During the last decade, satellite TV channels broadcast in Arabic have taken to airing children cartoons originally produced in English in the West, but redone with Arabic voiceover. Obviously with the purpose of selling them to all Arabic-speaking countries, the Arabic voiceover is in classic Arabic with a distinctly Gulf accent. Young children in Egypt enjoyed the cartoons and, predictably, began to mimic the language. Parents generally laughed and remarked that the cartoons taught their children classic Arabic much better than the cumbersome school curriculum.
A number of Egyptian linguists saw red, however. They believed that getting children that young to speak in a language that was not their mother tongue posed a serious threat to Egyptian Arabic. For Ibrahim Abu-Zikry, head of the union for Arab producers; and Khaled Abul-Fotouh who launched Shaabi (Folk) FM radio channel; something had to done, and urgently. Together, they launched a campaign urging Egypt’s media to move against what they described as a ‘systematic and hostile plan by enemies of the Egyptian identity’ to target to the Egyptian language. Egyptian language derives from Arabic but has sufficiently substantial Egyptian input and pronunciation to qualify it, scientifically, as a language in its own right.
It is moreover widely spread and popular among other Arabic languages.
According to Mr Abu-Zikry, a number of promotions on Shaabi FM have already launched. In addition, a number of seminars will be held to raise awareness of the importance of preserving both the Egyptian language and Classical Arabic.
Mr Abu-Zikry told Watani that there will be contacts with the over lice editors to stress on the use of Egyptian Arabic, especially given a rule approved by the Arab League stipulates that Arab countries are free to use their local dialects and to honour their own cultural heritage.
The campaign was also welcomed by Kamal Mughieth, an education expert. Mr Mughieth believes that “language is a channel of identity. National identity has several dimensions: the cultural, psychological and linguistic, and they should all be preserved. Yet I am against foregoing classic Arabic altogether since we would then lose a treasure trove of culture, of our own heritage, that is written in classic Arabic.
30 March 2016