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Nada Ramadan

Qatar approves draft law to 'protect' Arabic language

The new law was driven by concerns over the loss of cultural identity [De Agostini]

Date of publication: 13 February, 2016

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In efforts to promote the use of Arabic language and protect cultural identity, Qatar's Cabinet has approved a new draft law on the "protection of Arabic language".

Qatar's Cabinet has approved a draft law on the "protection of Arabic language", in an effort to promote a wider use of the language in Qatar, state news agency QNA reported on Wednesday.

The draft law requires all ministries, official institutions and municipalities to use Arabic language in all of their documents, contracts, transactions, correspondence, publications and advertisements.

National public universities and institutions of higher education, overseen by the government, will also be required to teach all subjects in Arabic.

The new draft law will put a legal framework for a decision issued by the country's Supreme Education Council (SEC) in 2012, stipulating that the language of instruction for classes in law, international affairs, media and business administration must switch from English to Arabic starting in September the same year.

It is not clear if the draft law will also require the use of Arabic in teaching other subjects, such as engineering and medicine, which continue to be taught in English in Qatar's education institutions.

The enforcement of the SEC decision in 2012 raised concerns about the difficulties that would face students who had already started studying in English, as well as many international students.

The difficulties that came with the new decision also included the lack of course material in Arabic and potential problems over international rankings, collaboration and accreditation.

Protecting cultural identity

The new draft law was driven by concerns over the loss of cultural identity, as younger generations lacked interest in Modern Standard Arabic, as opposed to colloquial Arabic dialects and foreign languages.

Last month, Qatar's former first lady Sheikha Moza bint Nasser launched the second edition of the Renaissance of Arabic Language Forum, linking the "erosion of cultural identity" to the loss of language.

"Our failure to effectively use modern communication techniques has led to an inability to preserve the Arabic language," she said in her opening remarks.

"It is unfortunate that a few decades ago the Arabic language was more prevalent in children than it is today."

Our failure to effectively use modern communication techniques has led to an inability to preserve the Arabic language.
- Sheikha Moza

Sheikha Moza also attributed some of the challenges facing the Arabic language to families, weak school curriculums, television programmes, and globalisation.

"If we want to save our identity we have no choice but to advance ourselves and enhance the Arabic Language in order to adjust with the contemporary era."

The former first lady concluded by calling for the unification of intellectual scholars, legislatures, cultural figures, and the media to protect the Arabic language, explaining the need for it to be simplified in schools systems and encouraging television programmes to adopt formal Arabic.

Other attempts have been made to promote the use of Arabic in the Gulf country.

In 2012, the Emir approved new marketing regulations stipulating that Arabic should be the main language used on billboards, allowing foreign languages to be included as supplementary text.

Those who violate the law would have their advertisements removed "by force" and could face up to QR 20,000 ($5,492) in fines.

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