Every time I tune in the radio to a local Arabic FM channel and a music program is on, I stop to ask myself, are these broadcasters directing their speech to an Omani audience? Or are they directing it to a Gulf audience in general? As a listener of such programs (and away from being an objective linguist for a second) I would say that I find the use of ‘Khaleeji’ Arabic features in their speech radical, unrealistic and sometimes unfriendly. There is hardly any consideration for the language of the caller who is usually an Omani speaking a more ‘realistic’ variety of local Arabic that is more common in the country. It surprises me that it doesn’t seem to occur to the broadcaster that speaking in such a divergent way emphasises the distance between him/her and the caller; especially in music programs where the context is meant to be relaxed and informal.
Many would argue that this is actually the way the broadcaster speaks and that it is far from artificial; or some might argue that it is a personal choice. Indeed both arguments could be true but when you listen to the vast majority of callers speaking in a different way and that they sound very similar to each other linguistically, while the broadcaster sounds very different, one can’t help but ask, what is it that motivates the broadcasters to continue distancing themselves from the language of the local public and choose to speak in Khaleeji Arabic? Is it because Omani dialects lack prestige? Are Omani dialects embarrassing? Is it because they have linguistic insecurity? Or is it because they look up to other Gulf countries and wish to be more similar to them? Should a broadcaster ignore the way most of his callers speak and continue to speak in the way s/he chooses? Is it really a matter of personal choice, or a deeper issue that goes beyond egocentrism?
As I listen to the FM, I'll keep wondering why there is a big gap between the linguistic reality in Oman and the public face of it which is heard through the media.