English and National Identity
English and National Identity avatar

New languages impact people`s mother-tongue rapidly or gradually. Some people notice immediately the danger of a language on their national language. This essay will show my experience with English language and whether it affects my identity or not. I was first exposed to English, in grade four. It sounded strange and funny at that time. I thought it was not a big deal because we heard English only in one class every day unlike the other subjects that all were in Arabic. I thought it was like any other subject that we were forced to study to pass school. All English teachers were foreigners; therefore, when our Indian teacher talked in English, my classmates and I started laughing whenever she uttered an English word. Even though, I had not heard English before, I was able to understand the teacher and knew what she was asking us to do. I used to translate what I understood from English to my Arabic dialect (AL-Hamra dialect) to my classmates because they were not able to understand anything of what the teacher said. The teacher noticed what I was doing; as a result, she came to me whenever she wanted to explain something in Arabic during the class. She usually came to me and said “Shurooq. Say this to your friends.” I translated the meaning or what I had understood from her to Arabic. I realized then the importance of understanding and speaking English, so I promised myself to do my best to learn it. In this grade, I faced difficulty learning English sounds and words, but I memorized the alphabet by a nursery rhyme.
From laughing at how the language sounds, I started loving the language and wishing to be a speaker of it. That was the start of a new life. The life of a person who thought the other language was higher and prestigious than hers. But at grade four, I did not feel any negative changes in my Arabic Language because all the domains surrounded me (family, friends, society, religion, Quran school..ect) people spoke in Arabic and the only place where I would be able to speak, read, listen, and write English was at school for 35 minutes. I lived in a constructive society where Arabic was valued most. I was enchanted in English because it sounded differently so my feelings and my way of looking changed to positive attitudes toward English. It affected me unconsciously without my intention, and I think the effect was stronger because the English teachers were nice to me. So I used to prepare English and decorate its notebook first and then move to the other subjects. Also, if I had time, I would return to English at the end of the day. At that time, the negative effects did not appear because we did not have too much technology.
I became more connected to English in secondary school because girls respected and admired those who knew English very well. And that shaped my life because I decided to learn English more because at that level my English was very weak. English came along with me since grade four. I enjoyed learning new things and the English language was something unknown and mysterious. Nowadays, I am studying to be an English teacher. During these days and especially when I had been accepted at Sultan Qaboos University, I realized that Arabic worth to be appreciated and learned. Since the university academic life is all in English, I feel with great disappointment. Moreover, when I see educated people (women in my village and some girls at my campus) trying their best to teach their children English as the mother-tongue, I wondered a lot how their children are going to live. What about Arabic. How their children are going to worship Allah if they don’t know how to read Quran or pray. Life does not worth to sacrifice your Islamic identity for gaining a position or a respect from others. Yes, Islam invited us to learn our enemies’ languages after we learn Arabic. I don’t mean that we should not learn English but we should make sure that we learned Arabic first and then we move to other languages.

The English language made some people respect and look at me differently especially my family. Whenever my father got a medical report in English, he sent it to me immediately; although, I had told him many times that my major is general English not medical. When I tried to translate medical reports, I stuck with long difficult words (medical names). So I got insults more than compliments because my father kept saying how I am going to teach English when I don’t know how to translate long words. It was not my fault that medicine and medical reports are written in bizarre words. My two young brothers wanted to be English teachers; even though, their English is very weak. They think I got privilege from my parents because I am studying English. My brother Mohammed wanted strongly to learn English and I think it was my fault for convincing him that only English will bring him a good job.
Since Arabic language is my mother-tongue, I used to write short stories, fiction stories and poems. I kept my own memoranda where I wrote in Arabic. I looked at Arabic as the magical and the ideal language when I was at secondary school and it still does. But the problem was that I found myself in the track of learning another language and that did not mean I was ashamed of my Arabic. I found myself in a place where English was required and necessary to have a job. Nowadays, I am writing in English such as, haiku poems, memoir stories, and non-fiction stories. That is one of the negative impacts on me because of abandoning writing in Arabic. I think most of the new generation wants to master English because I heard some Omani girls chatting in English rather than in Arabic while I was walking to my lecture last week.
Another negative impact is losing some of my delicate words. I used to be one of the girls who knew almost every single word in my delicate but when I went to SQU, (Sultan Qaboos University) I am no more allowed to use my delicate because the girls from different governors will not be able to understand me. For example, I lived with a girl from AL-Batinh north and I used some of my deliacte`s words which she was not able to understand; therefore, I had to explain and bring examples to make just one word clear to her so instead of speaking the Arabic standard, we switched to English. Also, most of the time, I mix between the two languages. Some of my friends say “طلعت الانجليزية” “ and it makes me feel embarrassed and some time they think I am showing off. But it happened without my intention because, sometime when I speak, I don’t find the words in Arabic in my head as a result for not using them from a long time. Also, when some girls asked me to explain something related to my studies, I mix everything: Arabic with English and here is an example:
شوفي المادة واجد ايزي والاسيسمنت فيها يكون على ريبورت و بروجكت و فينل….
One more impact is the way of looking up information. Before English became part of my life, I used to watch news and read newspapers in Arabic. I had changed my way of looking up information from Arabic to English because many people said that the only way to learn English or any new language is to use it as much as possible. And this was a negative and a positive influence at the same time. First, it was good because I got to know more information about the other societies using English sources. The negative impact was replacing the way of getting news from my language to another one (English).
When I learned English, my self-esteem and self-awareness raised and I improved my way of presenting information.
When I learned critical information, I started asking a lot of questions. So it influenced me in my real life because I started questioning a lot at home and my sisters got bothered especially my older sister who shouted at me one day asking me to not question.

Some of the English courses had a strong influence on me, negative and positive. In the Language Center, reading II influenced me a lot because of the teacher; she had good methods of teaching and did respect our works. Doctor Samer, was a Jordan great teacher, she taught me more than reading skills, she introduced us to literature. And she applied some technical ways in analyzing the stories, like the umbrella model. I liked literature before I took the required courses because of her.
At the same semester, an American non-native speaker whose origin was Iraqi taught me speaking and I was in my third semester at SQU. Even though she claimed being a Muslim, she did not show any respect to Islam and she said bad things like Islam did not ask women to wear hijab…ect. She humiliated students a lot. One day, she said to my friend that she is going to fail in her academic career. I hated speaking in English because of this instructor but thank to Allah who gave me another chance to be taught speaking again in the English department at College of Art and my teacher was more than fabulous. She encouraged me to speak and I used to talk freely in her class like a radio. I do still use her materials and I went through them last summer.
Critical thinking was a crucial skill which I had been introduced to in critical reading. The doctor asked us to think beyond the literal meaning, to look further beyond the line and make questions in every paragraph. I started making questions and it was a good way to measure my own understanding of the context. Also, this doctor motivated us to read and I started reading a lot in Arabic and English but mostly in English.
Syntax was a course which made me proud of talking in my delicate because the doctor always kept valuing delicates. I learned in the course many skills: searching, life-long-learning skill, critical thinking..ect. Moreover, I was different than my siblings and peers a little bit because I did not get immersed in technologies too much until I took the Technology Course where the instructor showed us how we could use different websites to improve our English, like Word-Press. I created my own page on this website and I published on it more than 100 posts all in English.

My native speaking doctors influenced me in their ways of getting knowledge and how they faced obstacles to gain what they want. One of the professors in the English department used to call me “Our official speaker” and he asked me many times to transform to College of Law but I want to learn English. My self-esteem raised and I became more confident to speak because of this doctor. Another instructor believed that I have the ability to conduct a successful research on my delicate but I did not try to do one because I have not taken research project, yet. And to see a female professor in the field of Higher Education is enough to encourage you to imitate her. It proved that there is nothing impossible. I started reading novels and stories because one of the doctors motivated us to read as much as we could and nothing could stop us except death. So they influenced me physiologically, academically, and in real my life.
Another professor, who respected our ideas and thoughts and he used the method of deduction in order to give us the chance to deduce the rules by ourselves rather than following what others thought of blindly. He taught us how to be independent learners, how to look up in other sources rather than relying on him to feed us knowledge. From this instructor, I learned how to value my mind.

One of the non-native professors is teaching me this semester and she is trying to let the creativity inside me arise. She encouraged me by saying that my writing is good. Another African professor, made me believe that there is nothing impossible and getting grades are not trends of our level of intelligence. I wrote more often in my Word Press page because he asked us to use technology to learn English and I am using it till now. Professor Neil from the Language Center, he was an incredible instructor. He used to call me (مديرة- the principal) because he thinks that I will be an administrator one day. He made his lectures funny and that made me feel how English could be interesting because I was so afraid at the first semester at SQU.

In my humble opinion, English is not a threat and it is not going to harm me if I had already a strong value and respect to whom I AM. From a religious perspective, Islam encourages us to learn other languages so we can defend ourselves. I am a Muslim and I can use the language to spread Islam and write about our culture, tradition and my view of being a Muslim. It is not a threat because I learned Arabic, which is my mother-tongue, and it resembles part of my character. I started learning and knowing that some people talk in different languages only when I went to school. Thanks to Allah, I can still use my Arabic in many domains, home, with friends, Quran school..ect. It is not a threat because I still write my messages in Arabic and I speak Arabic with my friends and my family members.

English is a threat to Arabic which is something can be observed every day. In the economic filed, people don’t use Arabic names for machines or tools but they had Arabnaized English names; for example, سكروب، غيار، باص، موتر،. I strongly believe that our language can maintain and coin suitable words for the economic domain. I read that English is considered as a killer language because it has replaced many languages around the world but I don’t- at any point- think it is going to replace standard Arabic for different reasons. Arabic is the language of the Holy Book and every Muslim who is born as a Muslim in any country has to learn the language in order to read and understand the verses of the Quran. Also, if people converted to Islam, and they do not know Arabic, they have to learn it, so all Muslims from different countries among the world are united under one language, one word, and one God…ect. Also, non-Muslims learn Arabic because they think we are their foes and enemies; as a result, they will be obliged to learn Arabic. One more reason is the Omani educational system (schools) aimed to preserve Arabic by insisting that all the subjects are taught in standard Arabic and also, most of the institutions use Arabic in communication. 90% of the domains in my society, we use Arabic like: home, school, friends, neighbors, religion …ect. So standard Arabic is there in every condition but the problem is in our vernacular variety (delicates) because many people nowadays looked at their delicate as a stigma. E.g my brother who went to Nizwa college for three months, and when he came back I heard him complaining and asking questions why we are saying this not this and so on, like: كوفي / قهوة
واجد سبياسي ذا العيش/ واجد مبزر العيش
My job was to give him a long lecture of preserving identity. I said to him; although, I am studying English and it is my major, I am doing my best to use my delicate and make others understand it. I code-switch some of the time but I had never complained why I am talking in Al-Hamra delicate. I am proud of being from Al-Hamra. But thanks to Allah, my brother went with no argument because if I was in his place I would say we are in our daily life use English words and we don’t know they are because we have only adjusted their pronunciation: pipe/, glass, motor, light, doctor, bus..ect. The Arabic language is not in danger as long as it is taught at educational institutions. In Arabic we have dozens of books and books are one of the crucial means to protect a language from disappearing.
English is not a threat as long as native Arabic speakers know the value of their language and that learning a second language is just for extra- reasons, like job, communication..ect.

English is important but we can survive without it. It is important but not crucial. We need it in order to keep track with the world, to adapt their inventions and products so we can understand for what they are used. In addition, we need English for economic purposes, getting jobs with a good salary, translating books and selling them. It is also important to spread the Islamic concepts to English and the other people. Moreover, Omanis have to learn English because of the location of Oman which is a point of connection with the other countries. It is a crucial language in trade because most of our products come from English countries and we export goods to them.

Since English is one of the world’s top languages and thousands of people are learning it. It may remain forever. In Wikipedia, I looked at the number of English speakers and it is 1.5 billion or 1.8 billion and these are enormous numbers. People looked at English as the prestigious language, so they learn and teach it to their children; therefore, they can maintain and be up to date with the surroundings. English may get a lot of modification and changes like adjusting new words from different languages like from Arabic; for example, haboba, cave, sugar, wadi, ..ect and this is called lexical borrowing because English does not have these words. Therefore, I think English will remain as long as it develops and adds words to its linguistic system.

I think English may get more valued in the next generations in Oman and it will be looked as the prestigious language. There is no harm in Omani adults, whose Arabic is good, to learn English unless they transfer their interest in English to their poor children. The new generation will lose the most important thing in their country which is the Arabic language. English will remain in Oman for the next few centuries because our educational system is offering a subject there. There are a lot of private English schools in Oman which teach English as the main language and they only offer one class in Arabic. Also, the Omani economic system is depending in tourism and most of the tourists speak English so Oman will be forced to prepare its citizens to use English to communicate with them appropriately.
English will be the main language in the Omani labor system because working people are using English terms in most of their work especially Omani companies. Most of the companies prefer to higher skillful and qualified English graduated students and this is a motivation to people to learn English.
All in all, English is an international language; therefore, Omanis are forced to learn it beside their mother-tongue in order to improve and build Oman. If we value our international language (Arabic), we will not be harmed by English. I have a strong feeling that Arabic will gain a huge popularity in the future where people will fight to learn it. I don’t know when, but I hope soon.

What Do You Know about Omani Traditional Treatment?
What Do You Know about Omani Traditional Treatment? avatar

On one of the burning hot summer days, my youngest brother stepped on a thorn. The thorn was brown, woody and sharp. My poor little brother couldn’t walk for more than a week. As usual, women visited my brother and poured their various experiences or I could say superstitions on my mother’s head. My mother tried a number of traditional treatments; she blended green leaves of *shakher with salt but it did not work and she also put the white liquid of figs’ leaves on my brother’s foot, but his foot turned in red so it was useless too. Those traditional treatments obviously represented the women’s knowledge, skills, and practices based on various theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to the Omani culture, used to maintain health. There are various types of such traditional treatments in Oman and *al-wasem is one of them. In the past, when someone got sick, the family would ask for the person who knew how to use al-wasem to come and see the patient. The person would bring an iron rod about the size of a pencil which was heated until red and then it’s pressed into the flesh for 2-3 seconds at the appropriate place to treat the patient’s diseases.

“Nothing, has worked on this stubborn thorn,” said my mother with tearful eyes.

We wereall helpless and stared at each other, thinking of a way to help my brother. An idea came to my mind and I said it quickly to my mother:

“Mom, why don’t we cut his foot with a knife and get out the thorn?”

“Do you want to murder your brother?” My mother opened her mouth weirdly, “get away from here.” She stared angrily at me and her eyes were red. A shudder went through my whole body. I did not have any intention to kill my brother. I ran away to the garden thinking that she had spoken from a broken heart not meaning what she said.

I climbed a palm tree until I reached the top. I was not afraid at all. It was fun to be up high, I could see what our neighbors were doing. The wind came and played with me. She danced in zigzag movements. The palm tree waved to the wind and moved its hands left and right. I could hide there forever, no matter of the weather. I remembered exactly when my grandmother advised my cousin, who was not good in his studies, to drink the urine of frogs in order to be smarter and how we went looking for one, but thanks to God we did not find one. And how she warned us from killing spiders or destroying their nests because she believed it could cause poverty. Also, when my brother was born, my mother slaughtered a cock and took its blood and spread it all around the house. Our house was new but it looked dirty as if a storm of mud had splotched it. These superstitions drive me to craziness. It was amazing how old women had these thoughts.

“Where did she go? Sara! My mother wants you. Where are you?” My sister yelled loudly.

Oh! What should I do now? Paranoia prisoned my heart. My heart was pounding fast. I was nervous. Was my mother going to spank me? Fears flew around my head like birds flying around a spring of water. I slid down using the palm-tree leaves to reach the ground fast. It was fun. When I entered the house, I found my mother sitting next to my brother. Her face was pale because she had not slept well. Black circles were around her eyes. When she saw me, a tiny smile appeared in her face, perhaps in relief.

In a hurry she said “Sara! Go and catch a frog.”

“A frog? But mom … you said__”

“Take an old knife and cut off the frog’s skin.”

In a hurry and without thinking, I ran out to the garden. I had to obey my mother because I did not want her to be angry at me again. I would catch the fattest frog in the garden in order to take off a big amount of its skin. My mother thought frogs’ skin had the ability to treat my brother’s foot. I was driven by curiosity to learn, was frogs’ skin useful in treating some diseases? Some scientists interested in frogs, have apparently found proteins in their skin which can be used to treat diabetes and stroke, and help transplant patients by regulating the growth of blood vessels. I did not know that before, but my mother wanted to treat my brother’s foot and no-one had discovered if there was any possibility of getting a thorn out from foot using a frog skin.

Kamis – my second brother- came along with me. He admired my courage in not being afraid of frogs. We went together and we searched in different places.

“I’ve found one. I’ve found one.” He hopped about like a frog, yelling.

“It is thin. There is no skin on it. Let it go.”

Three hours passed and finally we found a lovely big frog. It was a toad. Toads are part of the frog families but fatter.Frogs and toads in general don’t migrate. They only hide themselves from the cold, dryness or heat. Some of them live in water while others prefer to live in humid places and hidden in holes in summer. And when rain comes, they hop out from their holes.

Asking Kamis to bring the old broken knife, I held the frog for ten minutes. He passed it to me and he asked me to slaughter it like men did to the bull at Eid. I was definitely not going to do that. I would just take off the skin and let her go in peace.

“Does this toad have babies?”

“No, they don’t. My father said that frogs come from the sky. They landed in our gardens in rainy days;” I explained “and then they hide in holes under the date palms.” This must be some superstition which I’d got from my father of frogs because they hid during summer and in rainy season they made a lot of noise. Many ancient cultures associated frogs with rain because of the noise they made when rain fell down. And the word fräg,frog“frog” in Hindi means cloud5. There are many other animals which have been associated with superstition like cats. People in Oman associated them with jinn and dark magic. They believe that a black cat with no shadow is a wizard or a witch. And if a black cat sat next to you while you were eating your dinner, you had to feed it because it might be a witch or a wizard not normal cats and if you did not feed it, it would eat you. Old women also believe that a snake was once an arrogant woman who had been punished by God who turned her into a snake that would creep forever.

My brother held the toad. He was very happy. I could not cut the frog skin easily because it was watery and humid. The skin was dark green with some black spots. When I started cutting the skin, a foul smell spread everywhere. It was not the smell of human blood because the frogs’ blood is different than ours. It contains nucleus which other mammals don not have. It smelt like green algae. The toad hopped away from us. We screamed and we caught her again. When I finished, I gave my brother the skin and he ran to my mother. I took the fat toad but it was not fat anymore. Half of its body had been taken. I put it on the ground and I felt sorry for committing a crime against the poor toad. It was alive but not naturally. She hopped while crooking “Gero, Gero” in her way. I think the toad was very angry and I did not blame her. We were cruel and selfish. My mother put the skin of the frog on my brother’s foot and tied it up with a rag. The day passed and the thorn remained in my brother foot.

At night when dinner was served and we all gathered around the plate. They put out some food on a separate small plate for me and that mean I had to eat alone. My sister looked disgusted at me and said, “How are you going to eat with your hands? You’ve touched a frog!”

“It is not my fault. My mother told me to do that.”

I took my plate and went out to eat alone, regretting for harming the innocent toad. I was wondering why I was different from my sisters who were afraid of frogs and insects. Even though frogs looked like small ugly elves, they were nicer than my sister. The next day, my brother was taken to a hospital and doctors operated him to remove the thorn. I woke up earlier that day thinking why I had to hurt the poor toad and after all they took my brother to the hospital. I ran out to the garden to see if the toad was still alive. I lay on the ground. I wept.

“Erogerog,” the toad said. I felt glad to see her alive. I wiped my tears swiftly with my hands. I sniffed happily to see her trying to live her life as normally possible. I promised never to touch nor hurt frogs again.

*shakher : a tree that grow in hot places

* al-wasem : burning with fire