Kyle is a senior at Strath Haven High School looking forward to choosing a college major in the coming year. Arielle is a junior at Haverford College, where she is a Philosophy major. Listen to their #LanguageStory here, which includes a contribution from Swarthmore College junior Erick Gutierrez.
Listen: Arabic in Center City.
Arabic is the fastest growing language in the United States. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, “the number of people ages 5 and older who speak Arabic at home has grown by 29% between 2010 and 2014 to 1.1 million speakers, making it the seventh most commonly spoken non-English language in the U.S”. Indeed, the presence of the Arabic language is palpable in the streets of Philadelphia, particularly in Center City, where Halal food trucks adorned with some Arabic signage are widely dispersed.
Amine Helali is an Algerian food truck vendor who works on the Avenue of the Arts, a largely cosmopolitan, dynamic and artistic neighborhood in Center City. After reading about the French street artist JR’s mural of Ibrahim Shah, a Pakistani food truck vendor, whose image formerly stood on one of the facades of the Graham Building in Center City, one of us got inspiration, and decided to further investigate the people working in this business. Amine told us about his multilingual background in Arabic, French, Spanish and English. In his work, he uses all of those languages, but for different purposes...
Insights From a Food Truck Vendor.
Speaking with a Professor of Arabic.
Arabic-English Bilingual Realities.
When a language is given prestige over other languages spoken in the same landscape, it facilitates the dominant language in overtaking the other languages. We see this here in southeastern Pennsylvania with English over Arabic (as well as with other languages), just as it can be seen in other examples (Swahili over other languages in Tanzania, as we discussed in class, Hindi and English over other languages in India, etc.). As certain languages are promoted by society (even in less conscious ways, such as it simply being expected that people here know English), we open the door for linguistic homogenization and the loss of many minoritized languages throughout the world.