Qatar Foundation university student, Shaikha AlKubaisi, talks about her passion for Arabic
When I was a child, my mother used to tell me the story of "Laila and the Wolf" in the same language that she heard from my grandmother when she was my age. It is the language that my family belongs to, which is Arabic.
I eagerly listened, read, and spoke Arabic at every opportunity, and it became the way I discovered the world around me; and very quickly Arabic became my world.
When I was growing up, my family enrolled me in a public school that included both Arabic and English languages in the curriculum. I eagerly listened, read, and spoke Arabic at every opportunity, and it became the way I discovered the world around me. To fuel my curiosity, my father would take me to book fairs and public libraries, and very quickly Arabic became my world and my passion.
Later, this passion for the language shaped my future, driving me to pursue as many learning opportunities as possible. At school level, I presented the morning assembly; while at national level, I participated in recitation sessions at Qatar National Library; I gave welcome speeches and I was nominated to present at the annual scientific research ceremony of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in 2017.
For me, the biggest challenge of public speaking was the correct pronunciation of the syntactic phrases, as any small mistake could change the meaning of the entire sentence. I was always practicing, even if I had to stay awake in my room all night. On the days where I would deliver my speech without any errors, my self-confidence would get a boost, and my desire to become even more proficient would increase.
I will not tell my children bedtime stories in any other language. I want to speak to them in my voice, and the voices of my mother and my grandmother
When I became a student at Northwestern University in Qatar in 2018, I quickly realized that most of the students and faculty spoke English – and this was because of the curriculum and Education City’s cultural diversity. At the time, I worried that I would lose my skills in the Arabic language while going about my daily university life, conversing in English.
I told myself that this was a challenge I would overcome. So, whenever I spoke to my Arab classmates, I made a conscious effort to think carefully before speaking, making sure to only speak in Arabic – if possible. And this became a form of self-exercise.
Some people think that as a student at QF you must speak a foreign language, and that if you speak Arabic, this demonstrates a lack of foreign language skills, but this is not true
Today, it is not easy for the younger generation to converse entirely in one language, and often the local youth intertwine Arabic and English. This could lead to a loss of culture, religion, and history.
Some people think that as a student at the Qatar Foundation (QF), you must speak a foreign language, while others think that if you speak Arabic, this demonstrates a lack of foreign language skills, but this is not true.
At Northwestern Qatar, students can study formal Arabic – or ‘Fusha’ – through internal activities, volunteer programs, and seminars provided by educational institutions outside of QF.
QF provides many opportunities to learn the language, and not just to members of its community, but the larger public as well. For example, this year it launched TEDinArabic. Previously, we would have to listen to discussions on international platforms in English, but this new tool allows for innovators and influencers to discuss valuable topics in Arabic. To be able to communicate what we want to say to the world in our mother tongue is a wonderful thing, and I hope that the TEDinArabic initiative will reach more youth to inspire them to innovate, create, and explore in their language.
Arabic is often regarded as a complex language, one that is not of the modern world, but this is not true. And someone who prides themselves on ensuring that their children only speak foreign languages is creating a barrier between them and their culture and identity. Today, children can excel and shine in the field of science as they read books by Avicenna, Ibn Rushd, and Al-Khwarizmi. Today, children can study in the most prestigious universities in the world, and communicate with experts from different countries, but when they return to their families, speak with pride in their mother tongue.
I will not tell my children bedtime stories in any other language. I want to speak to them in my voice, and the voices of my mother and my grandmother. Nothing in this world will steal my passion for Arabic.
Shaikha AlKubaisi is a journalism student who joined Northwestern University in Qatar in 2018. Her passion lies in several fields such as video journalism, documentaries, podcasting, speaking in official forums, and volunteering in several fields. She chaired the student council at her school for the year 2016-2017. She won top spots in several scientific research competitions and other competitions; and she aspires to showcase the cultural and scientific diversity in Qatar.