An Ideological Perspective on Competing Languages and Identities: The Case of Arabic and English in Saudi Arabia

Abstract

The spread of English is being promoted as an important driver of social and economic development (Pennycook, 2009, p.116). However, this view can be “misguided”, as English can also be problematic, a source of inequality, and a “formidable obstacle to education” (Tollefson, 2000, p. 9). In this sense, the spread of English is seen as a form of the “linguistic imperialism” in which English enjoys an ideologically higher status over other languages, thus encouraging new forms of capitalism and endorsing the practice of homogeneity (Phillipson, 1999, p.274). In the same vein, it is argued that “language ideology represents statements of identity” (Cummins, 2000, p.xi). With regard to the context of Saudi Arabia, it is argued that if English can be a threat to the Arabic language, then it can also be a threat to the Arabic and Muslims identity (Elyas, 2008a, b), which may not be the true reflection of the Islamic view on learning other languages (Elays and Picard, 2010). Therefore, this article aims to evaluate the linguistic situation in Saudi Arabia in response to the spread of English and the tension this might have created with the Arabic Language to compete with English over gaining access to power and politics in different domains.

Keywords: Arabic, Identity, Media, Saudi Arabia, economy ideology

Article Review Status: Published

Pages: 46-52 (Download PDF)

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