Yemen as an English society [Archives:2005/876/Culture]

September 12 2005

By Hakim Almasmari
Yemen Times Staff
[email protected]

More than a decade ago, nearly eighty percent of Yemen's population was illiterate. Putting an end to this ongoing dilemma was a major concern for authorities to combat. Nowadays, and ten years later things have changed dramatically. Not only is the illiteracy rate seemingly down, but rather we notice the zeal of education growing tremendously in the hearts of the younger generation, as they realize the era of technology and development has knocked its doors. This sudden change in philosophy, in such a short span of ten years is nothing less than a remarkable achievement.

For the last several years Yemen has been witnessing a growing rush towards English. In numerous occasions, either walking in the street, riding in a bus, or even in Qat chewing sessions, you could notice some people changing their language tone to English, while indulging in numerous conversations. This in result goes back to the change in people's mentality, as people are starting to realize that English is the language of the future, and lacking English virtually means lacking a future.

I completed my engineering degree and still couldn't find a job, I decided to strengthen my self with English, then suddenly all doors seemingly opened”, said Fouad Abdul Nasser. “In Yemen it almost guarantees you a fruitful future”, he added.

Thousand of language institutions have arisen during the last couple of years. In the late seventies, only one known English language Institution existed throughout the country. In almost all fields of learning, important information and data are stored or understood threw English, making the understanding of English a condition to succeed or up grading your present skills.

This year the number of female English students virtually tripled over the last three years. “We want to learn, not just for the love of the language, but also to compete with males for every job opportunity available”, said Samah Hamid.

Many enterprises and companies are very percisive in only hiring English speaking employees, to the extent of making it a condition for receiving a decent job or position. This in return could be understood by the strong influence the western world in general, and the United States in specific is having on newly developing third world countries. It reveals that the people are ready for progress and furthermore, take the next step for a better tomorrow. It also widens their overall view to different educational fields.

” In a short span of one month, over 50 classes were in progress throughout different times of the day”, said Waheeb Nouman, establisher and head of (ALTI), an American Institute in the capital Sana'a. He admits that the number of students virtually doubled comparing to a year ago. ” Seeing so much willingness from the people to learn is such a remarkable achievement”, he added.

Unfortunetely, while citizens are continuously seen flocking language institutions to upgrade their skills, many barriers stand in their way to success. Almost ninety percent of language institutions lack the necessary fundamentals and are not orderly equipped to run such establishments. An unqualified teaching staff is also a dilemma, which many students face and bear its outcome, therefore students complete months of intense studying and still see only a fractional improvement.

According to a survey taken from language students throughout the capital Sana'a, fifty seven percent admitted that a good learning atmosphere plays an important role in their developing process, while another seventy percent complained of students who come with no intention of learning, but rather to interact, chat and make new friends.

“Some people clearly don't understand the difference between a classroom and a chat room”, said Abu Aasim, a senior language teacher. “The concept of learning today is completely mixed with other priorities and goals”.

In another survey conducted by language instructors in the capital Sana'a, it shows that during the summer vacation, an estimated 14,500 students enrolled in English language institutions from all age groups including teens and senior citizens. The Yemen America Language Institute, (YALI) had by far the greatest success of all local institutions enrolling over 6000 students in just a short span of two and a half months, making it the greatest number of foreign language student enrollees in the history of this growing Middle Eastern country. The survey also reveals that MALI, MBI (Ring Road Branch), and ALTI come second, third, and fourth respectively.

A primary reason for YALI's great success is that it consists of probably the most elite teaching staff in the country. This in return drags a lot of attention and increases enrollment dramatically.

In an interview with Dr. Mohammed Naif, who is an English Professor at Sana'a University, I asked him about the reasons behind the great rush towards English, he replied: ” English has become an international language. Wherever you go around the world you're bound to find people who can speak English. Besides, if you look at the job announcements or ads, you will see that 'being able to speak and write in English is the most important requirements nowadays' “, Dr. Naif

In one-way or another, this is by far a great success for all the Yemeni people, noting that all these accomplishments were taken place in a short period of time. But can the government fulfill its promises by employing these educated personals, or will their efforts go down the drain and be unheard of. If efforts are not given the required attention, expect a volcano to erupt from within the country.