A fairly uninspiring blog I read, The Beirut Spring, ran an unusually interesting post about the use of language in Lebanon – specifically, the use of Arabic – and how that is tied to identity, among other things. This is of distinct interest to me for two reasons: first, as an Arab-American I form a strong link between language and identity (one has better access to a community via language than otherwise, etc); second, in my time abroad I picked up on some serious strains between Arab countries on what it meant “to be Arab.” I was told matter-of-factly by many Egyptians that Lebanese are barely Arab, and language was way up there on the laundry list of reasons.
I didn’t quite agree with the article – or at least, I didn’t feel that it reached a useful conclusion. This is mostly because it is a pretty partisan blog so there wasn’t much in the way of discussion on the topic, and I was wondering if I could get some of that here. What would not retaining formal Arabic training mean in Lebanon? Does it mean anything at all? Let’s remember that Lebanon has gone through similar language-related crises, such as proposed alphabet reforms under Said Akl, which have sparked controversy. Also, what could this mean for other Arab countries?