World celebrates the International Day of Arabic Language

The majority of Arabic speaking countries are located in the Arabian peninsula, the Middle East, and North Africa, but there are around 25 countries where Arabic is the official language. (Photo: Vecteezy)
AMMAN — On December 18, 1973, the UN General Assembly resolution 3190 decided to include Arabic as an official and working language of the General Assembly, and its main committees approved of this decision. In 2010, the same calendar day was selected as the “The World Arabic Language Day”, fully approved by UNESCO, this year marked under the theme “Arabic Language and Civilized Communication”.اضافة اعلان

Arabic is spoken in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, as well as in both North and South America. It is one of the most spoken languages in the world, and is considered as one of the oldest languages known to mankind. Today, it has a strong presence on social media platforms, and it is still ubiquitously taught and learned in schools globally, including in Western universities; many of which offer Arabic as an accredited course.

On this day, as the world celebrates Arabic, member of Jordan Academy of Arabic, and professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Jordan Humam Ghassib told Jordan News that as long as Islam prevails in the world, the Arabic language will always be alive. “I estimate that there are more than 400 million people in the world speaking Arabic today, because, apart from the Arab world; the cradle of Arabic, wherever nations follow Islam, the Arabic language is generally spoken.”

Ghassib said that most official statistics available show that Arabic is, at best, the fourth fastest growing language in the world, and at worst, the fifth fastest growing language. “I haven’t seen any source of data placing the Arabic language outside the top five of the most spoken languages in the world.”

According to Ghassib, the Arabic language was for many centuries the ‘the lingua franca’ of science and knowledge. Any intellectual renaissance is usually built on an emphasis on language, which signifies the importance of language as a civilizational tool.  “Arabic is the main unifier that binds the Arab nation. I am not worried at all that the Arabic language would decline in the way that some say the Latin language has declined.”

Arabic calligraphy has also been officially recognized by UNESCO as an integral part of the “cultural heritage of humanity”, Ghassib added, while highlighting that Arabic is still a pivotal language when it comes to studying the history of science, particularly astronomy “as we cannot ignore the influence of Arabic astronomers in this field.”

Ghassib also made reference to the International Year of Light, launched in 2015, which was a celebration of the publication of Ibn Al-Haitham’s ‘magnum opus’ (Kitabul Manathir).

Social media and globalization is a “blessing,” in Ghassib’s view, because it can be a stupendously a beneficial tool in spreading the Arabic language to all parts of the world. While acknowledging the pervasiveness of colloquial or informal Arabic on social media websites, Ghassib said these platforms still present an undisputable opportunity for formal Arabic to digitally thrive, “not just through commercial means, but also through intellectual means.”

Jordanian author Ramzi Ghazwi recommends that parents celebrate World Arabic Language day by “encouraging their children to read Arabic books, as well as speak Arabic in the household and in school during this day.”

Ghazwi also noted that in the future, Arabs need to distance themselves from the false assumption, common among many in the Middle East, “that those who speak English fluently are by definition more cultured and educated than others who only speak fluent Arabic.”

“Of course I am not discouraging people to learn other languages besides Arabic. But, I also encourage Arabic speakers to change their names on their social media profiles to Arabic, rather than English,” Ghazwi said.

Based on his experience with teaching Arabic to non-native speakers, Ghazwi noticed that many learners are very enthusiastic about Arabic. However, in regards to the youth of the Arab World, he prefers to remain optimistic, despite the challenges of globalization, adding that youth must be proud of their native tongue, just like other nations are proud of their heritage and language.

Ghazwi quoted the UN Secretary General Antònio Guterres during his speech in celebration of the Arabic language Day, saying that “Arabic was once the language that connected the entire world, the way English does today. This was especially true during the Islamic Golden Age.”

The majority of Arabic speaking countries are located in the Arabian peninsula, the Middle East, and North Africa, but there are around 25 countries where Arabic is the official language. 

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