Politics of English in the Arabian Gulf

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Politics of English in the Arabian Gulf


Weber, Alan S.


The number of American, English and Australian branch campuses in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region almost doubled between 2000–2007 from 140 to 260, and Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) alone have established over 40 branch campuses during this period. The language of instruction at these institutions is primarily English, which is creating some tensions in the region related also to the rapid influx of other expatriate language groups including Urdu, Nepali, and Tagalog. Not only do native Arabic speakers fear the loss of cultural and linguistic heritage, as Gulf governments begin heavily investing in biotechnology, ITC capacity and research output (patents and peer-reviewed scientific papers) educated elites in the GCC countries are confronting the widespread use of English on the internet and the international science community. Policy makers, particularly in Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, are responding to the growing use of English by sponsoring cultural heritage museums and libraries, programs in digitization of Arabic heritage books, and funding research into real-time Arabic-English and English-Arabic machine translation. This contribution outlines the debates found both in scholarly journals as well as popular regional newspapers in English and Arabic on the use of the English language, and analyzes the cultural, political, and social context of these arguments.


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