[lg policy] How Qatar University=?utf-8?Q?=E2=80=99s_?=language policy is holding back students

Fouzi Bellalem fouzibellalem at YAHOO.CO.UK
Wed Apr 3 18:07:29 UTC 2013

Here we go again! An article written by non-experts about a very sensitive linguistic issue. It looks like the destiny of world language policies has been cursed by some sort of passivity from the part of experts (sociolinguists) which gave in to a highly ideological-selfish-political interference from the part of those who know almost nothing about, and usually have nothing to do with, language issues. The same goes for this article. 

Shaheen Pasha's article has a very misleading title and the content is actually very simplistic. 
To say that Arabic language policy holds back students while English takes them forward is one of the biggest lie I have ever come across.  And to write: "similarly it is recognized that if there is a global language of commerce and law, it is English", is absolutely ridiculous. If it is true that English is the first international language of wider communication for some colonial and post-colonial reasons (see Phillipson and Pennycook), this does not mean that English is the sole and holy language of science, technology and business. I believe that all languages have a potential of becoming vehicles of wider communication, and equally, can become languages of science and technology, and Arabic is one of them. 

Furthermore, nowadays it is the "language of money" that does the talk internationally, i.e., the rule is: if you have money then anybody will speak your language to do business with you. I believe the Arab world, being indisputably oil-rich at the moment, has the right to claim that the world speaks Arabic to do business with them and not the opposite way. This is what I believe Qatar is trying to achieve, and this is its ultimate right as an important multi-billions investor worldwide. Qatar's decision to Arabise its university is a mature and wise decision, because it upholds its socio-cultural aspirations nationally and regionally, while at the same time it contributes in preserving linguistic diversity towards an eco-linguistic system which will eventually put an end to the English language hegemony. Therefore, if foreign investors and expats want to come to Qatar, then they will have to learn Arabic. Isn't this a wonderful thing to happen?

Fouzi Bellalem  

 From: Harold Schiffman <hfsclpp at gmail.com>
To: lp <lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu> 
Sent: Wednesday, 3 April 2013, 17:31
Subject: [lg policy] How Qatar University’s language policy is holding back students

lost in translation 
How Qatar University’s language policy is holding back students
By Shaheen Pasha — April 2, 2013 
Shaheen Pasha teaches international journalism at the University of 
Massachusetts-Amherst. She has been a financial reporter for Reuters, 
CNN and the Wall Street Journal, and previously reported from Dubai and 
Qatar University changed its official language to Arabic—even as the country has become a global destination. Getty Images/Chris Jackson
In Qatar, where expats outnumber local Arabs nearly 8 to 1, there is a 
palpable concern among locals that the gas-rich nation has put its 
cultural identity on the selling block. With a steady influx of global 
businesses and Western law firms opening their doors in Doha, you’re 
more likely to hear the sounds of English banter on the Corniche than 
But Qatar is fighting back—much to the detriment of its future and that of its next generation. Last year, Qatar University reverted to Arabic as its primary language for business, law, social sciences and humanities as part of the 
country’s push to strengthen the use of Arabic language in public 
education.  “Arabic is the mother tongue of most QU students so there is certainly an advantage to teach in Arabic,” says Nael Mohamad, a 
spokesman for Qatar University in an e-mail.
That may be true in 
the short run and for those students seeking public sector jobs within 
Qatar. But Qatar’s ambitions lie further West, making English a language of necessity for Qataris eager to be part of the large global 
marketplace. That’s especially true since Qatar won the right to host 
the FIFA 2020 World Cup. The tiny Gulf kingdom has committed to 
developing $60 billion worth of infrastructure projects ahead of the 
deal, ushering in a wave of foreign players eager to be a part of the 
development boom. Who better to work alongside the influx of foreigners 
in the private sector than local Qataris, fluent in English, who are 
adequately trained in the finer aspects of business and law?
Beyond its own infrastructure goals, deep-pocketed Qatar has become an 
aggressive investor in foreign assets. In February, Qatar Holding, a 
unit of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, said it will launch a $12 billion investment firm to buy assets globally.  Such endeavors offer a unique opportunity for 
Qataris to play a larger, sustainable role in the shaping of their 
country’s economy.  But to make a meaningful contribution, their skills 
must be on par with Western competitors.
There is no debate that 
Arabic is at the heart of Qatar’s cultural heritage. Even Robert 
Musgrove, chief executive of the Qatar International Court and Dispute 
Resolution Centre—an English common-law court established in 2009 to 
attract international business to Qatar—agrees. Yet, “similarly it is 
recognized that if there is a global language of commerce and law, it is English,” he said. “If Qatar is to develop lawyers whose ambition is to appear in international commercial courts of the world, they will need 
to be educated in international law in English. “
And business 
majors will need to understand a basic truth: most modern international 
business contracts are written in English. QU’s Mohamad said “a suitable level of specialized English will continue to be a requirement for 
graduation” and some elective courses will be offered in English. But 
that may not be enough to make QU graduates – a majority of whom are 
locals –competitive in today’s workplace. There are a number of foreign 
universities, such as Northwestern and Texas A&M universities, with 
campuses in Doha. They teach in English.
Graduates from these institutions will have an edge. And that edge may make all the difference.
We welcome your comments at ideas at qz.com.   http://qz.com/69698/how-qatar-universitys-language-policy-is-holding-back-students/

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