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Double-edged sword: Kuwaitis weigh in on candidates using English

By Ghadeer Ghloum

KUWAIT: Usage of English language by Kuwaiti candidates during campaigns can be a double-edged sword. While it helps candidates reach a wider audience and portrays a modern image of the country, it may also be viewed as being disconnected from Kuwaiti culture and Arab identity. Therefore, candidates must carefully consider their use of English during campaigns and balance the benefits and challenges associated with it. Because Kuwait includes people of different categories and backgrounds — some of whom speak English as their first language, especially among the younger generations — candidates use English to connect with all categories of the population in hopes of achieving wider success.

Kuwait Times interviewed three Kuwaiti citizens with differing opinions on Kuwaiti politicians’ use of English in their campaigns. Mariam, a Kuwaiti computer engineer, expressed her support of using English to reach out to voters. She said in Kuwait, speaking English gives a candidate the perception of modernity and internationalism. By using English, candidates can demonstrate their openness to cultural diversity and willingness to engage with the wider world. Moreover, using English allows candidates to present themselves as leaders who are willing to engage with international business, which could have a positive impact on Kuwait’s reputation on the global stage.

Abdullah, another Kuwaiti citizen, said the use of English by politicians helps them communicate more effectively because the majority of Kuwaiti youth, who make up a large part of the community, prefer speaking and reading in English. This has led to a push for English proficiency among politicians. Thus, it would be a very smart step for a candidate to use both English and Arabic in order to attract youngsters’ attention and interest, he pointed out. While speaking English is viewed as an advantage by some citizens, there are also concerns that focusing on English may come at the expense of Arabic language and culture.

Some citizens argue the widespread use of English within the political sphere may lead to a loss of Kuwaiti national identity, which is Arab. This issue was highlighted by Dana, a Kuwaiti citizen who shared her thoughts about the drawbacks of candidates using English. She said that there are serious challenges associated with the use of English during campaigns. One of the most significant challenges is the perception that candidates who use English are disconnected from Kuwaiti culture and the Arabic language.

Arabic is a vital aspect of Kuwaiti culture and Kuwaiti people’s identity, and candidates who cannot speak it fluently or tend to use English words while expressing themselves may not be viewed as authentic representatives of the people. Moreover, some people may view the use of English language as a sign of privilege and elitism, which could damage the candidate’s credibility. Thus, when it comes to things that are related to representing Kuwait, everyone must stick to Kuwait’s authentic identity and culture, Dana said.

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