al Nabi highlighted the teachers' poor teaching skills and lack of interest in developing specialised Arabic teachers.
"Arabic teachers are still adopting approaches based on memorisation that puts off the students' motivation in learning the language. These unattractive methods reduce the students' abilities in learning new lexis and create a resentful attitude towards the language," he said.
"Memorising and reciting without having the chance to reword, explain and analyse in his own words thwarts the student from learning new vocabulary and from learning the mechanism of the language, and limits the correct usage of lexis," he explained. Sadly this method of teaching is not only used by a majority of Arabic teachers, but also Islamic studies teachers, a subject where students could have strengthened their knowledge in Arabic.
The student-teacher relationship, in such an approach, prevents the students from asking questions about difficult expressions or words, so they tend to learn them without understanding their meaning — just for exams and forget it after that. Limiting vocabulary usage to theoretical explanation without linking it to real-life situations is another factor that contributes to students quickly forgetting what they learn.
Additionally, the students find this approach boring and quickly lose attention and concentration.
Al Nabi further explained that not taking the students' learning differences into consideration, alongside their cultural differences, hobbies, interests and the individual care and attention they need, create in students an attitude of indifference towards learning, laziness or even frustration.
Absence of usage of the classical Arabic language in teaching increases the gap between the spoken language and the classical one.
"This gap tells the students, indirectly, that classical language is not active, not valid any more and has little or no value. School activities like public speech and drama are done in spoken Arabic. Even at the university level, Arabic is not given prestige or importance," he said.
Al Nabi indicated that learning foreign languages and teaching most of the subjects at schools and universities in these languages, in addition to using these languages at work, played a decisive role in the attitude towards Arabic.
"Globalisation and the wide use of a foreign language like English or French, especially in the GCC countries where there is a large number of expatriates, weakens people's trust in their own language. Additionally, they start to adopt expressions while speaking in their own language," he said.
Al Nabi believes that it is time to take action to save the Arabic language. He believes that knowing the role of culture will let Arabs deal with the language and the international cultures in the right way that will allow them to take their place in the global theatre without losing their identity or language.
In addition to remedying the previous points, he believes that media should play a role using classical Arabic in press and broadcasting.