A reader pointed me to a very strange article he’d come across:
As this made no sense, I took a look to see what it was all about.
I’m not sure how an article could come out wrong-headedly. The article it cites, from the UAE’s Gulf News, says nothing about dropping English. Instead, it reports that the Saudis are insisting that the Hijri or Islamic calendar be used for dating purposes on all official and business documents. This does makes sense because the Hijri Calendar is indeed the national calendar. Translations from one calendar to another already create problems when they’re necessary. Performing those translations when not necessary just creates more problems.
The Gulf News article also quotes an unnamed Saudi daily saying that hotels and the like should use Arabic to greet customers on the phone. That’s a suggestion, not a ban. It makes sense, too, because Saudi Arabia’s population speaks Arabic, though English has certainly become an unofficial second language.
English is the language of instruction at both King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. It is taught in Saudi public schools starting at the fourth grade.
Two recent articles in Arab News also stress the importance the Kingdom and its residents place on English: