The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) observes December 18 as the World Arabic Language Day every year, honouring a language that is spoken by more than 290 million people around the world. World Arabic Language Day commemorates the role Arabic played in promoting the dissemination of the sciences and philosophies of ancient civilisations such as the Greeks and the Romans, and in giving birth to the European Renaissance.
Arabic is a strongly pronounced language, which manifests in particular in the 15th letter of its alphabet Ḍād. The sound does not exist in any other language around the world and this is why Arabic is called the language of Ḍād. The language of the Quran, Arabic does not only hold a symbolic value among Muslims but is spoken in many churches in the Arab world. A significant part of Jewish history was also originally written in Arabic.
The event was established by Unesco in 2010 seeking “to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity as well as to promote equal use of all six of its official working languages throughout the organization”. Unesco has celebrated the day since 2012. December 18 was chosen as the date coincides with the United Nations General Assembly’s decision in 1973 to adopt Arabic as the organization’s sixth official language.
This year the theme of World Arabic Language Day is “Arabic Language Academies: Necessity of Luxury?” Audrey Azoulay, Unesco’s director general, will deliver a message on the international day describing Arabic as a “bridge between cultures and across borders,” according to an official statement. Unesco has also expressed its concern about the gradual decline of the use of Arabic in the academic field against global languages such as French and English, prompting the organization to call on academies to preserve the language.
In order to address the issue and celebrate World Arabic Language Day, Unesco will organise a webinar meeting with academics and professionals in the Arabic language to discuss the role of academic figures in preserving the language.