12 February 2009

Arabic Ads in Bahrain

I grew up in a school where we were taught that, as Arabs, it is extremely shameful not to have strong command of Arabic as a language. The tiniest spelling, grammatical and expressional mistakes were not tolerated. Wherever we came from, whatever culture we were exposed to, we were to be responsible with the use of our Arabic. Speaking broken Arabic meant carelessness towards a vital symbol of our soup of a culture; a source of shame.

The first lines of the 2002 constitution of the Bahrain state that “The Kingdom of Bahrain is … [an] Islamic Arab State whose population is part of the Arab nation and whose territory is part of the great Arab homeland.” Since these lines focused more on “Arab” than “Islamic”, so will I.

As an Arab country, and in the face of the capitalist global campaign to “blend” all cultures together and implant a consumerist heart in their core, it is our duty, as responsible citizens and as businesses and as a concerned government, to preserve one of the few identity symbols we have left to be proud of; our language.

Advertising agencies have conquered the Bahraini market vastly over the past 5 years, racing hurriedly with their wealthy clients to launch campaigns that may appear visually attractive, but fail to connect with the average Bahraini consumer due to failure in constructing meaningful sentences. The reason why this happens is primarily because most of these campaigns are thought of and created in English. The Arabic versions you see are merely translations (and not transcreations) of the English versions.

The result? Offensively weak Arabic communication that is very alien to consumers. Who’s the biggest loser? Mainly businesses, as they are just wasting their recession-threatened money, while they come across as inconsiderate foreign brands with little regards to the local culture.

Preserving the mother tongue of this country is an ethical and moral obligation that falls upon every person in charge of creating and producing Arabic communication. Whether we are competent enough is irrelevant, our responsibility is to ensure that this beautiful ancient language of ours is not tampered by negligent copywriters.


Anonymous said...

I think this is a very insightful and frank opinion.

As an expat in the country, I myself have wondered why we don't write copy in Arabic, before translating it into English. I frankly find it condescending, as it's such an intricate language which is moving too quickly towards what people view as norms.

flymenian said...

With all respect although I'm an Arab and very proud of the richness of our language but think about it this way how easy is it to speak Arabic? it is very hard and to learn it as a second or third language is even harder, so that could mean only one thing it is a dying language, I mean till now I have never came across a language with the same richness in vocabulary and grammar but who can use it apart from Arab in the same time we need to communicate with the outside world instead of communicate among our selves. It is a very interesting topic and I understand why so many people lack the interest in learning Arabic, it is simply too hard to learn.