Lebanon's Minister of Culture, Muhammad Al-Murtada, has appointed a 14-year-old student as his assistant adviser in an effort to improve young people's connection with the Arabic language.
Joey Pierre Haddad was representing his school in a competition to recite Arabic poetry when he drew the minister's attention. He won first prize for his recitation of the poem "I dwell in the blue of my eyes" by the late Lebanese poet Said Akl. Al-Murtada later invited Joey and his father to meet him in his office.
He said he hired Joey as an assistant adviser because he found in him a model for young people who suffer from a crisis of communication with government departments."Joey has talents, especially his relationship with the Arabic language, which enables him to communicate socially with his generation, so I wanted to motivate and encourage him to do so."
He added: "The Ministry of Culture wanted to use him as an assistant adviser to be the link between it and the young generation to consolidate their relationship with the Arabic language and other matters that the ministry is concerned with and wants to present to the children of this generation who are Joey's age.
"Joey said his appointment as assistant adviser was not easy for him as with it comes expectations and goals which need to be met; consolidating the Lebanese youth's relationship with their mother tongue. He stressed that "in light of the accumulated crises that Lebanon has passed through, it has become necessary to return to our roots and develop our Arabic language."
"I am working on developing plans, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, to motivate the younger generation to adopt the Arabic language… Young people are a cornerstone for the development of nations, and language is identity as well. Without language development, we cannot develop ourselves, and therefore we cannot develop our country."
"The Arabic language today is subject to distortion because young people mix Arabic with other foreign languages, even in their normal conversations with each other."
"What struck me about the Arabic language is that it is beautiful, rich in meanings, and has its literary beauty, especially in reciting poetry, so I began to study it more deeply and learn more about my mother tongue."
"Beside Arabic, I have mastered both French and English, and my interest in Arabic does not mean neglecting other languages," he stressed.