Children’s Book

HII Y’ALL!!

I know its been forever since I last posted, but I promise I’ll try posting as much as I can again. So its my last semester at ZU, as excited as I am, I am also sad that I’ll miss it so much. So let’s enjoy it while it lasts shall we.

I was really happy I was able to get into the Design For Social Change course. Not only does the course seem interesting, but also my favorite professors teach it! 😀 Anyways, we were asked to make a children’s book as our first project. We had to choose one local topic/issue that we were going to be experts in after we research deeply into it. I chose Arabic Language Conservation as my topic, simply because of what we obviously see around us nowadays where Arabic is actually losing its value and importance. Children are starting to get more comfortable speaking English than Arabic, and actually speak English more than Arabic in their everyday lives.

I began with secondary research as a first step, basically to help me learn more about the issue before interviewing people. One shocking fact I found was that Arabic is the third most spoken language in the UAE (after English and Hindu) even though its an Arabic country!!! I then moved to primary research where I had a casual unstructured interview with my mother, and she talked about the reasons she thinks Arabic is slowly fading. Here is what she had to say:

Unstructured Interview

My name is Huma Al Hashemi, an Emirati mother living in Ajman. Finished my undergraduate studies in public schools; we started studying English in our 7th year in school. All our subjects in school were taught in Arabic, all the projects we did were in Arabic, and our curriculum has very strict and strong Arabic courses. We had 5-6 classes of Arabic language weekly. Back then, Arabic had its value, everyone on TV and the radio spoke in proper Arabic, and not the simple Arabic which everyone understands. English at the time was a very weak language between the people. Except for some of the families who were more educated and traveled more, English was spoken better. In our case, my father was a businessman who met with businessmen from countries abroad and worked in ARAMCO with American people so he spoke English and taught us too. Later in university, our studies were mostly in English.

Learning other language is very important, and learning about other cultures is also important. English is also important in the cases were students decide to continue their undergraduate and graduate studies abroad. However, we should not let it take over our mother language and our culture.

There are reasons that I believe lead to the declination of the Arabic language, which is the approach of teaching in the public schools; where do not teach it in an exciting and attracting way which would make the students love the language, so studying it became very boring and forced to the students, to the extent that they can’t wait to get it over with.  That is one of the main reasons of why students run away from the Arabic language. The other reason is that speaking in English makes them feel that they are going along with the modern language and makes them feel more open to the world, and makes them feel very up to date. Before, English was useful to business to traveled abroad and who met with foreigners and people from abroad, however nowadays we are starting to see English taking over everyone from children to elderly people. The reason behind this is because of the way parents are starting to take their kids to private schools with English curriculums, which is a way of showing the social welfare in our countries, and how modern these families are modernized. They also started viewing public schools as inferior to their level. So, Arab children in private schools started studying Arabic as a language class like they Spanish or French America and all the rest of the subjects are in English, where we previously used to study English as a language and everything else was in Arabic. Over that, private schools encourage and sometimes even force students to speak in English even outside class to strengthen their English, and that leads to children getting used to speak English even at home. The thinking language amongst the younger Arab generations is starting to shift to English, which really disappoints me. That is because the thinking language is usually the mother language of people, so Arab children having English as their thinking language means their mother language is shifting to English and not the language that was acquired from their parents.

I believe that if teaching Islamic was stronger that wouldn’t have happened. That is because the more knowledge one has on Islam and the Qur’an the better their Arabic language would be. Our language and our culture and traditions now identify our identity. Our language is already losing its value, our culture will also follow the same road, and we will be left with nothing.

Children are started to get more westernized and modernized, were they start following latest western news, and actually judge other children who know nothing about the western world, including new movies, tv shows, latest fashion…etc. Media plays a great role in the conservation of the Arabic language. For instance, nowadays TV presenters are using the very simple Arabic while presenting without using the proper academic Arabic words, and also some terms that are not originally Arabic.

The next step what a structured interview or a questionaire with 15 people. I had 18 people fill in the follow survey:

Survey

Our Language, Our Identity

I am working on designing a children’s book to raise awareness about Arabic language. It is clear that our language is losing its importance in the Arabic world because of other languages taking over. Arabic is now the third most spoken language in the UAE. Please help me learn more about your knowledge in Arabic by taking a few minutes to fill in this survey. Thank you!

What is your age?

  • Under 18
  • 18-21
  • 22-25
  • Over 25

What is you gender?

  • Male
  • Female

What is you nationality?

Which of the following school system are your currently enrolled in, or graduated from?

  • Private schools
  • Public schools

What is your mother language?

  • English
  • Arabic
  • Both
  • I don’t know

What language do you think in?

  • English
  • Arabic
  • Both
  • I don’t know

What language do you usually speak with your family?

  • English
  • Arabic
  • Both
  • I don’t know

What language do you usually speak with friends?

  • English
  • Arabic
  • Both
  • I don’t know

How would you rate you fluency in Arabic?

Weak 1    2    3    4    5 Strong

How would you rate you fluency in Arabic?

Weak 1    2    3    4    5 Strong

What language were you spoken to as a child?

  • English
  • Arabic
  • Both
  • I don’t know

What language would you first teach your children?

  • English
  • Arabic
  • Both
  • I don’t know

If you were asked to speak publicly, what language would you most comfortable speaking?

  • English
  • Arabic
  • Both
  • I don’t know

How many Arabic books do you read yearly?

  • None
  • 1-5
  • 5-10
  • More than 10

How many Arabic books do you read yearly?

  • None
  • 1-5
  • 5-10
  • More than 10

Are you concerned of the conservation of the Arabic language?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I don’t know

Would you help to preserve the language?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I don’t know

What actions would you take?

Click here to view the survey results

Survey Analysis

I interviewed 17 people with different age groups that range between 14 and 30, mostly Emiratis. All of my interviewees are currently enrolled in, or graduated from private schools, which means all their primary education language was English. Even though all of the participants in this questionnaire stated that their mother language is Arabic, 10 out of 17 said that their thinking language in a mixture between both Arabic and English, 6 said English, and 1 said Arabic. Moreover, the majority of the people I interviewed stated that they would speak in both Arabic and English to their families and friends. Also, most of them answered that we were spoken to in both Arabic and English when they were children, and they will also speak in both Arabic and English to their children.

It is really surprise that although everyone I interviewed has Arabic as their mother language, but they still believed they were more fluent in English than in Arabic, and almost 77% of them said that they would be most comfortable speaking English publicly or in front of a crowd. There can be many reasons for that, including the lack of reading Arabic books, were 72% said that they have never read an Arabic book, whereas 44% said they read 1-5 English books a year, and 16% said they read 5-10 English book yearly.

With all the results I got, I am somewhat relieved that the majority of the participants are actually concerned about the conservation of the Arabic language and they are willing to help preserve the language and take some action, which includes increasing the use of Arabic at home, schools, universities, hospitals, increasing Arabic subjects and extra curricular activities in schools, including Quran lessons, introducing more fun Arabic movies, trying to rely on Arabic more than English in their everyday lives. One of the most interesting answers I got was from an 18 year old male Emirati, currently continuing his undergraduate degrees in Korea, who states:

The English language I believe is growing more and more in our country. I think tourism has a lot to do with it. Many people come to our country and we implement English more for them. But we see a country like Japan for example; one of the most visited countries in the world yet they held on to their language. Like they consider their language something that they care about because it is unique and special to them. We should let the younger generation feel that commitment. It’s not just the language that is swaying its most of our cultures and traditions. Though I may have grown up with them. Most of the kids of this generation don’t know a lot. Schools try to get them interested but that is not the way. A way to fix this might be to like have days in popular places with an event al related to our culture and language. The more tourists get to know it, the more it interests them. Then it won’t be that distant.

Another interesting answer was from an anonymous interviewee, who stated:

Ever since we were children we were spoken to in English, whether it was a private or public school, English is a very dominant language. If every parent and elderly made it clear to children that Arabic is their dominant language and not Arabic and child will grow up mastering Arabic. No flyers nor campaigns will make people be better in their own language, a change will only occur if the person him/herself really want to make a change and be better in their mother tongue

Mind Map

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 6.45.13 PM

Persona

Majed is a 6-year-old Emirati boy. He is a first grade student at Sharjah American International School. Even though Majed hates waking up in the morning for school, he always loves seeing his friends and playing with them in break time. His school has a playing ground with slides and swings. He loves his teacher Miss Khaleel who teaches them the Arabic, because she is very fun and sings with them every morning. She also plays hide and seek with them sometimes. At home, Majed loves playing with his baby sister, Mahra, and he always reads her his favorite storybook about the boy who lost his dog in the park. Like any other child, Majed loves watching TV. As soon as he arrives from school, he rushes to finish his homework and then watch his favorite cartoons at 4 o’clock.

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