Egypt/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.5 Language issues and policies

Despite the existence of a committee for literary and linguistic studies affiliated to the Department of Letters at the High Council for Culture, which comprises 30 members including the General Secretary of Arabic Language Academy (founded in 1932), the Arabic language in Egypt is declining due to the deteriorating standard of Arabic language curricula in schools (see chapter 5).

One of the strategic objectives of MOC, as declared by the Minister of Culture, is to elevate the status of Arabic language since it is, as he put it "The vessel of meaning and the route that conveys our ideas. Language and thought are inseparable and our Arabic language is rich and can express the language of the age, just like it was able to express the language of its age during the peak of Islamic era, which opened the way for European renaissance".

The Arabic language is the testimony of our identity and should have paramount status in transactions, store signs and public debates[1].

Many conferences were held to discuss the deteriorating condition of the Arabic language, such as the Annual Conference of Cairo University's Dar el Ulum held on 17-18/2/2004 under the title "Arabic Language in Public Education". This conference underlined the need to attach more importance to Arabic curricula, not teach foreign languages in the first stages of education and arabization sciences in order for students to study them in their national language.

Dr. Kamal Bishr, General Secretary of the Arabic Language Academy, launched a fierce attack at the time on teaching methods in schools and the condition of Arabic teachers and wondered how can the Arabic language shine amid a deteriorating political, economic and social situation?

Dr. Bishr added that teaching has been in a catastrophic situation for many years now and it will continue to be so if the situation remained unchanged. He explained the dimensions of this catastrophic situation by saying: "Egyptian slang is not only spoken by Arabic teachers in classes but also in the Arabic departments at universities. In addition, Arabic proficiency of these teachers is very poor in the first place since there is more than one institution that graduates Arabic teachers, such as the faculties of education, Dar el Ulum, Al Azhar and faculties of letters. He added that there is no hope of reforming the situation of Arabic language under these circumstances with ignorant teachers and substandard books".

The Revolution raised an occasion to re-evaluate the slang in new raising art forms " graphitic and banners", compelling slogans demonstrated the Egyptian revolution demands in different public squares demonstrations, these slogans attempted to raise the Egyptian citizens’ awareness and unite them in their cause, we heard them chanting phrases such as : "we’re not leaving, he is leaving.”, and other phrases : " The army and the people stand united " which represented the beginnings of the graphitic , which was a bit naive , but it was the spark that started the fire of writings and drawings, on walls, fences and even army tanks. Though these slogans and demands did not ignore the classical Arabic language in phrases such as : " the people want to overturn the regime ," and " If the people wanted their day, destiny must respond " .

The changing reality and new events that took place during the June 30 revolution brought forward some slogans such as:


  • “revolution again”
  • “the blood of martyrs is no offering to the Brotherhood and Americans”
  • “wake up Morsi rise and shine June 30 is your last day”
  • “on the first day electricity cut-off, on the second the constitution cooked up, on the third we went to the Ittihadiya, but they had their guns in their jellabiya” 
  • “the journey continues as the protestors he locks up” and
  • “a revolution happened two years ago, they used it in the name of religion.”


While the previous Egyptian national anthem had the line “God is bigger than the victim’s plot” it was replaced by another anthem that includes the stanzas:

May god take you… may he take you… what are you doing staying in your home?

Dressed like a sheep I don’t see you supporting me… I am rising for another revolution to begin

Come my brother take part, put your hand with mine

Speak with me to? Morshedy

May god take you… he will take you with my hand with me

[1]              Toward a New Strategy for Cultural Work in Egypt – Farouk Hosni

Chapter published: 01-04-2016