OUTLOOK — By Arwa Al Hinai — “Come on, wear your shoes. Listen to Yaya” (a term used to call the nanny) I heard a woman telling her crying child as I was walking around the shoe section in one of the shopping centres. “Be a good boy and listen to Yaya”. The funny thing was, the woman had a very thick Arabic accent. I turned to see the child who was throwing a tantrum. He was kicking and screaming. The poor “Yaya” just stood with a helpless look on her face. Suddenly, the child took of one of his shoes and threw it across the aisle. As Yaya went to fetch the shoe, I heard the mother scolding her child in her thick accented English. At first I thought she was conversing with her child in English because she didn’t want Yaya to feel left out. But then I noticed that even when she went to bring back the thrown shoe, the mother continued to use English to communicate with her child. I realised the mother became aware of my stares. She looked at me, with a pleased look on her face, and said to me in Arabic “What to do? He can’t understand Arabic. He only speaks English”. I smiled and nodded as we walked alongside each other towards the cashier counter.
“You know, the problem is, I am used to talking to my helpers at home in English. So…” I was surprised at this fact she was sharing with me. Why is it that some people feel proud that their children cannot speak their native language? Are these people so insecure about who they are that they are willing to adapt another culture in order to feel that they belong to the modern society? Is it shameful to speak your native language?
Throughout the years, I have encountered numerous occasions in which people I know spoke to their children in a language other than their mother tongue. It saddens me to witness this because our Arabic language is one of the most beautiful, yet complex languages to ever exist. It is an ancient language that has existed for hundreds, perhaps, thousands of years. As Muslims, it is a language that is strongly related to Islam. Arabic is used five times a day during our five prayers. In addition, in the western and eastern world, although Arabic used to be neglected, in the recent years people have become eager to learn this semantic language for many reasons such as political reasons, globalisation and the relationship the Arab world has with the global economy. Yet, for some reason I do not get it, the people whose mother tongue is Arabic no longer have that sense of pride about it. They do not realise how bizarre and aberrant it seems to others. Not to get me wrong, I am not against the use of other languages. On the contrary, I support knowledge and acquiring other languages as I have myself. After all, knowledge is power. However, one should not allow this knowledge to take over his/her life. Our native language defines who we are. It plays a major part in our identity, without which, we wouldn’t be who we are. Mostly importantly, it earns the respect of others towards us.
Another form of this “lost identity” crisis that we are facing is the blind imitation issue. The media is playing a big role in moulding the way the younger generation acts. We see youngsters who mimic what they see on TV without knowing what it is that they really are doing. The way they talk, dress and even think is mostly influenced by what the media exposes to them.
They say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. I have to agree that in some cases, it is. However, there are some aspects of life that should not be imitated, especially if it results in one taking steps backwards. Every person should be proud of who he/she is, where they come from, and the culture they have, yet still have the readiness to learn about and respect other cultures. Losing our identity will only result in losing the respect of others.