The Internet in Arabic-speaking Settings: a Case Study

Richard Peel

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Abstract

The Arabic speaking world was a late comer to the Internet revolution, mainly because of the difficulties of using the Arabic script in the medium. In the early days, the Internet excited both optimism that it would open the door to trans-national communication and fears that it would be one more conduit for (sometimes unwelcome) influences from the outside world. It appeared another way in which the English language would spread. This seemed a valid apprehension since there were no Arabic keyboards and software when it was introduced. The survey conducted among students in the Higher Colleges of Technology found that students were indeed using English for Internet purposes, but that the use was closely connected with their studies. In the sessions where they were accessing the WWW for leisure or emailing or chatting with friends, Arabic was often employed, even where lack of a suitable keyboard meant that it had to be written in the Roman alphabet. Moreover, further investigation revealed that many of the English sites visited were not ‘language rich’. The data seem to indicate that there is some move to English among this bilingual group in this medium but that it is not as extensive as might have been expected.

Suggested bibliographic reference for this article:

Peel, Richard. The Internet in Arabic-speaking Settings: a Case Study.IJMS: International Journal on Multicultural Societies. 2004, vol. 6, no.1, pp. 146-158. UNESCO. ISSN 1817-4574. www.unesco.org/shs/ijms/vol6/issue1/art5

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