“Lo8a al 3arabya heya lo8ate al 2om” (The Arabic language is my native language).

This is the Lebanese What’s App chat language

This statement shows the means of communication that Lebanese people use when chatting on their phones. It is often called the “WhatsApp language.” It uses both Arabic and English: each number represents a specific letter in Arabic – for example, the number 8 means “غ”(gh), 3 “ع” (aa), and 2 “أ” (a), and so on – and the rest is written with the Latin alphabet. The WhatsApp language has become widespread with the progressive domination of the English language over our native language. These changes happen already when children start school: most schools in the Chouf region are teaching in English. For that reason, this paper aims to investigate the use of the English language in Chouf region schools in Lebanon. Likely, in modern societies, a new linguistic phenomenon has emerged. Many educated Arabs prefer to use foreign words in English or French in their daily speeches and television shows. You can hear words such as “mobile,” “pamphlets,” “alcohol,” “laptops,” “breaks,” “chats,” “coffee shops,” “comments,” “projects,” and Arabic “hashtags,” even though there are Arabic equivalents to these foreign languages (Al-Jarf, 2011).

More than 300 million people use Arabic as their native language, and in 22 countries all over the Middle East and North Africa, Arabic is their official language. Arab countries were under the colonization of the United Kingdom and France in the 20th century, which resulted in the domination of both languages, English and French, mainly in business and education. Even though Arab countries have gained their independence, the culture and linguistics of those colonizers remained and kept spreading. Arabization has become widespread (Al-Jarf, 2011), nevertheless, English has become the dominant second / foreign language in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Arab Emirates, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, and Sudan, and French is dominant in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Syria. It became a second/foreign language, especially in the last decade, since satellite TV, mobile phones, the Internet, and social media have emerged in these regions (Al-Jarf, 2011).

Like many other countries, Lebanon has been using English as a foreign language. In 1990, a new Lebanese curriculum was adopted and imposed on students to learn two foreign languages (English and French) in addition to the native language “Arabic”. Young students’ parents have the possibility to choose whether they want to enroll their child in the English or French section. This procedure leads to the increasing use of both languages and mainly to the increasing number of students enrolled in the English section (Esseili, 2014).

This research applies a mixed-method design: we interviewed five school principals and ten parents of children attending school in the Chouf region; we chose them randomly to participate voluntarily in this research. In addition, we used two main data tools: firstly, we created a questionnaire (appendix A) that five school principals filled out to collect more information about the usage of English in different schools in Chouf along with their perspectives on the effect of English on our native language. Second, we conducted structured interviews (appendix B) with parents to know why they chose English for their kid’s basic education in schools and to view their perspectives on this topic.

During the interviews we conducted with some parents, one of them told us that she spoke in English to her kid before even using her native language because she believed that her kid would naturally adapt and learn Arabic from his surroundings. However, another parent mentioned that she prefers to observe Lebanese traditions and culture, which means that teaching Arabic to her children is one of her priorities; she tends to bring Arabic stories for her kids and let them watch Arabic cartoons more than English. In addition, she was against ignoring our mother language and focusing on a second language. Many parents said that they were exposed to English when they were kids themselves, so they are reproducing this situation with their own kids. Moreover, some of the parents we interviewed were educated in French but chose to put their kids in the English section. This shows that nowadays, we are more dependent on English.

Bilingual speakers code-switch for a variety of reasons, including social class identification, education, and modernization marker. Mauritanians, for example, converted to code-switching between Arabic and French as a result of a lexical shortage in their original tongue (Hamers & Blanc, 2000; Myers-Scotton, 1993). In many communities and nations throughout the world, code-switching has emerged as a passive sociolinguistic phenomenon that exposes the tendencies of diversity, bilingualism, globalization, and digitalization (Hamers & Blanc, 2000; Myers-Scotton, 1993). Code-switching (CS) has been a source of worry in Arab academic environments since it has a detrimental impact on students’ language usage and learning. No comprehensive research has been undertaken in Arabic academic environments to determine the causes of CM. The goal of this research is to look at the phenomenon of educated Arab speakers introducing foreign terms that have Arabic counterparts while speaking Arabic. A language must be adopted by other countries throughout the world to reach this status. Even if there are few (or no) mother-tongue speakers, they must resolve to give it a particular position in their communities.

A language can be designated as the official language of a country, allowing it to be used in areas such as government, the courts, the media, and education. People consider a compliment on their mother tongue, or ‘first language,’ as an identity of their nationality that they feel proud of. English is presently the most extensively taught foreign language in more than 100 nations, including China, Russia, Germany, Spain, Egypt, and Brazil.

In Arab society, media, and academic institutions, mixing foreign terms with Arabic in spoken language is a severe problem. The listener gets irritated by code-mixing. It alters the Arabic language, particularly when users employ Arabic inflectional and derivational techniques. Some television shows utilize more English content terms than Arabic ones. When listening to a vehicle or real estate ad, it hampers listening comprehension, especially for listeners who do not speak English or do not understand English automotive or real estate language. Children that are exposed to this hybrid language, code-mixing (CM), will acquire a distorted language that will have an impact on their linguistic development. They will learn to communicate in CM without gaining critical skills. According to Bokamba (1989), who made this difference between code-switching and code-mixing (CM), “code-switching is the mixing of words, phrases, and sentences from two different structural (sub)systems across sentence boundaries in the same speech event,” (Ahmad Mustamir Waris,2012). A collaborative activity that utilizes various language components, such as affixes, words, phrases, and sentences, where it requires the participants to balance what they are trying to hear with what they are comprehending. According to the conversational analysis approach, the code flipping phenomenon is seen as an interactive encounter between members of a bilingual community (English language and literature studies, 2018). As a result, Bokamba matched CM with the intrasentential kinds while associating CS with the intersentential types.

Based on the findings that were collected from the questionnaire that was filled by 5 principals, 16.7% of them recognized that the English language was certainly dominant in their school, and 66.7% of the schools the English language was somewhat the dominant language in their school. 83.3% of the principals agreed with the idea that English is being used a lot in Lebanese schools, however, a low percentage, 16.7% disagreed with that idea. In addition, 66.7% considered that English at schools is affecting our native language and 33.3% found that it’s not affecting it. Meanwhile, some principals admit that the English language is a worldwide language so using it in our curriculum is a must for the student’s future. Additionally, they mentioned that the English language is believed to be required for future careers, especially because people are looking forward to leaving Lebanon and finding a better life abroad. In contrast, some principles consider each language is taking its right and space.

Besides, 83.3% of the school principals in Chouf provide students with 2 hours of English per day, and 83.3% provide 1 hour of Arabic per day. Here we can see how English is being more provided for students. 3.3% of the principals were using hybrid language to communicate with their students, while 83.3% of the principals consider English a common language between teachers and students and 16.7% were using a hybrid. English is more accessible to learn than Arabic, according to 50%of the principals, although 16.7%strongly agreed with this and 33.3%disagreed. However, 50% of schools use Arabic, and 33.3%use both. Only 16.7% of the schools use English in their formal memos. The majority of principals (50%) demand that their students speak English with each other during school time, while 33.3 % partially require it and 16.7 % do not. 20% of the instructors and principals in the schools had some training in English, compared to 80% of the instructors who have been fully trained in English.

From a personal perspective, one of the authors of this paper states that: “based on my experience, I can say that I’m losing my Arabic language. From my childhood, I have been used to English more than Arabic. Once, I traveled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to continue my education in school. I was surprised to discover that the school was using an Arabic curriculum. So, in the beginning, it was difficult for me to understand Arabic concepts that I had been introduced to in English. I faced a lot of challenges while taking my entrance exam since everything was in Arabic so it was hard to understand the major keywords. My first challenge was to discover new things in Arabic in all the subjects. This experience showed me that we are losing our main language, we are forgetting our mother language. To me, it is easier to write my papers and assignments in English rather than Arabic because I am more used to it. But I do not deny that it was a nice experience to be exposed to the Arabic curriculum, which reminded me of my native language and shed light on the fact that our language is in danger.”

Many parents stated that their children started studying English in elementary school and that the schools they attended followed an American or British curriculum. These children were raised outside of Lebanon and other Arab countries, where English is widely spoken for communication. Children will be impacted when parents are born speaking this language. Other parents made it clear that they began learning English and enrolling in courses as adults since they expected it to overtake other languages as the language of choice in the future. They also did this to support the education of their children. What surprised us during our interviews is that there are 2 parents whose main language (second language) is French but they chose to put their kids in the English section. When we asked them for the reason they said that their children will benefit more from English in the future because it is the most important language being used globally. English is being used globally, which supports the idea of choosing the English section. Most parents have gained the English language as a primary language from school. However, some of them were French-educated, and they learned English from daily life and they adapted. Parents of bilingual kids believe that this skill helps their kids to socialize more and has a great impact on society, while it helps their kids develop their cognitive skills. The professions of the parents we interviewed varied greatly but they all used English in their daily work: some are teachers who often use English; two work in a bank where the English language is also often utilized.

At the end of this paper, we can confer that the English language has been dominating on native language. However, this refers to the two major sources. On the one side, the parents are the decision-makers, and on the first side from which a kid communicates and benefits. On the other side, we have the school which is adopting the world’s trends and development by using the English language as a major language in communication, the curriculum, and the teaching subjects. So this will call for more studies in the Arabic region on CS that will be developed partially, where new techniques and methods are needed.

 

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Appendix

Appendix B

Principals Questionnaire

  1. When was your school created?
  2. Was English the dominating language in your school curriculum?
  • Not True
  • Somewhat True
  • Certainly True
  1. The English language is mostly used in the Lebanese educational sector
  • Not True
  • Somewhat True
  • Certainly True
  1. Focusing on the English language at school is affecting our native language.
  • Not True
  • Somewhat True
  • Certainly True

Can you share your opinion?

  1. How many hours of English language instruction are provided to students per day?
  • 1 hour
  • 2 hours
  • 3 hours and more
  1. How many hours of Arabic language instruction are provided to students per day?
  • 1 hour
  • 2 hours
  • 3 hours and more
  1. As a principal, what language do you use to communicate with your students and staff?
  • Arabic
  • English
  • Hybrid

Can you explain why?

  1. what language is commonly used in communication between teachers and students?
  • Arabic
  • English
  • Hybrid
  1. The English language is more accessible to learners than Arabic
  • Not True
  • Somewhat True
  • Certainly True

Do you see a reason why English is so disseminated in the Lebanese education system?

  1. What language is used in formal memoranda?
  • English
  • Arabic
  • Both
  1. Do you require your students to communicate with each other in the English language in class?
  • Not True
  • Somewhat True
  • Certainly True

 Have you been trained in English? Have the professors working in your school been trained in English as well?

  • Not True
  • Somewhat True
  • Certainly True

Can you elaborate on your personal experience?

  

Appendix B

Parents Interview Questions

  1. How many children do you have?
  2. What language did you teach your children first? And what was the reason for this decision?
  3. To what extent do you agree that your child is better in English than in Arabic?
  4. How do you think the use of the English language will affect your children in the future?
  5. Do you think it is necessary for your child to be bilingual? And why?
  6. Where did you learn English?
  7. Do you use English a lot in your personal and professional lives?

 

 

 

Ranin Dbeissy and Leeda Beainy
Ranin Dbeissy, is a senior student at MUBS University majoring in Early Childhood Education. Leeda Beainy, is a senior student at MUBS University majoring in Educational Management.

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