The spread of English Language in the Arab Speaking Countries
Sometimes during the fifth century, the Quran that’s written in Arabic introduced the Arabic language to be the language of the Muslim empire that spread around the world: Nadvi (2003) “Arabic became the official language of a world empire whose boundaries stretched from the Oxus River in Central Asia to the Atlantic Ocean, and even northward into the Iberian Peninsula of Europe. As Islam continued to spread through the world, Arabic inherently followed.”(P. 2). Arabic became prestige because of the variety of sciences that were invented by Arabs like Chemistry, Algebra and Astronomy. Things have changed today, and the language that is mostly used around the world is the English language due to the advanced technology and the political power that USA, and the English speaking countries has in the world. Hollywood movies and pop culture have a big impact in spreading English language throughout the world. Middle Eastern countries, especially gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Iraq have been heavily influenced by English Language in the last few years. Since Islam has urged people to learn other nations’ language for security purposes, English language has been taking big part of the Arabic speaking countries. That desire to learn other languages has increased since the second Gulf war in 2003.
Islam encouraged people to learn other languages so that they can communicate with each other and understand each other. The Quran describes the importance of other languages in the following verse: “And We did not send from a messenger except with his nation's tongue/language, to clarify/explain to them, so God misguides whom He wills/wants, and He guides whom He wills/wants, and He is the glorious/mighty, the wise/judicious.” (14: 4). The prophet Mohamad also talks about the importance of learning languages of other nations: “Those who learn the language of any community they can save themselves from their mischief.” (Mohamad: 1)
Because of the religious aspect toward learning other languages, and the presence of the American forces in the area, English started to be the major target language in the Arab countries after the second Gulf war in 2003, especially those who live in the Gulf region. People started learning English to communicate with soldiers and to work as interpreters for the US army as well. Zagoul (2003) talks about this case “Language and English language spread is a case in point. The language is getting entrenched in the Arab land especially after the Second Gulf War and the defeat of Iraq, a true representative of Arabism and the use of Arabic. English is occupying more and more room in language use. It is taking more and more territory from the native language.” (p. 6). After this last war on Iraq in 2003, many English words have been used by Iraqis that blended into their mother tongue language, Arabic. After 17 years of exile in the US, I went back to Iraq this past summer of 2008. I was shocked to hear new words that have never been used when I was a child living there. Some of the most common words that are used today, especially among the young generation are cool and top. They use the word cool which they pronounce it like [kul], similar to how it’s used in the English language. Hence, they pronounce the word top like [tob], and they use it when they compare two things and try to evaluate one on another. For example, they would say /haða bet tob/ which means “there is no house better than this house”. Before the 2003 war, this sentence used be said as /haða bet jƐmil/. Those words and many more are used now as part of Iraqi slang. These new words and terms are mostly used among the young generation. Moore (2004) talks about how new words start to be used in people’s slangs. He says that words start to be used among youngsters first, and then they’re carried through the new generation. “There is a general evolutionary sequence according to which basic slang terms emerge in mainstream usage. The process begins with term becoming widely used to refer to a set of values that have special appeal for a generation of adolescents and young adults.” (p. 63). This to prove that there are many words we use today in Iraq borrowed from English after the British colonialism to Iraq in 1941 which my mother uses who was six years old at that time, but my grandmother, who was in her thirties during the invasion never used those words. For Example, my mother would use the word /bu:t/ which means shoes, but my grandmother would use the old traditional word /ħɪ ða/ instead.