Publication details [#63356]

Cook, William Robert Amilan. 2017. More vision than renaissance: Arabic as a language of science in the UAE. Language Policy 16 (4) : 385–406.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher


Since its 1971 unification, the United Arab Emirates has encountered immense increase. Wealth created by the oil industry has helped the country rapidly evolve all levels of the educational system along with the economy (Davidson in After the Sheikhs: the coming collapse of the Gulf monarchies, Hurst, London, 2013). English has become leading in the domains of business and education (Burden-Leahy in Comp Educ 45(4):525-544, 2009), in part as a result of powerful de facto policy (Shohamy in Language policy: hidden agendas and new approaches, Routledge, New York, 2006) from the progressively neoliberalized economy. As the UAE government struggles with the roles of Arabic and English, it has recently evolved policies fostering English as the sole language of science in grade school while concurrently formulating the Arabic Language Charter. This article assays the UAE’s past and present policy choices and explores the nexus that has evolved between business, language and science education in the country. Regarding processes of neoliberalization (Harvey in A brief history of neoliberalism, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005; Kanna in cult Anthropol 25(1):100–129, 2010) and linguistic imperialism (Karmani in J Lang Identity Educ 4(2):87–102, 2005a; Phillipson in Linguistic imperialism, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1992), the article explores the rise of English as a language of science globally, centering on the specific challenges faced by Arabic speaking countries. It then sketches the evolution of the UAE’s educational systems and employs sociolinguistic studies conducted in the UAE to examine the relationship that Emiratis have with English and Arabic. Finally, the article evaluates the potential of the novel Charter to mold the nation’s linguistic and scientific future. It emphasizes key areas of concern that must be handled if the Charter is to become more than an empty promise in the face of an Arabic language continuing to forfeit its viability in key domains of Emirati society.