Arab youth’s attachment to foreign novels.. Is it a phenomenon that threatens cultural identity and the Arabic language?
Doha – “I do not feel that I have a mother tongue, I went to a school to learn English since I was young, but English was not my first language despite my mastery of it, and Arabic was not like that.” With these words, the Qatari young woman Sheikha Ahmed described the reality of teaching Arabic to the new youth.
The English language dominated Arabic due to Sheikha’s study and treatment of her in school and with her friends as well as at home, which has developed over the years, so that her various hobbies are linked to English, especially reading fantasy and crime novels, as well as romance novels.
Sheikha, 17, who speaks in an Arabic language not without English, told Al Jazeera Net that she speaks Arabic, but there are many terms that she does not know, and she finds herself spontaneously expressing it in English as she has learned.
She believes that growing up at home as well as studying played a major role in her orientations and choices regarding the Arabic language; Her mother encouraged her to learn English on the basis that it was the best for the future, and when she was young, she brought books in English for her age.
This made her find it difficult to read the Arabic language, unlike the fluency in English, and she does not understand many meanings and terms, and finds herself helpless in front of her, and therefore she stopped reading in Arabic.
Since her childhood, the Qatari young woman has been attached to reading foreign novels, which was evident in her as she roamed the corridors of the Doha International Book Fair in its 31st edition, currently held until January 22, to acquire the series of English writer Agatha Christie.
The State of Qatar continues its continuous efforts to support the Arabic language and culture, as the 31st Doha International Book Fair, which is held under the slogan “Science is Light”, organizes many events that discuss efforts to preserve the Arabic language.
As for the young Sudanese man, Abu Bakr Hassan, he explains that his family, like many middle-class Arab families, sent him to a private language school, because mastery of a foreign language guarantees better job opportunities and a higher social status.
Abu Bakr says, in a statement to Al Jazeera Net, that he only reads foreign novels, and he does not read in Arabic at all, and he attributed this to his familiarity with reading in English and his speed in reading in it, unlike Arabic.
He adds that his studies in English are not the reason for his preference for reading foreign novels, but rather his preference for these novels because they are the best in crime, fantasy and thriller stories in particular.
The State of Qatar issued a law to protect the Arabic language in 2019, stipulating that all governmental and non-governmental agencies are obligated to protect and support the Arabic language in all its activities and events, and to use it in its meetings and discussions, and in visual, audio or read advertisements, and that Arabic be the language of instruction in public educational institutions.
In turn, the Director-General of Platinum Dot for Publishing and Distribution from Kuwait, Dr. Ahmed Haidar, explains that there is a group of young people who, from a young age, are accustomed to learning and studying in English, and then the issue of reading in Arabic has become difficult for them, “and it is the category that we focus on and should not be left on this.” The situation, because Arabic remains our mother tongue, and if we encourage reading in other languages, this should not be at the expense of our cultural identity and our Arabic language.”
Haider said, in a statement to Al Jazeera Net, that the demand of young people of both sexes for novels written in English is a positive and not a negative phenomenon, especially that sciences must be drawn from different languages without intolerance of one language over another, but while preserving the mother tongue.
He added that the young people’s interest in the world of reading is commendable, and it should be encouraged without insisting on taking the Arabic language as the only reference for reading. The Arab identity or the culture rooted in a person cannot be affected quickly and catastrophically by simply reading books in the English language.
Haider believes that if the impact that will happen to Arab youth from reading foreign books is a positive influence that develops the human mind and makes it and makes the Arab society better, then it is welcome, especially since the issue is not only attached to the past, but rather clinging to what benefits us and leaving what has become late.
lack of momentum
Qatari writer and novelist Ahmed Al-Tamimi attributes Arab youth, especially adolescents, to foreign novels and their lack of preference for Arab novels, to the suffering of Arab writers in this aspect, especially since there are many aspects of Arabic literature that lack the momentum found in the West.
Al-Tamimi said, in a statement to Al-Jazeera Net, that writing in the field of fantasy and metaphysics in Arabic literature is still very poor in giving and production, and that the number of Arab writers who write this quality is very few, and few of them succeeded in making a name and fame, so most of the works Which imports from abroad have been successful in light of the scarcity of Arab production.
He adds that reading went through difficult stages, forcing Arab writers to refrain from entering the field of fantasy, but finally some writers began to appear in this field, and many books were printed, and work is currently underway to convert them into films and series.
For his part, Ahmed Hussein, director of one of the publishing houses participating in the Doha International Book Fair, believes that the demand for foreign novels is huge and crazy compared to their Arab counterparts, especially those related to crime and science fiction.
Hussein told Al Jazeera Net that the percentage of foreign novels sold exceeded 90%, and that there are entire series of books that were completely sold out, and only one or two books remained of them at most, especially the series of novels by the English writer “Agatha Christie.”