Here is Global English, by James Clar, where the words global English are spelt out phonetically in the letters of various languages. Here’s what he says about the Arabic block, according to this post:

This piece is a reaction to countries such as the UAE where younger generations are exposed more to English language though work, school, and pop culture, and now favour English over their native Arabic.

Every language has rules that allow us to formulate thought and transfer that thought to other people. However, the structure and rules of each language makes certain ideas easier to express in one language as opposed to another. While a global communication medium is necessary, we need to explore what we gain from the use of English and what we lose from it. In this piece, the words ‘global english’ are phonetically spelled out in Arabic, forcing an Arabic speaker to speak in English.

A while ago now I read a comment on Arablit’s post about this blog. The comment was in Arabic, and I imagine the writer (who used the sardonic name The Only Arab On the Internet, It Seems) was shaking his/her head despairingly at the sad absurdity of a blog in English about Arab art.

يعني موقع للفن العربي، للكتابة وللروايات العربية، للحضارة العربية – دون كلمة واحدة بالعربية
يعني إنتوا ضايعين يا عرب
هل من حل لإيقاف هذه المهزله؟

“So, a site on Arab art, on Arab literature and novels, on Arab culture – without a single world in Arabic. You are lost, oh Arabs. Is there a solution to put a stop to this farce?

I read the comment, thought about it, forgot about it, and was reminded of it again today, seeing that Global English piece, and then reading this 1998 article: On Global English and the Transmutation of Postcolonial Studies into “Literature in English”

It is, further, as if the foundations of Postcolonial Studies itself would become unstable in the face of the revelation of an enormous critical paradox: one must use English to be heard, and yet to do so at one level seems to accede to the very power structures that the field has been constituted to critique.

So what does it mean that Ahmed Benchemsi’s Free Arabs project is mainly in English, that Jadaliyyah‘s content is mainly in English?

And why is this blog in English? I can only answer the last question, and not completely, but probably it is for a number of reasons, one of which is that English is the language of my education although Arabic is my “mother tongue” (in so far as I have one) and the two meet in funny and not very coherent ways. Ideally, if this blog were to reflect the way I think, it would be in both languages, and I would use Arabic verbs with English case-endings, and I would be transliterating, that is iktibing all this, with some Swedish thrown in så här. I don’t know if that would be very readable though.

Here are some depressing material about vanishing MSA Arabic, but maybe some hope can be gleaned from the fact that this is a long-standing, apparently never-vanishing topic:

3 thoughts on “Global English

  1. I am The Only Arab On the Internet, and I left that comment on the Arablit blog some months ago. I thought no one would ever read it so imagine my surprise to see this!

    I am myself western educated. The point I was making with my sarcastic comment was that there is virtually no intellectual material in Arabic on the internet. I see it as a responsibility of us western educated Arabs to provide this material. There are more Wikipedia articles in Norwegian by Norway’s puny 4 million population than in Arabic! Until a year ago there were more Wikipedia articles in Esperanto, a made up language! Arabic universities throughout the Middle East teach in English. Private British and American schools teach in English. Does this occur in Finland with its 5 million population? Do Norwegian schools and universities teach predominantly in another language? No! So why do we? Who are you trying to reach with this blog? Who do you think reads these articles? Why are there blogs on Arabic literature and blogs on Arabic art in English but not in Arabic?

    The simple answer is that this situation does not exist elsewhere and we do not make any effort to rectify it. We, the internet capable Arabs. You are catering to the upper classes of Arabs with a western upbringing, but how will we ever better our society if we forsake the language the second we get the chance to? How is it that populations with 4 million people manage to thrive and survive but Arabic with 300 million speakers competes in internet presence with the likes of Esperanto and Xhosa? It is a fundamental difference in attitude. We are such a colonized people that we no longer even have the desire to converse about ourselves in our own language. Compare that with stubborn little Quebec with its borderline fascist attempts at preserving its French language.

    My point is that there are millions of Hamdys and Gom’as and Baders and Khulouds out there who would benefit immensely from content like this written in Arabic. And they need this content far more than the 1% upper class Arabs or curious non-Arabs do.

    Lastly, MSA is not dying. Far from it. Everyone thinks it’s dying because MSA hasn’t made it’s way onto the internet yet. The desire for this content exists. Take a cursory look at or any of the myriad Arabic forums that exist online. The issue is not that people can’t speak MSA anymore. The issue is simply that the people who do speak it don’t have the know-how or the knowledge to create blogs such as this. And the people with the knowledge do not know or care to communicate in MSA.

    In my estimation this will change over the next decade as Gulf residents, specifically Saudis, become more internet savvy and more educated. With them there will be a rise in MSA content and blogs on the internet. Until then the colonized class will continue to navel gaze in English or French or whatever other language they were brought up with.


    1. I don’t have much to add here since I agree with (almost) everything you’ve said – although I would point out that there are English-speaking Arab immigrant communities who are not necessarily part of that “1% of upper class Arabs with a western upbringing.”

      Who is this blog for? Mostly it is for me: it’s a way to collect material and research, and I do that in English because that is the language I’m using in writing my dissertation on anglophone Arab literature. The blog’s audience is mostly from the Arab world, geographically at least, based on the page view stats. And you’re right, in the Arab world if not in the diaspora, English-speakers are mostly from the upper classes, and the fact that this content is exclusively in English is problematic – which is why I’ve been working on turning this into a bilingual blog. Since I’ve had almost no practice in writing in MSA and I’m still figuring out rtl support, this will be a challenge, but also hopefully a way to improve my fus7a and make this blog accessible to a wider audience.

      And the idea of MSA as a dying language, like I said in the post, is a long-standing topic. See:

      مقدمة لسان العرب

      في هذا الأوان، من اختلاف الألسنة والألوان، أصبح اللحن في الكلام يعد لحنًا مردودًا، وصار النطقُ بالعربية من المعايب معدودًا. وتنافس الناسُ في نصانيف الترجمانات في اللغة الأعجمية، وتفاصحوا في غير اللغة العربية، فجمعت هذا الكتاب في زمنٍ أهلُهُ بغير لغته يفخرون، وصنعته كما صنع نوحٌ الفلكَ وقومُه منه يسخرون، وسميته لسانَ العرب


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