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Khalid80
08-16-2010, 08:15 AM
Lebanon tries to retain Arabic in polyglot culture

By ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press Writer Zeina Karam, Associated Press Writer –

BEIRUT – Maya Sabti's children were born and raised in Lebanon but they speak only broken Arabic and cringe when presented with an Arabic book to read.

"I try to get them interested, but I don't blame them that they're not," said Sabti, whose children are 8 and 10. "Mobile phones, Facebook, movies — all that's important to them is in English."

In Lebanon, where everyday conversations have long been sprinkled with French and English, many fear the new generation is losing its connection to the country's official language: Arabic. The issue has raised enough concern for some civil groups to take action.

"Young people are increasingly moving away from Arabic, and this is a major source of concern for us," says Suzanne Talhouk, 33, a Lebanese poet who heads "Feil Amer," an organization launched last year to promote Arabic.

"The absence of a common language between individuals of the same country means losing the common identity and cause," Talhouk said. In a nod both to its members' sense of urgency and their language fixation, the group's name is the Arabic grammatical term for an imperative verb.

Arabic is believed to be spoken as a first language by more than 280 million people, mostly in the Middle East and North Africa. The classical, written form of the language is shared by all Arabic-speaking countries but spoken dialects differ among countries — and fluency in speaking doesn't necessarily mean fluency in reading and writing.

While Arabic is the official language of Lebanon, a tiny Arab country of 4 million on the Mediterranean, many Lebanese pride themselves on being fluent in French — a legacy of French colonial rule — and English. Conversations often include a mix of all three, so much so that "Hi kifak, ca va?" — with the English "hi" and the Arabic and French phrases for "how are you?" — has become a typical greeting, even appearing on T-shirts and mugs sold in souvenir shops.

Most schools in Lebanon teach three languages from an early age, and many parents send their children to French- or American-curriculum schools where Arabic comes second or third. It has become very common for young people, particularly when using Facebook and text messages, to write Arabic using Latin characters.

Even politicians are not immune. Last year, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, 40, stumbled through a speech in parliament, having obvious difficulty with the classical Arabic — raising laughter from lawmakers and from the many who watched video of the address posted on YouTube.

The concerns are not unique to Lebanon. Neighboring Syria requires that at least 60 percent of the space on signs for shops, restaurants and cafes should be in Arabic.

But Lebanon is a special case because of its more open society, said Mounira al-Nahed, assistant secretary general of the Beirut-based Arab Thought Foundation.

Lebanon's sectarian and ethnic diversity have always made it open to foreign influences. Moreover, it has a huge diaspora with an estimated 8 million people of Lebanese descent living in countries as distant as Brazil and Australia — many of whom come regularly to Lebanon for visits and often don't speak much Arabic.

Al-Nahed blames parents in part for speaking to their children in French or English at home, thinking they will pick up Arabic anyway. But this has had the adverse effect, making Arabic come at a distant third.

"It has reached a stage where you see young people in Lebanon feel it's a shame to speak Arabic. This is not the case in the Gulf or other Arab countries," she said.

Al-Nahed also blames teaching techniques that often do not encourage children to speak Arabic and make the language seem dull and complex to learn.

Talhouk and her group have been lobbying to change that.

Her group visited Lebanese universities in an effort to gauge attitudes toward Arabic. Dozens of students were asked to recite the Arabic alphabet. Most of them were unable to go beyond the first five letters.

"Not only do they not know their Arabic ABCs, but they also wondered why they should bother learning it and how it would help them," Talhouk said.

In an attempt to draw attention to the problem, her group recently organized an all-day Arabic language festival entitled "We Are Our Language" in Beirut. The festival included a book exhibition, music and literature readings, as well as posters urging, "Do not kill your language" and "Teach your son to speak Arabic."

Sabti, a housewife who brought her children to the festival, hoped it would help change their perspective. "We need more activities like this. I hope this helps young people know we have a beautiful language that we should protect."

But for Youssef Dakhil, a student in his 20s, the problem is all about the lack of a Lebanese national identity.

"Unfortunately, we like everything that's imported, including foreign languages," he said.

This is so true.
Unfortunately, I myself am not proficient in Arabic like I am in English.
I believe this is due to the fact that I missed out on 4 years of arabic language in elementary school while we were living abroad (I was attending American schools) due to the civil war in Lebanon.

Also in the work environment the majority of the correspondence letters are in English or to a lesser degree in French (i'm talking about multinational companies) so for example if I was to write or type a letter in Arabic this would be a very difficult task to accomplish (I'm not just saying this for myself, maybe my Lebanese compatriots would also agree with me on this).

The more serious issue is that both the Arabic+English languages are being distorted in Lebanon by combining the two languages together.

For example in English you say: I saved the file
In Lebanon the people are saying: "sayavto" lal file (sayavto meaning the act of saving the file. This word does not exist in English nor does it mean anything in traiditional Arabic :D)

dxjayrock2008
08-16-2010, 10:43 AM
This is so true.
Unfortunately, I myself am not proficient in Arabic like I am in English.
I believe this is due to the fact that I missed out on 4 years of arabic language in elementary school while we were living abroad (I was attending American schools) due to the civil war in Lebanon.

Also in the work environment the majority of the correspondence letters are in English or to a lesser degree in French (i'm talking about multinational companies) so for example if I was to write or type a letter in Arabic this would be a very difficult task to accomplish (I'm not just saying this for myself, maybe my Lebanese compatriots would also agree with me on this).

The more serious issue is that both the Arabic+English languages are being distorted in Lebanon by combining the two languages together.

For example in English you say: I saved the file
In Lebanon the people are saying: "sayavto" lal file (sayavto meaning the act of saving the file. This word does not exist in English nor does it mean anything in traiditional Arabic :D)



Just like here in the Philippines, our official languages are Filipino/Tagalog and English. We developed a merged language called Taglish(combined tagalog and english). Unfortunately, the younger generation of pinoys are more into Taglish than Tagalog and English.

TrueBluePinoy
08-16-2010, 11:10 AM
Actually we have lots of variants. There's Cebglish, Bicolglish, Pampanglish, Warayglish, Bisaglish, Ilonglish, Ilocanglish, Pangasinenglish, and so much more.

wilo22
08-16-2010, 11:52 AM
in lebanon there's a well known slogan: hi kifak ca va?

hi :english
kifak: arabic
ca va: french


the lebanese mix arabic french english turkish spanish and italian words in what we can call lebanese arabic

leb-basket
08-16-2010, 12:42 PM
in lebanon there's a well known slogan: hi kifak ca va?

hi :english
kifak: arabic
ca va: french


the lebanese mix arabic french english turkish spanish and italian words in what we can call lebanese arabic

this is so true. I myself prefer english and french over arabic.
I attended a french school and now i am in an american system college. In lebanon we dt have what we call pure arabian system. Our lebanese culture has always been based on a melting spot of several languages and cultures. Its not something new at all. However, what is dangerous now is that nowadays no one is using the arabic language anymore (through writting or reading) we are just speaking arabic. New generations are becoming weak and careless about their own language.

AlYuson
08-16-2010, 01:00 PM
Just like here in the Philippines, our official languages are Filipino/Tagalog and English. We developed a merged language called Taglish(combined tagalog and english). Unfortunately, the younger generation of pinoys are more into Taglish than Tagalog and English.

Hmmnn still majority of philippine populations speak filipino language or tagalog, those who speak in taglish are coņo or who belongs to wealthy or well-to do families and sometimes coeds.

fasoulaki
08-16-2010, 01:32 PM
To my understanding in ancient times poeple in Lebanon (Sidon, Tyre, Byblos) were speaking Phoenician the language which further developed to Aramaic. There was also an interim periode with strong greek influence during Hellenistic and Byzantine times. Only then Arabs arrived and brought their language.

So whats the problem with exchanging one foreign language (Arabic) with another (English/French)?

worldbasketball
08-16-2010, 07:35 PM
Well Lebanon is a multilingual society anyway.

Lebanese dialect is distinct from Arabic in every aspect. The poet Said Akl even divised an alphabet (amended Latin alphabet with many additions) to write "lebanese".

Other languages very much in use in Lebanon include Armenian, Kurdish, Syriac and now with the new arrivals from Iraq, Assyrian / Chaldean (Eastern Syriac language).

Lebanon also once had a vibrant Jewish community and a high level secondary school "The Alliance" in Wadi Abou Jamil district in Downtown Beirut.

When the Army Team of Turkey came to play in the Military Basketball Championship Games in Beirut, a bunch of Lebanese kids jumped and wanted to greet them. To the amusement of the Turkish players, the Lebanese kids spoke Turkish as they were Turkoman Lebanese obviously overwhelmed with the prospect of meeting these young Turkish soldiers playing basketball.

Khalid80
08-16-2010, 10:14 PM
in lebanon there's a well known slogan: hi kifak ca va?

hi :english
kifak: arabic
ca va: french


the lebanese mix arabic french english turkish spanish and italian words in what we can call lebanese arabic

I have that phrase on a t-shirt :D

Khalid80
08-16-2010, 10:17 PM
To my understanding in ancient times poeple in Lebanon (Sidon, Tyre, Byblos) were speaking Phoenician the language which further developed to Aramaic. There was also an interim periode with strong greek influence during Hellenistic and Byzantine times. Only then Arabs arrived and brought their language.

So whats the problem with exchanging one foreign language (Arabic) with another (English/French)?

Actually this issue is still discussed nowadays. I once had a discussion with a few Lebanese friends that told me they refused to consider themselves as Arabs and they said "we're Lebanese" and from Phoenician descent.

leb-basket
08-16-2010, 10:46 PM
Actually this issue is still discussed nowadays. I once had a discussion with a few Lebanese friends that told me they refused to consider themselves as Arabs and they said "we're Lebanese" and from Phoenician descent.

well yeah more than 40% of the lebanese still have the phoenician gene. Its a gene that makes you a great marketer. (i wanna know if i have this gene :cool:)

Lebanese hate arabians for several reasons but nowadays we have to deal with the fact that we are arabians. But i cansay that we negelect the fact that lebanese aren't arabian due to the great culture of the ancient phoenicians.

PRSURF
08-16-2010, 11:57 PM
Hmmnn still majority of philippine populations speak filipino language or tagalog, those who speak in taglish are coņo or who belongs to wealthy or well-to do families and sometimes coeds.:o:o:o:D hahaha do they use that word???, haha!.........I know a lebanese friend that he combained french with spanish.

dxjayrock2008
08-17-2010, 05:01 AM
Hmmnn still majority of philippine populations speak filipino language or tagalog, those who speak in taglish are coņo or who belongs to wealthy or well-to do families and sometimes coeds.



coņo actually means female sex organ in spanish. :D

wilo22
08-17-2010, 12:07 PM
Actually this issue is still discussed nowadays. I once had a discussion with a few Lebanese friends that told me they refused to consider themselves as Arabs and they said "we're Lebanese" and from Phoenician descent.

a big majority of lebanese christians consider their selfs as phoenicians not arabs

b3lowzro
08-19-2010, 01:16 AM
a big majority of lebanese christians consider their selfs as phoenicians not arabs

really, I thought majority of the Maronites and the Eastern Orthodox migrated in the Americas? Thanks for this information :), anyway I do hope you guys don't loose your identity as part of the arabic-speaking people.