Sharjah Ruler witnesses panel discussion on the history, present and future of Arabic language

SHARJAH, 1st November, 2018 (WAM) — In the presence of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, a panel discussion titled “The Sun of Arab Culture”, on the first day of the Sharjah International Book Fair, SIBF.

Dr. Sheikh Sultan said that while in the past the Arabic language had suffered from some neglect, in recent years this has been rectified.

“The next thing to do is to communicate with the ministries of culture and education authorities to elevate the Arabic language in schools and universities. We hope this movement to protect the Arabic language continues, and we are working hard to achieve this,” he remarked.

Featuring in the book fair’s Cultural Programme, the session explored the challenges facing languages in general, questioning the survival of Arabic in an increasingly technology-driven, data-filled world.

“Can you imagine a world without language?” asked Azzeldine Mihoubi, Algerian Minister of Culture, and winner of the SIBF Cultural Personality of the Year Award 2018, in recognition of his outstanding efforts and achievements in the development of cultural fields in Algeria.

Moderating the session was Dr. Mohamed Saber Arab, who took the honour at the 2017 edition of SIBF for outstanding cultural and academic achievements, and recognised his leading efforts to enhance Egypt’s cultural relations.

Dr. Arab opened the session by asking Mihoubi what the future holds for the Arabic language and Arab culture, especially given that the youth is not as passionate when it comes to learning and using their mother language as compared to the older generations. Could Arabic cease to exist? Are all languages at risk? What needs to be done to safeguard languages for the future? Mihoubi shared photos chronicling important moments in history between the UAE and Algeria, highlighting the strong relationship between the two countries. “This relationship is not new, it goes back through history,” he said.

In March 1986, Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi visited Algeria and delivered an important lecture on the importance of understanding the Algerian revolution, Mihoubi explained. “Thank you for everything you have given Algeria. These are brotherly relations that will last forever.”

Moving on to the challenges facing languages, Mihoubi confirmed that there is a lot of pessimism that the Arabic language is going to die tomorrow and called on people to tackle the problem from a “comprehensive perspective.”

Mihoubi explained that scientists agreed that there are 5,000 to 6,000 languages currently in use, quantifying “a language” when 10 people or more agree on and use it. But the 21st century will see the demise of 3,000 languages due to globalisation. By the year 2100, 90 percent of all languages will have died, with a language being considered endangered if 30 percent of a community stops learning it.

So where does this leave the Arabic language? “It will survive, but it needs to evolve,” Mihoubi reassured.

SIBF is today one of the most prominent literary and cultural events in the world exhibiting more than 20 million books, 1.6 million titles, 80,000 new book titles and 1,874 publishing houses from 77 countries worldwide. SIBF runs until 10th November, 2018, at the Sharjah Expo Centre.

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