19 Mar Why Should Your Firm Invest More on Language Training in the UAE?

As more companies focus on serving an increasingly multicultural and globalized workplace, the need for a bi-lingual and multilingual workforce is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Whether companies partner with international firms, open offices abroad or simply strive to meet the needs of a diverse customer base, their ability to communicate in multiple languages is becoming a strategic business requirement.

Foreign language speakers offer organizations significant opportunities to uplift customer service and interact more effectively with local communities, and this article looks at the key business considerations for language training.

Language Use in the UAE

Affecting language use are the two offsetting factors of immigration and population ageing, directly related to time spent in the new environment.


According to the World Bank, the population of the UAE reached 9.3 million in 2013.  UAE nationals represent 13% of the population, with Arabic and the Emirati Arabic dialect as the main languages. English is the second language largely spoken due to the face that a large majority of the population consists of expatriates. According to official statistics, there are more than 200 nationalities living and working in the Emirates.

Approximately 5.4 million individuals (58% of the population) are from South Asia, speaking languages such as Urdu, Hindi, Farsi, Pashto and Malayalam.  Over 1.5 million (17%) speak Tagalog and Chinese, and almost 800,000 UAE residents are Western expatriates speaking a European language (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian), proving the multiculturalism of the UAE.

The UAE is especially famous for attracting waves of tourists throughout the year. In 2012, the total number of tourists reached over 10 million across the UAE and this number is predicted to attain 20 million visitors per year by 2020. The top nationalities visiting the UAE are Saudi Arabian, Indian, British, North American, Russian and Chinese, and the diversity of nationalities is only bound to grow.


With the Expo 2020 on the horizon and the influx of expatriates and tourists throughout the year, the UAE government plans to nurture national identity and promote the Arabic language in order to establish the UAE as a global “center of excellence” for the Arabic language. It aims to encourage individuals and businesses to learn Arabic and develop cultural cohesiveness in the UAE.

Impact on the workplace

The UAE attracts expatriates by building fast-growing cities with multiple employment opportunities. The requirement for bi-lingual recruitment and language training affects industries from banking to construction, relocation to oil trades as well as the hospitality and tourism industry, among other sectors.

  • The Hospitality sector is no stranger to multilingual recruitment as all employees all need to be able to communicate in three or four languages for specific scenarios, depending on the local market. This is reflected in menus, hotel leaflets etc., impacting the marketing and publication teams as well.


  • An increasing number of public and private organizations are training their staff to deliver a better service when interacting with expatriates from around the world as well as UAE nationals. Arabic language skills are a “must have” when communicating with members of the government sector and public entities, as employees are predominantly UAE nationals. Likewise, native Arabic speakers also feel the need to learn a new language in order to facilitate communication in business situations as well as with expatriates.



  • Multilingualism is a byword for success in the airline industry, where cabin crew and customer service representatives are expected to speak another language in order to apply. With the increase in tourism activity in the UAE, international air travel and customers who speak such a variety of languages, speaking numerous languages is fast becoming a requirement to reach even the interview stage.


  • With a sizeable percentage of the population born outside of the UAE or native speakers in a language other than English, medical facilities benefit enormously from multilingual personnel. While translators commonly work in hospitals, knowing another language helps connect patients to hospital workers and is invaluable in emergencies.


The Economist Intelligence Unit report of 2012, Competing across borders: how cultural and communication barriers affect business, states, “According to almost one-half of the companies surveyed, at least one in five of their workers need to speak another language in their job, and one-quarter say that a majority of their workforce require some foreign language skills.

Reap the benefits of effective language training for your business in the UAE. Start now! 

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