Monday, May 20

Jordan Issues Law to Protect Arabic Language

Amman_ In a much needed move nowadays Jordan has approved a legislation titled the Law for the Protection of the Arabic Language, an important move to protect Arabic culture. This law reminds interested people of those laws that were issued in Libya during the 1970s to Arabizing all aspects of society and made Arabic the only language that can be used in the country.

At the time Libya, led by Muammar Qathafi, spent a great deal of its money on a campaign that lasted for years aimed at pressuring the United Nations to adopt Arabic as an official language beside those of English, Chinese, Spanish, French and Russian.

According to the Arab Weekly, the Jordanian law was approved by the parliament a few years ago. It sets out a “compulsory” system for holding proficiency tests in Arabic. The system is to be overseen by the Arabic Language Academy, working with a number of partners in order to raise the linguistic standard of candidates for government, public and academic posts.

The Law for the Protection of the Arabic Language obliges state institutions to ensure the ascendancy of the Arabic language and to strengthen its role in the economic and social fields, civil society institutions and in scientific and cultural activities, the Weekly added.

This includes the names of organisations, their documents, transactions, records, contracts and agreements to which they are a party, the books issued by them, any audiovisual or print advertisements directed to the public, any promotional or non-advertising publications and any media campaigns.

The law also requires the use of Arabic in any advertisement for broadcast, publication or display in any public place, with the possibility of adding a translation in a foreign language when necessary, provided that the Arabic text comes in larger characters and is more prominently displayed.

Even films and works in languages other than Arabic that are licensed for broadcast or publication  are required to be translated into Arabic.

This includes banners and signs bearing the names of institutions, banknotes, stamps, medals, certificates and academic rulings, with the possibility of adding to the Arabic a foreign language translation.

The law also covers the naming of streets, districts, public squares and other locations, with the exception of non-Arabic proper nouns.

This applies to commercial, financial, industrial, scientific, social, service, entertainment and tourism institutions.

The law stipulates that the Arabic language is the language of scientific research. This means that research papers have to be in Arabic  but can also be in foreign languages, if the researchers provide a translation of their research documents in Arabic.

Dr Muhammad Al-Saudi, Secretary General of the Arabic Language Academy, told the Arab Weekly that this law is “cultural” in essence and should not be construed as confrontational in intent.

He adds that the implementation of the law should be gradual and be carried out with the cooperation of all concerned parties, especially since it affects the culture of society, education, customs, traditions and local dialects, in one way or another.

Saudi adds that one of the most tangible dividends of this law and its application has been the adoption of the Arabic language proficiency examination system.

According to the law, “no public education teacher or a faculty member in higher education or a broadcaster, producer or editor can be appointed in any media institution unless he passes the linguistic proficiency exam”.

In the trial period, more than 12,000 teachers sat the exam. The success rates ranged between 68% and 81%, which is an “advanced rate at the international level” according to Saudi.

Another aspect with an important bearing on public life relates to the system for the  “conformity of names”, which is still to be approved and put into practice.

Saudi says that this arrangement aims to ensure the compatibility of trade names with Arabic language rules.

He points out that the Academy has sought help from a number of legal experts and consultants in preparing the system, which has not yet received the approval of the Legislation and Opinion Bureau.

Although the Law for the Protection of the Arabic Language stipulates that violators will be liable to specific fines, according to Saudi, the problem remains who implements the law.

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