Expatriates are reluctant to adopt the language and culture of the host country. My friend studying at a medical college in Xhanghou, China has become fluent in Chinese in less than 2 years. I have come across expatriates who have been around for more than 10 years have no inclination towards learning Saudi language and culture. This is unusual.
I am an ESL lecturer at Taiba university, Madina. My Saudi colleagues who are graduates from UK, speak fluent English. They lived, played, talked and dined with Englishmen who conversed with them in Standard English and often corrected their mistakes. These ‘Saudi expats’ soon became part of the culture as they mingled freely with the English. ‘Why aren’t we adopting Saudi language and culture?’
I have friends in who have studied abroad and speak French or German quite well. I do not find the same enthusiasm in Saudi Arabia, with an expatriate population of more than 25%. The reason lies in the social structure. Society is operating as two parallel streams and there is very little socializing. It is very rare to see Saudis and expats socialising at coffee shops or sports clubs, the main venues for interaction and incidental learning.
There are numerous advertisements at shopping malls and colleges that read ‘ English tuition offered.’ It is so rare to find a notice that reads ‘Private Arabic classes.’ In China, France, Italy there is a tremendous market for learning the local language and culture. In Saudi Arabia we find an apathy – to teach as well as to learn the language – just the basic words to get the job done. ‘Khalas’. Even Saudi employers are content with communicating with their employees in a polluted form of Arabic.
Arabic is a magnificent language, rich in nuance and rhythm. Its beauty is lost by the level that it is being relegated to. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the locals to market a love for Arabic art and culture to the expatriates. I would like to see more advertisements that read ‘Arabic classes’ Arabic calligraphy lessons’ and ‘learn about Saudi traditional food and customs.’ A realistic and worthwhile 2020 vision!