The fact that the basis of development in a country is completely dependent on a natural resource, oil, is very intriguing and shocking. The earlier or traditional modes of occupation were more varied than now. In the past, Emirates was a relatively humble country, whose citizens made a living mainly from maritime occupations which include fishing and engagement in trade with other regions such as the East Africa region, Iran and the Indian sub-continent (Zahlan, 2016). The discovery of oil led to widespread opportunities in this country since a large pool of experts were brought in to offer labor services to an economy that was growing at a very high percentage.
As a result of the increased entry of migrant labor from other nations, the demographics of this country also changed leading to Emirates being a smaller number of the population in their home country (Al-Gazali, Alwash, & Abdulrazzaq, 2005). This made it a necessity for the natives to adopt English as their second language so as to aid in communication with other groups of people who come from all over the world looking for opportunities. As a result of the development of the multilingual society in this region, the natives tried to mix Arabic and English so as to communicate easily. This is because it has become a requirement for people to develop multilingual capabilities .The advantages and benefits of globalization and diversity can be tempting, for the current youth of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is because they are the first generation growing up during this fast transformation in the UAE, making the appropriate social and linguistic choices can be quite stimulating (O’Neill, 2017).
It is easy for one to distinguish locals from foreigners since the natives are stereotyped in terms of their linguistic and cultural identities. In this paper, I will use the Labov’s model of Narrative Enquiry, to investigate how a local's multilinguistic identity is shaped and sometimes stereotyped in a diverse society like Dubai, through the eyes of a young female Emirati called “Shaikha”.
Multilingualism in UAE’s local society
Multilingualism has become a global trend in every country. Even for those countries which are known to be the most monolingual. There must exist a certain group of people that speak a language other than the language spoken in those countries. Multilingualism can be defined as the use of more than one language either by an individual or a group of speakers.
According to O’Neill (2016), stated that many local Emiratis see themselves as multilingual individuals, but also think of languages as circumscribed, isolated units that function in particular dominions. In Dubai, multilingualism is seen as a national demographic, where English specifically is considered as a crucial part of the personal and career improvement. Hence, families try to develop linguistic knowledge of both English and Arabic in their children. Still, many families are placed within a firm language philosophy where Arabic, especially Emirati-Arabic, presents the Emirati identity, whereas the standard Arabic symbolizes a larger Arabic and Muslim identity. This means that a firm strategy of only Arabic, is followed by the family. English is not totally neglected but it is allocated outside, in school, work and interactions with non-Arabic speakers. This made other families adapt more flexible heteroglossia, in which the walls between the two languages demolished, and Emiratis started using both a linguistic and nonlinguistic means to communicate. For example, they started using a term called Arabizi, to represent their mix between Arabic and English.
The Theory of practice
This paper investigates the linguistic choices in a multilingual situation. The study employs Bourdieu’s theory of practice to examine the given contexts. His work is helpful here as it classifies the basic factors of social habits in relations to individual dispositions (Habitus), individual capabilities (Capital), and the social spaces where the capital function (Field). The following equation illustrates this collaboration (Bourdieu 1984: 101 as cited in O’Neill ,2017):
Habitus +capital + field = practice
Collection of data based on storytelling reveal the reasons that cause language choice, especially in the young generation’s daily speeches. However, although this ethnographic sample on native cultural observation can draw attention on the complexity of identity, it cannot be achieved totally through a single analysis. Thus, it is crucial to consider sociocultural linguistics within complex methods in a large and inclusive research (Bucholtz, 2005).
The participant’s multilingual identity:
Multicultural and multilingual identities likely appear when individuals interact with people from distinguished backgrounds on a multicultural and multilingual basis (Jackson, 2014).There is also a high chance that they will develop mixed identities that combine various cultural and linguistic features. This in turn will help them to communicate in their lives (Kraidy 2005; Kramsch 1993, 2009 as cited in Jackson, 2014). People can develop a sense of belonging to a particular culture and language as they had previously experienced living and experiencing it (Greenholtz, & Kim, 2009).
I choose a participant from a similar linguistic background and culture, to be able to have a clear analysis of the data and limit misinterpretation, since I have better understanding of my Saudi culture in comparison to others. Shakiah is 33 years old Emirati female, mother of two boys living in Dubai. She came from a family of a wealthy linguistic capital; her mother is a French-Moroccan who speaks French and Moroccan Arabic (MA).
Her father is an Emirati who speaks modern standard Arabic (MSA) German (from his studies in Germany), Emarati Arabic (EA) along with Farsi and English. Her husband is a Palestinian who speaks Palestinian Arabic (PA) and English. She does not speak German or French, but she grew up hearing it from her parents. She learnt English during her schooling and working years. She has been improving it while living in Canada for a couple of years. Now she speaks MA, EA, PA, MSA, English, she has also developed a “habit” of using an Arabic accent that eases her communication, called white Arabic (WA). This is a modern accent developed by young Arabs via using common Arabic words that are easy to understand, e.g. instead of saying ,Sert elbeet (I went home) she would say Rohet elbeet, Sert is an EA word ,while Rohet is WA word which is common in most Arabic speaking countries. Because many Arabic variation exist in Dubai, WA is seen as a monolingual outcome of a highly diverse society (O’Neill, 2017), or as Bourdieu’s refers to, a “field”.
Since her childhood, Shikha had always struggled with her linguistic identity. Her mother talked to her in MA when she was a child and so she calls it her mother tongue. She has an emotional bond with it such that she sometimes uses it with her children as she said, “it is the way I have been cuddled”. However, as she didn’t practice it in a Moroccan “Field”, since she was raised in Dubai, she is not fluent in it like a native. She has faced some discrimination because of that when she visited her Moroccan relatives. The same can apply for her EA, due to the influence of her MA, she also could not speak EA fluently, which produced adverse effects in her social circles, then that with her Moroccan relatives. In school, her EA linguistic insufficiency triggered other Emarati students to bully her and call her names like “Miss Half-half” along with endless questions of why she is different. She dropped from school at the final year of high school. While this decision was mainly because of finical problems, she stated that her experience with negative stereotypes in school also affected her. (Martin, & Nakayama, 2013) sated that, as a result of stereotyping, people tend to make assumptions about an individual based on the perceived image people have on the group that he or she belongs to. This makes communication difficult since such stereotypes are injurious to individuals.
Although multilingualism was appreciated, and her father encouraged heteroglossia at home, he always insisted on his children to speak EA, since the Emirati identity was considered to be the sociocultural prestige one in UAE, but due to her mother tongue negative interference (i.e. MA), it was not easy to speak EA fluently. She communicated with her father in EA and with her mother in MA, she was also introduced to MSA from reading books in her father’s library, as books in Arabic are not written in vernacular but rather in standard Arabic. Using MSA is a leading ideology in UAE and the rest of the Arab as the perfect language of household, nation-state, faith, privet and public sector education. This Arabic national alignment, referred to by Schulthies, (2015) as the “ideology of linguistic sameness”
With time, she managed to overcome these difficulties and became fluent in both dialects. She was also introduced to a new dialect in Arabic which she uses the most now in her daily life along with English. Shaikh married a Palestinian guy “Salim” and they have two children together, Adnan 4 years old and Jasem 16 months. Although Salim was born in Palestine, he does not own a palatinate passport (due to the occupation of his country), instead he has a Jordanian passport, therefore their children are Jordanians, as well as Canadians (since they were born there). However, none of the four speak Jordanian Arabic, and they use PA and English in their daily life. Sometimes Shaikh uses other linguistic recourses to express herself, she stated that, at the begging of their relationship, Salim will speak to her in PA and she will respond with whatever comes with it, PA, EA, WA, or English. She mentioned an incident when they first declared their love to each other. Salim directly used PA, while she struggled deciding on which linguistic option she should use, although she strongly wanted to use MA as it has the most emotional capital for her. It felt awkward, so she consciously used PA and English. However, if they are fighting she will subconsciously shift to MA as she knows that she will find the words she is looking for, she also may use PA, but she will resort some English words to express her points fully.
Regarding their children’s languages, Shaikha thinks that building their English knowledge is as important as their Arabic, since they are both Palestinians and Canadians. Though, heteroglossia became very obvious in her older son Adnan speech, who will occasionally use Arabizi, such as: “Mama gallet”: don’t touch (mum said don’t touch). While Shaikh in the past would not use Arabazi because she thinks it is a sign of linguistic weakness, she is more tolerant nowadays with her children, and she start to use it herself. Shaikha sees English as an escape from her linguistic and indexical complications of her three different Arabic dialects that are followed with many serotypes.
English also played a major role in her workplace, as UAE has a widespread opportunity available, the country witnessing a high number of people from other nationalities coming in to work. As a result of this diversity in languages and culture among the employees, English became the lingua franca in the UAE private sector, which is Shaikh’s work environment. It eased her communication with her co-workers and got her to socialise and learn different languages and make friends that are not sidelined based on their cultural or linguistic background. It was when she developed her WA that she met many Arabs with linguistic diversity, wherein they try to use as much as common words of Arabic between their languages, WA is a term used by Arabic celebrates referring to the accent they use to reach the Arab world-wide audience (Schulthies, 2015)
Shaikh’s case study showed through her unique background and language proficiency, a linguistic tendency that established a multilingual setting and lead to conscious and unconscious decisions on the language choice in certain social setting. Her decisions are also influenced by her language ideology as to which language is better compared to others (O’Neill, 2017).
The Bourdieu’s method, which includes the equation:
Habitus +capital + field = practice,
can help explain Shaikh’s multiple linguistic identities as shown through her flexible dispositions (Habitus), development of a skill in adapting different and new linguistic styles (Capital), and living in a place with a huge linguistic diversity where this Capital can be practiced (Field).
People like Shikha who identify with multilinguistic identities, are faced with stereotypes mostly negative. These individuals put a lot of effort in improving their language and literacy practices. They have also made efforts to learn other languages so as to aid in their interaction with other people from different backgrounds. These multi-linguistic habits provide them with a rich linguistic capital in several language varieties and expose them to a diverse environment in educational, professional, and family contexts. This helps in reduction of stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination and exclusion as people became many well acquainted with different cultural practices. As the case of linguistic diversity of local Emirates is relatively new and rarely studied, research in this area is highly recommended.
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