Arabic language proficiency has been declining among a certain section of the Emirati youth.
Arabic language proficiency has been declining among a certain section of the Emirati youth.

Why Arabic must be preserved and promoted



Imagine being surrounded by people speaking a language you can hardly comprehend. They laugh, joke and ask you the occasional question. In response you just politely nod and allow an ambiguous expression to dance across your confused face – a grimace that could equally mean yes, no or maybe. The people surrounding you are not strangers or visitors from a foreign land, they are your blood relatives, your kith and kin, your extended family. Your mother tongue, however, has deserted you.

The idea that Arabic language proficiency has been declining among a certain section of Emirati youth has been widely reported in recent years. The proposed causes are many, one being the increased emphasis on English within the education system. Another is the increased dependence on non-Arabic speaking domestic workers, giving rise to the urban legend of Emirati infants unable to speak Arabic, but fluent in Tagalog or Malayalam.

This situation has encouraged to well-intentioned initiatives aimed at identifying root causes and proposing solutions. A conference in Abu Dhabi in 2012 called Challenges in Learning Arabic Language in the 21st Century posed the following question: why do Arab students grow up and graduate with poor knowledge of their own mother tongue? The short answer was: because of poor Arabic language curricula and poor Arabic-language teaching. The proposed solutions called for better training for Arabic teachers, and the modernisation and reinvigoration of curricular materials and teaching methods.

Another remedial initiative was the Watani summer camp that focused on Arabic language, Islamic heritage and UAE history. These camps began in 2005 as part of a broader strategic plan to establish the UAE as a global centre of excellence for the Arabic language. The Watani programme made a clear link between national identity and the Arabic language, viewing the latter as a tool to ensure future generations can connect with the UAE’s heritage and values.

In addition to heritage and values, however, our own recent research, published in 2016 in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, suggests that the preservation and promotion of Arabic among young Emiratis might actually also help protect against the development of psychological disorders.

Our research (several studies) has shown that low levels of Arabic language proficiency, relative to English, are associated with decreased self-esteem, higher levels of paranoia (persecutory ideation), greater eating-disorder symptoms and lower levels of psychological well-being in general. So, is English bad for you? Of course not.

Language is often the foundation stone of cultural identity. Whether I’m accepted or rejected as a member of the in-crowd might come down to something as simple as my dialect or accent.

Research in social psychology has repeatedly shown that having a sense of belonging to a group that one views positively, seems to protect people from low self-esteem.

Many of us will know people whose identities and self-esteem are tightly tied to group memberships, whether it is being an “Oxford man”, working for Google or being the citizen of a particular nation.

The groups we feel we belong to often give us a protective sense of self-worth. However, when others, or we ourselves, begin to doubt or question our group membership, it can be particularly painful.

The preservation and promotion of Arabic can contribute to the promotion of psychological well-being in the UAE, especially if it walks hand-in-hand with tolerance and an appreciation of diversity.

Dr Justin Thomas is an associate professor at Zayed University

On Twitter: @DrJustinThomas

TWISTERS

Director: Lee Isaac Chung

Starring: Glenn Powell, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Anthony Ramos

Rating: 2.5/5

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Transmission Six-speed gearbox

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Torque 116Nm @ 6,000rpm

Fuel economy, combined 5.3L / 100km

Jeff Buckley: From Hallelujah To The Last Goodbye
By Dave Lory with Jim Irvin

Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya

Directors: Amit Joshi and Aradhana Sah

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SPECS

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UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Equestrian

Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Judo
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Cycling
Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Swimming

Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Athletics

Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

The biog

Name: Salem Alkarbi

Age: 32

Favourite Al Wasl player: Alexandre Oliveira

First started supporting Al Wasl: 7

Biggest rival: Al Nasr

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

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1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat 

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Price, base / as tested: Dh182,178
Engine: 3.7-litre V6
Power: 350hp @ 7,400rpm
Torque: 374Nm @ 5,200rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
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COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Vault
Started: June 2023
Co-founders: Bilal Abou-Diab and Sami Abdul Hadi
Based: Abu Dhabi
Licensed by: Abu Dhabi Global Market
Industry: Investment and wealth advisory
Funding: $1 million
Investors: Outliers VC and angel investors
Number of employees: 14