As in the rest of the world, electronic commerce is changing the way people spend their money in Egypt, no less than e-mail is changing how they communicate. Egypt is in a time of great flux.
With the government's program of privatization being seen as a step in the right direction to stimulating a more capitalist economy, the business community has been enlarging and dealing with issues ranging from how to establish proper business practice to the implications of Information Technology on how business is conducted.
With the advent of IT in Egypt, the way business is done is changing, as it is everywhere else.
These are issues that have been knocked around for a while in developed countries. But there are some insightful observations coming from Egypt regarding this rush to embrace capitalism and the new economies of IT.
Without doubt, the majority of e-commerce and internet correspondence is conducted in English. This has led to the conjecture that English may become entrenched as a global language. For people in countries where English is the first language, this is not a problem, but what about the rest?
The Egyptian education system claims to teach English as a second language. The reality is that most students of the general Egyptian education system are unable to communicate with an English speaker beyond a few short sentences.
The alternative for concerned parents is to send their child to a school which offers a British or American curriculum and where the teaching is in English, such as the Cairo American College in Maadi.
The problem of course is that these places are expensive.
The Egyptian Mail had a commentary in its September 14th issue which highlighted a concern that an unnamed Egyptian father had with his children in an English curriculum school.
He is concerned that e-mail is affecting his children's ability to learn proper English. The man's concerns centered on how the speed of the Internet and availability of e-mail has mutilated the English language. It is becoming an abbreviated, shorthand version of proper English. Symbols such as :-) denote happiness or satisfaction. Grammar is pushed aside to make messages shorter.
For a native speaker, fluent in proper English, this is of no great concern, but to someone learning English as a second language, matters get very confusing. Verbal communication needs proper grammar and one Egyptian father in Cairo was concerned that his children, in spending so much time communicating by e-mail, will not be as fluent in proper English as they need to be. Interestingly enough, this has broader implications than just how English is learnt in Egypt.
It poses the question as to how IT, e-commerce and instant communication will fundamentally change the structure of the English language itself.
If e-English is destined to oust "proper" English, then Egyptian youth might already be at the cutting-edge of the English language of the future.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )