The world celebrated the World Arabic Language Day on Monday. As the fifth most spoken language worldwide, with around 250 million native speakers, the language is annually commemorated on 18 December, the day when the United Nations General Assembly approved Arabic as an official and working language of the United Nations. The annual celebration was first launched by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 2010. Ever since, countries from across the globe celebrate one of the world’s richest languages, with several cultural events and seminars.
This year, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) celebrated the international day through a cultural event in Beirut where they shared the origins and evolution of the language, and the world’s oldest cities to use it in communication and literature. The event also included a competition where several teams competed to answer a series of questions on Arabic syntax, semantics, grammar, poetry, and literature.
In their speech, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, executive secretary of ESCWA, and Khawla Matar, deputy executive secretary of ESCWA, emphasised the importance of Arabic as a language “used as a common tongue for all ESCWA member states,” stressing that it is “a rich, intricate, and beautiful language that must be safeguarded and celebrated across the world in all contexts, from international forums to family dinner tables.”
United Nations Radio also celebrated the day through broadcasting a set of audio podcasts for some of its employees who were taught Arabic and their teachers who expressed the passion foreigners have for learning the language.
“We currently have three stages for teaching Arabic language, each has around 200 students,” one of the teachers said in the radio broadcast. For their part, students explained their reasons for studying Arabic, explaining that it is a rich, varied language.
From its side, UNESCO celebrated the international day through organising two-day round table discussions around finding new effective ways to teach the Arabic language.
“The Arabic language is a pillar within the cultural diversity of humanity. It is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, used daily by more than 290 million people,” Audrey Azoulay, director general of UNESCO said in her message to the world on World Arabic Day.
The event also explored the relation between the Arabic language and science, language planning, the role science played in the dissemination of Arabic, language engineering, and the use of new technologies in teaching the language, as well as the future of the language, a statement on the evnt added.
“Arabic has played a catalytic role in knowledge, promoting the dissemination of Greek and Roman sciences and philosophies to Renaissance Europe. It has enabled a dialogue of cultures along the silk roads, from the coast of India to the Horn of Africa,” Azoulay explained, adding, “in the diversity of its forms, classic or dialectal, from oral expression to poetic calligraphy, the Arabic language has given rise to a fascinating aesthetic, in fields as varied as architecture, poetry, philosophy, and song.”