Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Jabbali in Oman: reality through cartoon

The Omani cartoon Youm oo Youm indirectly contributes to linguistics in Oman in several ways. First, it is an attempt to shed light on the linguistic situation in Oman. It tries to eradicate the negative stereotypes about the Omani dialect especially since it has been used for comedy effects in other Arabian Gulf cartoons such as Shaabiyat Al Cartoon or even an episode from Freej. Second, Youm oo Youm tries to show the diversity of the Omani society culturally and indeed linguistically. Third and perhaps most importantly, is the episode below which portrays a man's effort and enthusiasm to save the Jabbali language, which is critically endangered in Oman.
In the episode, Mhaat (who is himself a Jabbali) faces endless difficulties when he requests opening a Jabbali Language Centre in Oman; he faces complications of legal procedures and eventually his request is rejected.

This episode brings hope yet presents a sad reality at the same time. On the positive side, it's a relief because it shows that some non-linguist Omanis do actually realise that their country’s linguistic treasures are in danger of extinction; which means that someone knows and cares. Yet the negative side makes the main theme of the  episode; which is basically that in reality decision makers don't really care. It shows how Oman’s linguistic treasures are being ignored and are left on the verge of extinction because no one would support the enthusiastic man’s idea. No one sees in it a preservation of a culture. The irony is that at the end he receives a phone call from what seems to be a Western university that is interested in his project. It is indeed disappointing to see that while there is hardly an effort made to save Jabbali or other endangered languages in Oman, academics overseas seem to show concern and interest in the situation of Jabbali.
Until decision makers in Oman realise that saving languages is not “useless” and is just as important as learning English or French, let’s hope that Jabbali hangs on.