Arabic is Easy for the Brain – Shaykh Riyad Nadwi

Shaykh Riyad Nadwi (PhD in Cognitive Science) points out the flaws in a recent scientific publication that claims Arabic is a ‘hard’ for the brain.

On Saturday morning I woke up to find my inbox inundated with emails linking to an article on the BBC’s website entitled Reading Arabic “hard for brain” with an embedded picture of little Muslim girls in hijab reading the Arabic alphabet. Parents, somewhat concerned about the potential strain upon their children’s brains, were inquiring about the validity of the claims made in the article. Having looked at the original research paper in the journal Neuropsychology (Language Status and Hemispheric Involvement in Reading: Evidence From Trilingual Arabic Speakers Tested in Arabic, Hebrew and English written by Raphiq Ibrahim and Zohar Eviatar, published by the American Psychological Association 2009, Vol. 23, No. 2, 240–254), upon which the news item was based, I think there is a need for some clarifications that were, in the pursuit of sensationalism and perhaps anti-Arabic bias, ignored by both the researchers and the BBC science correspondent who authored the article, Dr Katie Alcock. I apologise in advance for the use of technical jargon but it is inescapable in this instance. This is a blatant and malicious attack posited within a scientific framework and therefore it requires, at least in part, a discussion in scientific terms. I will try to simplify my language as much as possible.

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