(MENAFN - Arab News) Is the increasing use of English by young Saudis a threat to Arabic and the Kingdom's identity? Some people agree, while others feel it's a healthy trend.
English is in vogue nowadays because it is a requirement for landing various jobs. In social settings, there is also a growing trend among young people to replace the traditional "assalamu alaikum" with "hello" and "good morning," some say.
"My family often criticizes me for speaking in English because we're in Saudi Arabia," said Alaa Syaid, a 21-year-old university student. "I speak English with my friends to improve my fluency in the language. Many of my friends who are working tell me that speaking English at work is an indication that the person is a professional."
Rami Rashed, an employee at a private company, speaks fluent English but only uses it when communicating with non-Arabic speakers. He also criticizes those who speak English with fellow Arabic speakers.
"I'm quite disgusted when a Saudi or Arab colleague speaks to me in English. I find these people insecure or plain showoffs. I don't understand why we need to speak in English when we can communicate in Arabic, the language of the Qur'an," he said. "I'm critical of those who say speaking English will make a person more professional. People are more professional because of their work, not their language."
Salma, a 26-year-old bank employee, who, like many Saudis, has graduated from abroad, believes English is a useful medium and the only language that allows her to connect with the rest of the world. "I do not find it insulting to use English in public when communicating with my Saudi friends."
"Those who see it as a problem are overreacting. English is the world's main language and the Kingdom's second language. Most big companies in the Kingdom use English as a means of communication." She watches English movies but communicates in Arabic at home.
Khadija, a Saudi customer services agent for a local company in Jeddah, speaks English with her clients. "When I started work, my manager told me that as a customer service employee I had to communicate with my clients in English. He told me that speaking in English makes the company appear more professional." She has also chosen to speak English outside the office with friends.
"I never thought that speaking in English was important but I found it was really effective when communicating with clients. I do not see it as a problem as long as it helps my work. My friends and I sometimes speak in English and I think it is a matter of lifestyle," she said.
Samar Al-Zahrani, an Arabic schoolteacher in Jeddah, is concerned about what would ultimately happen to Arabic. "Ignoring Arabic will weaken it in future. Students are already very weak when it comes to writing Arabic. I notice a lot of spelling mistakes at high school and university level," she said.
"It's common to find spelling mistakes and incorrect sentences in advertisements. This is because people ignore the language. The problem also lies in the fact that many signboards in Arabic are transliterations of English terms and names."
While the use of English is being actively promoted in the Kingdom through intensive courses at university level and in private schools, there is a fear that the language may override Arabic and negatively affect Arab cultural identity, she said.