KUALA LUMPUR: More Malaysians are mastering Arabic amid government efforts to encourage students in the Muslim-majority country to learn a foreign language.
Malaysian Education Minister Maszlee Malik, who attended an event to mark World Arabic Language Day 2018 on Tuesday, said the ministry was “committed to ensuring Malaysians master a third or even fourth language, including Arabic.”
World Arabic Language Day is an annual celebration held on Dec. 18 every year to commemorate the inclusion of the Arabic language as one of the six official UN languages. There are an estimated 422 million native Arabic speakers in the world.
In addition to Arabic, the government is working with other organizations to ensure English and Malay are given top priority.
Arabic is offered in several educational institutions in Malaysia and is also taught at international and private schools, as well as Islamic community centers.
Muammar Eusouffi, an Arabic language translator and journalist, offers private tutoring to a class of students at the center near his home.
Eussouffi was sent to Egypt to learn the language fluently at just 13 years old.
“I fell in love with the language and subsequently continued my Arabic language education for 12 years,” he told Arab News.
“Most Malays who study Arabic are in it for Islamic studies since they want to master the Quranic text in the original language in which it was revealed. In Egypt alone, there are an estimated 14,000 Malaysian students, half of whom have taken up Arabic studies. There are many others learning the language in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and beyond.”
Thanks to the increased use of Arabic within the country’s civil service, Eussouffi said an increasing number of Malaysians are becoming fluent without even having to study abroad.
“Several Arab embassies and nonprofit institutions are currently sponsoring programs for Malaysian students to learn Arabic, which has, in turn, increased its appeal and popularity,” he said.
“Civil servants are expected to know the language. After all, Malaysia is a Muslim-majority nation that has cultivated strong relations with countries in the Middle East. It is important to master Arabic if we are to continue doing business and exchanging knowledge with that part of the world.”