15 Dec Improve Your Career Prospects in the UAE: Learn Arabic
Arabic is the official language of the United Arab Emirates and is also spoken by more than 300 million people worldwide. The current population of the UAE is 9.2 million (World Bank) and expatriates are estimated to make up 90% of it (World Population Review, 2016). The expatriate population has proven to support the economic development and growth of the region. The major cities (Dubai and Abu Dhabi) have flourished in a way that has made it possible for individuals to ‘get by’ by solely using English for communication. Despite this, Arabic remains the official business language of the country and its proficiency offers many advantages (Daniel Brecht, Why Learn/Study the Arabic Language?, 2015).
Experts suggest that learning Arabic is highly recommended for those planning to stay long-term in the country. Suhail Masri, Vice-President of Bayt.com (a leading employment site in Middle East), reported to Mary Sophia (Gulf Business, Could Learning Arabic Boost Your UAE Job Prospects?) that one of the top skills wanted by employers in the UAE was proficiency in English as well as in Arabic, and the trend is just as desirable across the MENA region. Furthermore, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and ruler of Dubai, predicts the UAE to be a center of excellence for the Arabic language in the region. This objective is a vital part of the country’s initiative ‘Vision 2021’.
Learning Arabic also helps individuals (specifically those new to the country) understand the country’s culture and traditions. The UAE business culture is vastly different to that of other countries, though it is very much influenced by the West. Companies and entrepreneurs emphasize on building a relationship with clients or partners before engaging in formal business. Additionally, even if one isn’t actually working in an Arab country yet their work involves engaging with countries and people speaking Arabic, learning the language can be extremely useful in building strong and lasting relationships.
Guy Rickett, CEO of the recruitment consultancy Cazar, commented, “Most of the time, employers in the UAE are more focused on finding candidates with the right functional skill set and experience. However, given the choice of two candidates of equal calibre, the one who speaks Arabic would have a definite advantage.” (Gulf Business, Could Learning Arabic Boost Your UAE Job Prospects?)
While English is widely used in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, other parts of the country have people who either aren’t fluent in English or have absolutely no knowledge of it, hence learning Arabic is an absolute requirement to conduct business (InterNations, 2016). A Human Resources Consultant, Annalinde Nickisch, stated that apart from having better work opportunities to take advantage of, a candidate fluent in Arabic also has the chance of receiving a pay higher than their monolingual competitors (Gulf News, Rise in number of expats learning the Arabic language, 2016).
In terms of language learning, research suggests that English and Arabic are the most in-demand with work and cultural awareness being the most popular reasons. Furthermore, the growth of e-learning has provided people with a chance to learn languages minus the effort of scheduling and commuting to classes from their busy work life, and at a fraction of the price. Eton Institute’s online language learning platforms are examples of supporting and understanding the mobile and fast-paced environment of businesses today and helping individuals learn as and when they please.
Many might believe that learning Arabic isn’t a necessity due to the exponential advancement of the UAE and English being spoken by a majority of the population. However, a profitable career growth will be positively affected by knowledge of the Arabic language in the region as well as aid in building future career prospects.
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