Although Arabic is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, its users are still marginalized, and its digital footprint has been relatively low. However, strides are being made by Arabic speaking countries to make the language more accessible globally. This is evidenced by the two-year long study undertaken by the UAE’s Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development, which sought to investigate the role of publishing houses, tech, and academia in propagating the use and development of the Arabic language.
The results of the study dubbed “Report on the Status and Future of the Arabic Language”, were unveiled by Ms. Noura Al Kaabi, the UAE’s Minister of Culture and Youth during a session in the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature this past Thursday. Ms. Kaabi proposed the development of an observatory to track the use and advancement of the Arabic language. According to her statement, “The observatory will play a central role in fighting the digital piracy scourge that continues to plague the Arabic publishing industry and allow stakeholders to follow the development of Arabic publishing… Digital publishing presents a thrilling new frontier for Arabic literature and a space to develop new talents.”
Also speaking at the event was Mr. Ali Bin Tamim, Chair of the Arabic Language Centre. He reiterated the importance of the findings of the study, adding that they will act as a guide to future opportunities and solutions. “The study will provide a fresh approach to the discussion around the progression of Arabic in academia and cultural circles and empower its practical use”
Abdulsalam Haykal, an executive of Abu Dhabi’s Haykal Group, also gave an address at the event, shedding light on the importance of technology in the growth and spread of Arabic. He applauded the efforts made by major companies in the region like Microsoft and Google in allowing Arabic users to make use of their platforms in a modern and timely fashion.
The interest in the development of Arabic has not been limited to state agencies and the aforementioned companies alone. In the past few years, several businesses have also made strides to include the Arabic language as they offer their services to MENA countries. For instance, Tiktok last year unveiled the Arabic version of their e-commerce platform, TikTok for Business to increase their reach of non-English speakers of the region.
Ureed.com, a MENA-native business, has also been offering its services in both English and Arabic, to make their platform more accessible, and increase the space on the internet occupied by Arabic content. This inclusion has seen the company take hold of the online marketplace economy in the region, and has no doubt been one of the drivers of the freelance boom experienced in MENA recently. The success of Ureed.com and other companies in the region that include Arabic in their offerings highlights the importance of the language.