Globalization and Dying Languages

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Globalization has huge impacts on all areas of human life, including language. The term “globalization” is typically associated with something universal and global. The growing interconnectedness of peoples and places changes the nature, importance, and vitality of languages. However, not all countries participate in the global economy on equal terms, and not all languages have equal chances to survive the tide of globalization (Mufwene 7). The Arabic language, which is currently spoken by more than 200 million people on the planet, is quickly losing its importance in the Arabic world. The future of Arabic in the global world also remains unknown. Possibly, the Arabic language will survive the global language competition. Yet, under the pressure of the emerging global language, the Arabic world may have to give up its commitment to the native language.

The history of the Arabic language dates back to the 7th century CE, when various Arabic dialects came together as a result of Arab conquests (Arabic without Walls). As more Arabs were coming to the Arabian Peninsula to live and work, the Arabic language became native for all Arabic regions (Arabic without Walls). Unfortunately, even the language as powerful as Arabic cannot withstand the pressures of linguistic colonization and globalization. As a result, it is possible to say that the language of the Arabic nations is slowly dying.

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Numbers speak for themselves: last fall, only five students chose to enroll in the Arabic language course in the United Arab Emirates University in Dubai (Hundley). This is the lowest number of Arabic language students in the 34 years of the University’s history (Hundley). Arabic lags behind the two most popular languages in the Arabian Peninsula – Hindi and English (Hundley). One of the most serious forces killing the Arabic language is immigration: in the UAE alone, 80 percent of the national population is represented by foreign workers (Hundley). Western-style consumerism makes the situation even more complicated, as the Arabic language is losing its important place in the Arabic mentality and identity (Hundley). Several attempts have been made to preserve the language. In 2010, Lebanon participated in a street campaign to raise public awareness of the Arabic language and its tragic future (Talhouk). Unfortunately, these attempts are too ineffective to stop the growing influence of globalization on the Arabic language. These trends can be described as “colonization”, when one language is dominated by another (Mufwene 3). In this sense, English can be considered as the “killer language”, as it is quickly replacing many other languages, including Arabic.

Obviously, languages do not die without reason. The “language shift, which is the main cause of language endangerment and death, is part of this adaptive co-evolution, as speakers endeavor to meet their day-to-day communicative needs” (Mufwene 23). Arabic is dying, because more individuals in the Arabian Peninsula use other languages, including English, to meet their daily communication needs. It is a natural result of globalization that affects all spheres of human life. When the boundaries become blurred, many nations have to give up their commitment to their native languages, in order to survive. They do it under the influence of industrialized hegemonies, which impose new language requirements on them.

The popularity of the English language has its roots in the historic dominance of the British state over numerous colonies around the world. As a result, the future of the Arabic language is unknown. Most probably, with so many people speaking Arabic around the globe, it will manage to survive the most difficult times. Still, it is possible that the Arabic world may have to give up its commitment to the native language.

  • Arabic without Walls. “Culture: History of the Arabic Language.” Arabic without Walls, n.d. Web. 2 Dec 2013.
  • Hundley, Tom. “Is Arabic a Dying Language?” Global Post, 22 Feb 2010. Web. 2 Dec 2013.
  • Mufwene, Salikoko S. “Colonization, globalization, and the future of languages in the twenty-first century.” International Journal on Multicultural Societies, 4.2 (2002): 162-93. Print.
  • Talhouk, Suzanne. “Arabic – A Dying Language?” France 24, 25 June 2010. Web. 2 Dec 2013.

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