Reading and learning Arabic in Europe
The Arabic language is among the world’s greatest languages that are spoken by over one million people. The language is a transit of many important contributions to the development of both science and culture. The language harbors important person’s history who were poets, philosophers as well as mathematicians among other world renowned leaders. Should one therefore teach and/or learn Arabic in Europe? Arabic should be taught and learnt in Europe because it harbors a lot of rich linguistic culture that when not utilized fully may lead to the underutilization of a culture rich linguistic. It should be noted that the UN accepts Arabic as one of its official languages and it is one of the important languages for the European. Arabic has a lot of cultural heritage and teaching/learning it in Europe will promote and enhance intercultural understanding. By this, Europe which is by majority Indo-European will be able to sell and advertise the Arabic culture that has for a long time been stereotyped by the media, films and other sources. As a student, leaning the language adds to the many benefits professional advantage over those who have not learnt the language. The global events, both positive and negative have necessitated many people to embrace the language so that itsby its understanding, they may learn to understand what it entails.
Knowing and understanding only one language is disadvantageous since it may led to communication barriers and this being the case, learning Arabic in Europe would go a long way into identifying the language and the people who speaks the language. This has an advantage in that there will be exposure to the English speaking people. For example a European who want to undertake business endeavors with an Arab may not find it difficult to transact or deal with them if he/she knows Arabic. This being the case, this paper aims at identifying the various implications of teaching and learning in Europe and the penetration of Arabic in the Indo-European zone
Arabic just like any other linguistic is a complex language especially in a foreign land. In a native language may become a barrier when teaching and learning. There is no commonality between Arabic and the language spoken in Europe. Arabic being a Semitic language contrasts with Europe’s indo European language and in any given case, the two diversities may not at any given situation understand each other unless one is taught the other. Learning in Europe for a native Arabic person may pose great challenges especially if they have limited knowledge on the European language. The same case would apply to any person wiling to teach in Europe having been from an Arabic background. Two scenarios exists here; one is where the person speaking the Arabic language knows English; and in the other instance, one doesn’t completely understand English and is Arabic, or does not understand Arabic and is European. Taking critical analysis of the two setting learning Arabic may pose challenges especially when a student is earning it as a foreign language.
Implications of learning/reading Arabic in Europe
One of the issue arising from reading and learning Arabic in a foreign land is the issue of non-indo European origin. To the English speaking students/learners of the Indo-European languages, the written and spoken language in certain instances is partially comprehensible due to cognate lexical items. For example, industry in French is pronounced as industrie, danser is a French verb which means to dance in English. Some other familiar word structure and other grammatical processes are pronounced almost the same in French as in English. Arabic as a language does not belong to the Indo-European language segment but is a Semitic language line. Very few cognates exists with English and this means that vocabulary learning may be one of the greatest challenges that is associated with learning Arabic. At the same time, there are some striking structural and conceptual differences including the broken plural for nouns as well as the dual category for nouns, adjectives verbs and also pronouns that are difficult for the English speaking persons to internalize.
The Arabic texts are usually cursive and are read starting from the right to the left. Because of this, the letters within words are usually connected just as in an English handwriting. These letters and numbers are not Arabic and may seem fascinating to a person learning Arabic. For a beginner, this may look impenetrable. Though the writing may seem complicated, it should be known that the Arabic orthography is more systematic than English and has better fir/consistency between spelling and pronunciation (Dickins, Sándor and Ian Higgins 115). The achievement of mastery of the Arabic script is generally a motivational factors to the student and research indicates that this is achieved in only 15 to 18 class hours to attain in a normal university course after this, the students are able to write Arabic scripts .
Arabic language has phonemes that speakers coming from the European languages do not have in their repertoires that include the pharyngeal, uvular consonants that are velarized and differentiated vowel length (Cook para). The Arabic language also has complex morphological system that is highly inflected compared to the English language, for example, there exists three different cases as well as eight differentiated noun declensions. The different cases include the nominative, the genitive as well as the accusative cases.
The Arabs read and write from the “high form” form of language though in daily communication speaks variant language that are different. The dialect (spoken language) differs from region to region. These spoken forms are complex and sophisticated and are not considered viable for written communication this may make it difficult for a person learning Arabic to comprehend a spoken language that is not written but only used for only for day to day communication. It would therefore be complicated for an European learner who has to listen to a language that is not documented since extra effort have to be input to identify those wordings or terms that are not in written evidence, at the same time, the diverse spoken Arabic has been depicted to be differentiated by regions and this may complicate its understanding unlike English/French which is central and only varies in pronunciation and in certain words.
Arabic speaking students in Europe learning English and English speakers learning Arabic are likely to struggle like any other English second language speakers because of factors including linguistic, cultural, among others and this may affect their academic achievements. Understanding these factors would therefore help the students overcome such issues in the learning process.
Both English and Arabic have some positive and negative transfers that may affect language acquisition. The positive transfer may include the fact that both have the alphabetic systems and verb tenses, but the writing direction where Arabic is written from right to left and English from left to right is by no means a negative transfer (Rababah, 2003 129-134 ). Learners of either language may face language match problems, for example, the Arabic texts have consonants written down and the vowels are written based on the context presented, though much practice may help solve the issue. Stereotype is one factor that cannot be underestimated when learning/teaching Arabic in Europe/or in any other country not Arabic. This is a barrier that can hinder the learning process since the language is associated with middle east where war, terrorists, desert, camels, radical, oppression, violence, no women’s right and other negative terminologies are associated with (Akasha 16). Though this has been constantly addressed, teaching and/or learning Arabic in a non-Arabic zones may lead to negative stereotype in regard to one’s culture and values that are not in any way consistent with facts/truth or the Arabs heritage.
Language/Arabic transfer versus interference
Learning Arabic, just like any other foreign or second language can be affected by the interference of mother tongue thus leading to making errors. According to Al-Zoubi and Mohamad (2014), learning a particular language is a matter of habit formation (361). When learners therefore start learning a new habit, the old ones will in most cases interfere and affect the new habit. In this case, student learning Arabic in Europe may find themselves mixing languages in the course of their learning. What this means is that, besides being able to express oneself in another language, some wording, phrases or sentences which a learner can’t remember are usually pronounced using the mother tongue (Rababah 181). The instructor should therefore be aware of these language problems and encourage the students to practice more top overcome the “mother tongue effect”. This case also applies to English students learning Arabic.
Teaching and/or learning Arabic in Europe may not be as easy as it may sound mainly because of the contradictory nature of the regions where the languages are spoken; the Semitic and the Indo-European. Trying to learn a new language is like a change of habit and therefore with determination, one is able to overcome these challenges and in the end reap the full benefits associated with knowing Arabic in Europe. One factor that have been identified is the interference of the native language on the new language, thus leading to committing errors. The non-Arabic roman text to an English speaking learner only means that they have to start from scratch. Despite this fact, understanding the language is easy and it is the role of the instructors to motivate those who are English/Arabic second language to be aware of the errors that might occur in the process of learning. Various mistakes are likely to be made by students learning the Arabic language including pronunciation errors, spelling errors, morphology and syntax problems. At the same time, it should be expected that as a learner try’s to understand the foreign language, communication barrier is expected to arise. This is therefore likely to affect the daily communication expression as well as classroom communication. By understanding the differences that exist between the two languages, learners in Europe would be able to know that the application of native/mother tongue affects their productivity and therefore avoid and/or reduce the amount of interference. This could be done by encouraging new learning habits that overcome the old habits.
Akasha, Omran. “Exploring the Challenges Facing Arabic-Speaking ESL Students & Teachers in Middle School.” Journal of ELT and Applied Linguistics (JELTAL) 1.1 (2013): 12-31.
Al-Zoubi, Dalal Mohamad, and Mohamad Ahmad Abu-Eid. “The Influence of the First Language (Arabic) on Learning English as a Second Language in Jordanian Schools, and Its Relation to Educational Policy: Structural Errors.” Sino-US English Teaching 11.5 (2014): 355-372.
Cook, Vivian. Second language learning and language teaching. Routledge, 2013.
Rababah, Ghaleb. “Communication and linguistic problems facing Arab learners of English.” Indian journal of applied linguistics 29.1 (2003): 127-142.
Rababah, Ghaleb. “Communication Problems Facing Arab Learners of English.” (2002).