Emirati students lack thorough grounding in Arabic

Emirati graduates finding difficluty in adjusting to the work force
By Mariam M Al Serkal, Staff Reporter

Gulf News

Fatima Badry Zalami

Image Credit: AHMED RAMZAN/Gulf News
A study by Fatima Badry Zalami, a linguistic professor, found pressure from parents is resulting in Emirati students not being able to read and write properly in Arabic.

Sharjah: Kholoud Al Sulaiman, an Emirati graduate in human resources, resigned from her previous job because she was unable to cope with pressure of having to work in Arabic.

“I can speak Arabic but writing and reading it is a bit hard. I’ve lived abroad for 11 years and while I had my elementary education in Syria and was able to learn the basics [of the Arabic language], I then continued high school in Morocco,” said the 26-year-old, who completed her undergraduate degree at Zayed University in Dubai, and whose courses did not comprise of any classes in Arabic.

“I dreaded working in my last job because even though I clearly mentioned in the interview that I did not have a strong command of the language, 30 per cent of my job involved translating documents. Since then, I’ve moved to an international-based company that hardly requires any Arabic.”

Kholoud is not alone in the plight of making co-workers and fellow citizens recognise her for her abilities instead of the lack of language skills she may or may not possess.

As the new generation of Emiratis are heavily affected by a variety of social factors in their upbringing, the new labour force is witnessing a shift as less of the local population uses the Arabic language in their personal and professional lives.

Dr Fatima Badry, a social linguist at the American University of Sharjah, has carried out a four-year-study on the rising popularity of the English language among 720 high school and university students across the country.

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Fatima became intrigued over the issue after noticing that the global language was empowering the native language, and when asking her students about their Arab identity, she realised that there was a problem.

After carrying out a survey among Emirati students from the ages of 14 to 28 across a number of public and private educational institutes in Sharjah, Dubai, Al Ain and Fujairah, Fatima’s research has revealed that the pressure to excel in the English language, the lack of qualified Arabic teachers and raising children by non-Arabic speakers all play a role in moulding the students’ grasp of the language.

“The pressure to learn English is not coming from globalisation but from parents. In society everybody talks in English, such as in shopping malls or supermarkets, and Arabic has become a secondary language in the UAE,” said Fatima.

She emphasised that learning English should not come at a cost, and pointed out that the reason behind it is due to teachers not being well-trained in curricula of schools, as well as in the lack of teaching methods.

The findings from her study, which was presented at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research last October, revealed that students are not learning the Arabic language properly and do not have good skills either in reading or writing.

From her findings, Fatima found that Arabic teachers come from different countries that adds complexity to the different dialects, since they are able to teach the spoken Arabic dialect but eventually have problems in teaching when in comes to grammatical educational.

Laila, an Emirati whose mother is Italian, explained that although she has the basic grasp of the Arabic language, she still has some difficulty in her job when interacting with her colleagues and clients.

“I speak very basic Arabic with my father and with my mother, we always talk in Italian together. I’ve told my employees about the lack of language skills I have in Arabic but even though I’ve pointed out that I speak fluent Italian, [my employees] tend to focus on the lack of skills I have instead of focusing on the positive aspects I might bring to the company,” she added.


Posted on June 10, 2012, in Morocco News and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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