Language dilemma in Qatar

June 7, 2009 at 8:23 am (Opinion) (, , )

– Hey 3aoosh, do you wana go watch a movie?

 – Yeah why not? Esh fee 3al cinema?

 – I don’t know, fi filim cartoon 7ilo. You know you can never go wrong with cartoon

– Enzain you wana go eat something later?

– Eeh madry ween, how about Biella?

– La ma a7ib Italian

 – Enzain what do you want ya3ny?

 – Abby applebeaze

 – Waaa3 you know I hate it, akilhom elaw3 elchabid

– Enzin e5tari mokan.

– Je ne sais pas 9ara7a

This is how we speak now. Half English half Arabic and some French! Is it a problem? Are we loosing our language? Whose fault is that? I cannot help but put few English words whenever I speak Arabic. It comes out naturally; not like am trying to be cool or anything. Sometimes I find it easier to express myself in English; in other situation I cannot help express myself in Arabic and in other times in French! My brothers get irritated whenever I speak English, I tell them “this is me, am not pretending”. When did it become part of me? Whenever I am with someone who doesn’t speak English, I have to make an effort to watch out every word that comes out of my mouth. Because some people get offended when I speak to them in English; I would probably feel the same if some one kept speaking to me in Russian! I like speaking in English; but I love Arabic even more. I don’t mind speaking English by choice, not by force, in my own country!

It is very irritating that English became more important that Arabic in Qatar. I know that it is essential for business and communication. Hell I use English more than Arabic I know! But how come when we go to France we have to speak French because they refuse to speak in English even if they know it. I certainly don’t expect to go to a Bank in UK and find that the employees only speak in Arabic! When foreigners go to France, they are forced to learn French to be able to live and communicate with the French. Imagine you were French, and went to a restaurant in France and the waiter told you “I am sorry, I only speak English!”. But this is absolutely normal in Qatar. No one is expected to speak Arabic, or even make an effort and learn it. I feel that we are loosing our Arabic. I don’t want to be forced to speak English when I don’t want to. All foreigner should make an effort and learn Arabic and learn about our culture instead of making judgments that we are aggressive and unwelcoming as many of them do.

One day my father asked me to go to a shop with him, when I asked him why, he said that every one there spoke English and he doesn’t know how to communicate with them! This made me feel so mad. Especially that this situation happened several times with him. How many times he asked me to make phone calls or go with him to places for the same reason. And what I hate the most is that look they give you “oh you don’t speak English?” as if it’s a shame. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? “oh you don’t speak Arabic”. This is my country, my father’s country; how irritating it is when we cannot speak our own language in our own country!

I think that there should be new laws that preserves our language. Foreigner, especially those who work in customer service and have to deal with the locals on daily basis must learn Arabic before they acquire their visa. Our language is strong, beautiful and the most comprehensive language in the world; why are we not taking care of it. The blame is not on foreigners, it is on us. We are not only loosing it on streets; but also in schools. An English school is much better and “cooler” than Arabic schools. A school that has changed all its curricula into English is “improving”. Our Arabic and Islamic studies curricula are pathetic! Students complain about studying Arabic because its difficult. They don’t see the beauty of it; and no one cares! I hate it when I see young parents speaking to their kids in English. One of my work colleagues punishes her kids if they didn’t speak in English with each other! How ridiculous is that!

My message to foreigner: please make an effort to respect and maybe learn our language

My message to Qataris: lets force our language everywhere and teach our young ones about its importance and beauty.



  1. Homme du Qatar said,

    Quite an interesting topic, but don’t you think you are over reacting a bit? we can’t expect the majority of the population to speak the language of the minority, can we now?

    just a thought

    • mimizwords said,

      toutes est possible,, pourqoui pas?

  2. Homme du Qatar said,

    la question est à l’origine de la question. Comment peut-on demander à des étrangers à parler de notre langue et le respect de notre culture quand nous ne sommes même pas prêts à travailler un peu plus, comme Qatariens, je veux dire, pour notre propre pays.

  3. mimizwords said,

    je vais expliquer en englais pour que tout le mond peut comprendre d’accord

    it is our fault, so it depends on us to fix it. We must first change our attitude and the way we precieve arabic. Once foriengers see that, they will have a different porspecive ont he language too

  4. Homme du Qatar said,

    we precieve it as a language that is less used in Qatar, and more used to pass a thanaweyah exam. how our attitude and preception should be?

  5. Homme du Qatar said,

    I guess we should make mandatory to learn arabic, or do like the french in paris, even when they understand and talk english, just respond in french!

  6. Tuga said,

    It would be sad to lose the language.

    I was born in London, and growing up we had a household rule that English is not allowed, so even though it was hard to speak straight Arabic without the scattered English words that would make the conversation much easier, we had to work on it. We speak enough English at School and with friends, so my family thought at home they would make up for the lack of Arabic and I am so glad.

    As a first step I think it might be good for Qataris to speak Arabic amongst themselves – straight Arabic with no English words, and for now tolerate the foreigners, it might help you keep your English in check.

    Although, I do agree with you; they should make some effort, they should at least learn the basic phrases they need to use on a daily basis.

    In Iraq the troops and other contractors speak pretty amazing Iraqi – not even pure Arabic, proper hard-core Iraqi dialect lol

  7. Nishaat Masud said,

    Interesting debate but not exceptional to Qatar anymore. This dilemma is shared by many other non-English societies and countries too. I understand the gravity of the loss but is that just restricted to a language? We are living in a world turned a ‘global village” where we have left so many individualities behind and langyage is just one of them.Then why just regret about language? Language,primarily,is a tool of communication and the matter of identity comes later. We all start speaking Arabic fluently but get stuck when we need to approach a different forum with different language requirement,then,how far that pride of knowing Arabic will save us the trouble of the situation?

    I come from a Pakistani family and exactly same is the trend in our society now-a-days.Our urdu just disappears in the cluster and clatter of English.So much so that we feel good about not knowing Urdu so well and having better knowledge of a foreighn language.Its a distinction,a qualification and a status symbol too! But, they like other nationalities are caught in aweb of demand for it. They, without a sufficient knowledge of the language can not strive or survive in this world of competition. Look at our neighbour country,India.From the time of Independance till today,if you calculate the pace of their progress in varied fields of national and international businesses,you’ll soon find a huge credit for the use of English language. Did you watch the recent English movies( The Proposal) with Indian characters every now and then seen in there? How do you think they made their way without accepting English as one of the tools for their global success?

    I dont mean to advocate the promotion of English language or even condemn its influence on our domestic lives. All I want to say is that with this shrinking world we have to be extraordinary strong,stable and resourceful to take such individual stands like French,Germans,Chinese or Japanies.These nations have their own secrets and strengths which they adopted ages ago in better times and somehoe maintained in their own way.Either you compete to that level or follow the trade of the time.Having said that,I would strongly stress on the point of establishing mother tongues as basic and well-respected mean of communication at family level.Our children must know who they are and have all the pride in having their own language.

    Moreover, I dont really fancy the idea of forcing expats to learn local language when they are not sure where their next destination is.Its cruel to them to force learning languages wherever they go when just one language-English-can rescue them at many places.


  8. Dany said,

    Assalamu ‘Alaikum

    I really agree with Arabic Language should be used more often and become a language that is commonly used in Qatar instead of English. I could still remember that foreigners in my home country wouldn’t be shocked and look down upon people that are not able to use English there. But instead the Foreigners try to learn the local language and try to blend in, not the other way around.

    But maybe that just one of the negative result of Qatar highly rapid growth. If you think about it Qatar are still developing rapidly in this Global Economy Crisis, its really fascinating I think. Just think about it even the US have been brought to its knees because of the Crisis, but I don’t think Qatar even effected by this Crisis. In fact I heard that Qatar still able to bolster its Economy. I think Qatar manage to pull this out because there’s are a lot of bright minds from all over the world that came to Qatar. Like it or not you have to be able to understand English if you are studying in Science or Engineering, because almost all of the Text books are written in English and all Paper that are “published Internationally” must be written in English. So if there’s a Requirement of “able to understand Arabic” to work in Qatar, I think there will be less smart people here. Which may cause less growth in Qatar economy even though the Qatar Government have enough oil and gas money to back it up.

    Well its just an opinion though might not be right, but I think there is another more pressing issues regarding language here in Qatar. I think you notice that now the majority people living in Qatar came from the South Asia. Heck the first time I got of the plane, I thought that the Pilot made a wrong turn or something, cause its looks that I have arrived in India…. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against them. But the way they act and think are just so insanely naive and arrogant. I have lost count of how many times that an Indian ( maybe Sri Langkan or Nepali or maybe from Bangladesh or I don’t know from where…) look me in the eye with an insulting look just because I can not speak their language. Its seems that they just cant comprehend the reason why I cant speak their language. Sometimes I just felt like I wanna yell at them at and say “Hey this is Qatar not your Country”. I think its fair enough if someone gave me that insulting look here just because I cant speak Arabic. But I think its crazy if an Indian complain to you why cant you speak Hindi.


  9. Homme du Qatar said,

    Dear Nishat and Dany, I don’t think forcing is what we are trying to get at, we might be Arabs, but that’s just stereotypical. Think about the double standards that being applied for ourselves when going to the west and when going to Qatar, especially those “bright minds” Dany mentioned. First, if you go to the US, you learn English to work, if you don’t know, like most new immigrants they learn! If you go to France, temporarily or for an indefinite amount of time, like the majority of expats in Qatar, you learn French to make a living. Dany, you have to know this whole economic crisis not affecting Qatar is a facade, this structure will collapse on itself once the real challenge come, I’ve met many of the “bright minds” who came to Qatar for the right reasons, especially the newcomers, but rather the opposite! If you expect me to learn English in the U.S. and French in France, I’d expect you and everyone who would like to come to Qatar, especially if you are staying until further notice, make an effort, there are places with free classes. And don’t worry about us, we are just polite, cause when you are around, we wont speak Arabic out of respect for our foreign brother.

  10. Ghada said,

    it is really true.. we are losing our arabic..especially the young generation
    they cant stand having an arabic conversaion .. they become confused in a second.!!
    however,, if u talked to them in english the conversaion could last for hours and hours!

    for me,, i wasnt a big fan of arabic in skol but lately i realized its beauty and importance! and as much as i love writting and expressing myself in english i would love to be able to write arabic articles !!

    nice topic cuzn =**

    • mimizwords said,

      hey doda

      glad to have you as a reader .. how are you? i might go to bait aunti amna this friday .. hope to see you there

  11. mimizwords said,

    Hiii Nishaat, good to find you here

    For me language is not just a tool of communication; it is much much more than that. When I learnt French for example, it was like being in a French state of mind. Culture; ideas and attitude came with it. With the language, I was able to “taste” the culture and the more my language improved the more I got deeper in understanding the French mind. It defiantly added to my personality, or I would like to believe so.

    Of course in the world we live in, English is far more important than Arabic and we have no choice but to learn it and use it. But am just talking about Qatar; and I meant everyday life situation. Like going to restaurants
    In India, there are not many expats that use a different language than Hindi. Indian’s learnt English for business and development, but they still speak Hindi and they occupy most working posts from cheap labor to president. Thus, if an Indian spoke Hindi because he simple chose to or did not know English he would still be able to communicate with people around him. How would and Indian feel like if he was not able to use his own language in his own country. In Qatar, there are more English speaking than Arabic speaking people. Yes we learn English and must use it for business and communication with the rest of the world; but when I am here, I expect to use Arabic in restaurants and shops; I expect that my dad feels free and comfortable when he goes out.

    I do agree with you that its not fair to force Arabic on expats. Especially for those who are here for short term. I can imagine myself in china; I would feel relieved if someone spoke English! But if I would stay there for a long time; I would certainly want to learn the language.

    What you wrote about Urdu in Pakistan is interesting; but am not sure I understood the story. Do you mean to say that if you speak English better than Urdu it’s a good thing because it’s a sign of prestige?

    BTW do you know that we have many words in arabic that came from Urdu? Like jooti (shoes) dal (lentil) Kachra (rubbish) saman (stuff) sida (straight ahead) cool ha?

    Dear Dany

    Of course; it is something out of our control because it’s a result of rapid growth. I am not talking about using English for business or science; this is something that happens all over the world. As I said to Nishat, I am talking about everyday life situations for locals who do not speak English and find it hard to live here that they don’t!

    About Qatar and the Crisis, don’t believe everything you see!

  12. Alex Lee said,

    Funny, why is this blog written in English and not Arabic

    • mimizwords said,

      yeah i know hahahahhaha

      because many who read my blog dont speak arabic .. but i have some arabic posts …

  13. I CARE said,

    This post pours salt on the open wound!

    I’m not sure which arabic you’re talking about. If it’s street crap that we speak, then to hell with it.
    But if you meant the formal proper Arabic (fu97a), then we should save it.

    I don’t blame it on English. English is still very important to lean since it’s the business language.

    It makes me sad when i see guys and girls who studied in arabic schools ALL their lives, and yet, they can’t spell simple words in arabic.
    They can’t have a 5 minute conversation in fu97a.

    who do you blame for this? I’m sure it’s not English fault. Those people can’t speak english.

    most t.v channels are switching to street language. I saw many books in 3amiyyah, put a hole in my heart. Cartoons, from which many of us learned arabic, are not in proper arabic anymore. There is no Efta7 Ya Simsim.

    Don’t blame other languages. It’s us. It’s how we see arabic is shameful and it’s so prestigious to speak other languages.

    I’m gonna shut up now because I can go forever commenting on this. Like i said, salt on wound.


  14. Mashael K. said,

    waw thats very great topic should be raised for a larger audience
    i hope this topic be disscused in doha debates
    i have nothing to add all what have been said is true
    i love the arabic language in fact i find our language very romantic i don’t know what i mean HHHH but theres many nice and beautiful words amd it’s very expressive and when you get angry you can use words like ( بطو كبدي )
    it’s funny that this frase only in our language (local language) we can understand it means anger
    no one now talks the real arabic language the classic language and i hope that we don’t loose what we have now
    french,germany,japan …and many more countries they don’t know an english word because they are very proud of their language that they don’t want to replace it with other one
    our language is our treasure and a gift from god
    it’s the language of the Qur’an alkreem
    if we lost our language how we’ll do fair to our relegion and how we’ll be able to read the Qur’an …
    thank you 🙂

  15. LouisaBalata said,

    Assalam aleikum

    I’ve been reading this blog for a while now, I really like it. This article surprises me much, as a french student studying arabic, and having lived before that for one year in Australia, I really enevr realized the situation could be that far in other countries regarding the native language … I know french people are known for despising people not being able to speak french ( and I am ashamed of my fellow citizens for this, among other things ), but I really didn’t realize that in other places it could be that bad, people teaching their kids to speak a foreign language all the time, even at home ! I am personnally studying arabic because this language is so beautiful in so many aspects, and the culture that goes with it is fascinating, I can’t understand how people wouldn’t want to speak it and take care of it when they have the chance to have it as a native language … Maybe western imperialism has gone even more far than what I expected … not for long I hope.
    But thank you for this blog, and I’m looking forward to the day I’ll be able to read the arabic parts as fast as the english ones !!!

  16. mimizwords said,


    Thank you for your comment. I feel happy and proud when I know that people are learning Arabic, I too beleive it is one of the most beautiful languages in the World.

    I love all languages and I think that when you learn a language you also learn about a whole new culture. But Arabic covers a huge area, from morocco to Qatar! each country is completely different than the other, so good luck with that. you should pick a dialect to learn beside the classical arabic. and the best place to go is syria.

    mais tu sais quoi, Quand j’etais à Paris, j’ai parlé à des gens en français et ils ont répondu en anglais!

    • LouisaBalata said,

      Des français qui ont répondu en anglais ? ouaouh, tu es tombée sur des cas spéciaux ! 😉 On est assez nuls en anglais d’habitude (enfin, surtout en province ). Et oui je vais tenter d’apprendre un dialecte … juste à côté de la Syrie ! Je pars l’année prochaine pour un an en Jordanie à la fac ( solution de facilité : j’ai passé deux mois en Cisjordanie, je ne voulais pas trop brusquer mes oreilles et changer de dialecte !) … J’espère un jour visiter le Qatar aussi !

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