World Arabic Language Day 2019: The potential of artificial intelligence in the promotion and preservation of Arabic language

The use of Arabic language is rapidly increasing in cyberspace, but the diversity of the language’s resources, tools and services is still limited. In this context, UNESCO gathered linguistic experts, scientists, and professionals to reflect on the potential of new technologies such as artificial intelligence. Two round table discussions were organized on World Arabic Language Day, 18 December, at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

The 2019 theme “The Arabic Language and Artificial Intelligence” was an open call to exchange views on the new horizons for artificial intelligence in promoting and preserving Arabic language. The speakers highlighted that AI is a enormous source of opportunities as it allows easier and accessible dialogue between peoples and cultures, e.g. by using instantaneous translation tools and by facilitating the learning of languages.

The regional report “Building knowledge societies in the Arab region: investigating the role of the Arabic language as a knowledge gateway” was launched on this occasion. Prepared by UNESCO’s Regional Office for Science and Technology for the Arab States (Cairo) in collaboration with a group of experts, it provides a general overview on the status of knowledge and the Arabic language in the Arab region, including three national case studies: Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco.

This edition of the celebration witnessed a big partcipation of non-native Arabic speaking professors from several European universities who participated in the “First forum of heads of departments for teaching Arabic language to non-Arabic speakers”. The forum was an opportunity to discuss and exchange on challenges and curricula related to teaching Arabic to non-Arabic speakers, including ways to join efforts.

Dalal Abu Amneh, renowned Palestinian singer and neuroscientist, concluded the celebration of the World Arabic Language Day with a concert for the promotion of interreligious dialogue and peace. The concert was a musical journey across Sufi poetry and Arabic musical heritage. Dalal was accompanied by Emil Bishara (Oud), Mo. Gebali (Contrebass/Nai/kib), Akram Abd El Fatah (Violin), Nasser Salameh (Tabla/percussion) and Wassim Halal (Tabla/percussion).