| 04 May, 2017

Language barrier: Aramex founder hits out against survey showing Arab youth prefer to use English over Arabic

Image used for illustrative purpose. Saudi students react after a literature exam outside Othman Bin Afan school in Jeddah June 13, 2007.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Saudi students react after a literature exam outside Othman Bin Afan school in Jeddah June 13, 2007.

REUTERS/Susan Baaghil
04 May 2017

Influential Arab businessman and the founder of Dubai-based logistics company Aramex, Fadi Ghandour, objected to a research finding that showed Arab youth, especially those from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), prefer to use English rather than Arabic as their language of choice during their daily lives.

The Arab Youth Survey 2017 was carried out from February 7 to March 7 earlier this year and conducted using 3,500 face-to-face interviews with Arab males and females aged between 18 and 24 years from 16 Arab countries.

The findings showed that 54 percent of all of the Arab youth surveyed use English more than Arabic in their day-to-day lives, with the figure rising to 68 percent among GCC youth.

Ghandour, a prominent Jordanian entrepreneur and currently a managing partner at Wamda Capital, a Dubai-based financial investments service, objected on the survey’s results during his participation in a panel discussion on the survey’s results in Dubai on Wednesday.

“If you follow youth on YouTube…on Twitter…in Saudi Arabia, in Egypt…, it is only Arabic… So where is this (the survey’s finding on the Arabic language being used by Arab youth more than English) coming from? I don’t know. This needs to be looked at. The language of the youth is Arabic not English,” Ghandour said.

The survey, which was commissioned by public relations firm ASDA’A Burson Marsteller, showed that 80 percent of Arab youth and 90 percent of respondents in the GCC, viewed Arabic as a central component of their national identity. However, 60 percent saw Arabic increasingly “losing its value”.

The study was conducted on youth from all six GCC countries of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar along with Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, Tunisia and Yemen.

The survey also found out that Arab youth see American President Donald Trump a bigger concern than oil prices or Islamic State and even more unpopular than former American President George W. Bush who ordered wars on two Muslim countries; Iraq and Afghanistan.

The survey also showed Arab youth viewing the Islamic state becoming weaker and had little faith in the Arab government’s abilities to tackle the soaring rates of unemployment in region. 

Arab youth view Islamic State as weaker in the last year- survey

Young Arabs have little faith their gov'ts can solve the jobless problem- survey

At the end of the survey’s findings announcement event, the founder and CEO of ASDA’A Burson Marsteller, Sunil John, read out several tweets by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum hailing a finding that showed 35 percent of the respondents choosing the UAE as a country they would like to live in, up from 22 percent who said so last year.

The tweets were in Arabic.

“See they are in Arabic,” Ghandour shouted, promoting applause from the audience. “Everything is in Arabic,” he added.

Further reading:

Special Coverage: Arab Youth Survey 2017