Turkey sees growing interest in Arabic language ‘like never before’
As World Arabic Language Day is celebrated annually on December 18, Turkey has seen increasing interest in learning the Arabic language.
Abdus Samet Kocak, research assistant at Fatih Sultan Mehmet University in Istanbul, said the Arabic language was “part of Turkish culture” as spoken by Turks in the south of the country.
“Arabic is heard everywhere in Turkey because it is the language of the Koran. It is also the language that brought us Islamic civilization and knowledge, ”he told Anadolu agency on Saturday.
Kocak said that interest in learning the Arabic language has increased in Turkey in recent years due to the rapprochement between Turkey and Arab nations.
He said that there are a large number of schools that teach Arabic as a second language, in addition to “opening faculties of Islamic sciences and Arabic literature in many Turkish universities which also offer a preparatory year in Arab”.
December 18 coincides with the day in 1973 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted Arabic as the organization’s sixth official language.
– Growing interest
Turkey has witnessed several events in commemoration of the day. On Friday, the Department of Foreign Languages at Gazi University, based in Ankara, held a program that included skits, songs and poems recited in Arabic.
Kocak said several events were held at various universities, Imam Hatip schools and other civilian institutions to celebrate the Arabic language.
“The students are preparing with pride for these celebrations, just for the chance to deliver a speech in the classical Arabic language,” he said.
“Turkey has also opened the doors for Arab professors to work in public universities in a move unprecedented in the history of Turkish universities,” Kocak said.
“No foreign language has ever received the same attention as the Arabic language in Turkey, which makes me think that the government does not consider Arabic to be a foreign language in Turkey.”
The theme of this year’s World Arabic Language Day: “The Arabic language, a bridge between civilizations” has been defined by UNESCO as a call to reaffirm the important role of the Arabic language in connecting peoples to through culture, science, literature and many other fields.
– Arab debate
On December 7, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Fatih Sultan Mehmet University and Doha-based Qatar Debate, a member of the Qatar Foundation, to establish an “Arab Debates Center” in Turkey.
Kocak said the deal also included hosting the first national university Arab debate championship in Turkey, to be held December 20-28 in Istanbul.
“This championship has attracted 20 teams from different universities in Turkey, which shows how much universities and students are interested in the Arabic language,” he said.
The objective of the event is “to spread the culture of dialogue, debate, constructive criticism and to disseminate the arts of debate in Arabic as a tool to help students improve their skills in the Arabic language”, Kocak said.
In the past five years, the various Arab debate teams in Turkey have won three international school-level debate competitions held in Qatar.
The last victory came in April 2021, where Istanbul-based Beyoglu Anadolu Imam Hatip High School won first place in the 5th International School Debate Championship, held online due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Emir Maruf Satir, 18, a member of the winning team, told Anadolu news agency that participating in the Arab debates “opened wide horizons for him” and benefited him in several ways.
“The Arabic debate allowed me to learn and improve my Arabic language skills and taught me the methods of group discussions, listening skills and collective thinking skills. This experience made me a broad-minded person, more attentive to the problems of the world and of the Islamic nation, ”he said.
Satir, who also received the best speaker award in the debate competition, said that although he is still in the early stages of learning Arabic, he is still looking to participate in various Arabic-related programs, such as debates, activities and seminars.
He also participated in the OIC model of the Islamic Cooperation Youth Forum (ICYF), held in April 2019 in Istanbul.
Model OIC is an academic simulation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which aims to educate participants on current trends in the theory and practice of international relations, effective communication and multilateral diplomacy.
“During the preparatory year for school, I went to Jordan for nine weeks as part of an intensive program to improve my Arabic language skills and practice it with native speakers,” Maruf said.
However, with the strong presence of Arabs in Turkey, especially in Istanbul, “I can now practice the Arabic language on a daily basis, especially in places where there is a large Arab population,” he added.
The Arabic language is one of the most spoken languages in the world, used daily by more than 400 million people.