My father used to say that learning another language is like owning another tongue, being another person and marching with a new costume. This is all true as languages represent the culture, tradition, way of life, simplicity, complexity and many more of these adjectives that are used to describe a country and its people. We cannot stop there; even the way people speak their language can be depicted on a canvas to show how the people behave or what kind of body language they would use.
Today I had a student in my office who wanted to go to Germany to study Medicine, I explained to him that he needs to have at least the first level of the language to make the visa process easier, however finding a school that teaches the German language is not easy, and if we do, the sessions are not as regular as we would like them to be. So I asked the student if he has a smart phone, he took it out of his pocket, and I asked him to download an APP to teach himself the language, we did that at the same time, and soon both of us learnt few words. What I noticed that both of us were speaking in a very strict manner, same as how the German speak. The French people move their shoulders and make noises from their mouths, the Italians shout, the Arabs scream, the Spaniards sing, The English rolls marbles in his mouth, and there it goes for the rest of the languages. More often than not, you don’t only recognize a person by the way he/she speaks that he/she are from Germany, France, Bahrain or England, but also by the way he/she walks, eats, drink and even writes.
Our schools teach mainly in Arabic, we also study English and sometimes French but we are not privy to other languages; as much as I would love to see that we are taught Latin, Asian languages, other European languages, or even Portuguese, but this dream needs a long time to be fulfilled.
The belief of owning another language is not on the ministry of education agenda, so if there are schools that will teach a language, it will be mostly English language schools, French schools and off late Goethe institute and Berlitz had opened German language branches in the Gulf region. I haven’t seen many Korean or Chinese schools opening their doors, nor Turkish, Iranian, Indian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Banghali, or even Arabic.
My opinion on the lack of love to languages stem from few reasons:
1. The Arab world is still busy in raising themselves to the level of OECD countries
2. The level of poverty is still high and people are busy fighting for their lives
3. The Democracy experienced in OECD countries is yet to evolve in the Arab world, and till then most of the inhabitants will focus only on the basic educational necessities instead of indulging in learning another language.
4. Most of the jobs that require a second or a third language are provided to the expat community that live in the middle east, as there is an inherent deficiency in the recruiters’ mind which assumes that all the Arabs only possess one language.
5. The illiteracy level needs to be eradicated first before we venture into studying another language.
Of course if we want to find more reasons we can by conducting a study on the tendencies and linking it with the behaviors of governments, companies and people in the Middle East, and align the curriculum taught in the Arab world to see any comparatives that are explicitly mentioned in it. I doubt though that a study of this nature would take place as every one may think that we have more pressing issues to think about instead of trying to find why people do not take up another language?
To end this opinionated article I would like to add that many of us would love to learn another language at night and after work, travelling to another country is what most of us do, but its costly and not possible to all. So if investors are clever enough, then opening schools in the middles east will be the best investment they had ever entered into. If you want to ascertain this fact do check the history of Eton institute in Dubai. It started with a small classroom teaching English and grew dramatically into a large institute that teaches over 23 languages in a matter of few years. The owner more than tripled his investment and also is indulging in raising charitable events and community engagement which is a refreshing way to do business in the Middle East.