UAE: Job-seekers learning Arabic for 'bilingual' tag that offers better opportunities

The prime learners – 36.1 per cent – are in the 26-35 age bracket, followed by 31.7 per cent between 35-50 years and 20.2 per cent being between 16-25 years

by

Waheed Abbas

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Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File
Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File

Published: Mon 18 Mar 2024, 12:29 PM

Last updated: Mon 18 Mar 2024, 10:33 PM

People in the UAE are increasingly learning Arabic to gain a competitive edge and better opportunities while job hunting, recognising the advantages that bilingual employees can enjoy.

According to data shared by Bright AI, around 25.3 per cent of career aspirants are learning Arabic for job purposes, followed by 20.5 per cent for educational purposes.


Dmitry Basalkin, founder and CEO of Bright AI, said the UAE is the modern crossroads where every ambitious business is international and multilingual.

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“Arabic is the official language of the UAE. While English is widely spoken, even basic knowledge of Arabic can break the ice and boost communication with colleagues, clients, and prospective partners who primarily speak Arabic. Given the fierce competition, people perceive languages as a competitive edge, which is the best motivation for their studies. However, adults are busy, and they focus on practical skills and value personalisation,” said the founder of Bright AI, an AI-powered language learning app with over 25 million downloads.

Dmitry Basalkin. Photo: Supplied
Dmitry Basalkin. Photo: Supplied

The UAE is a multi-cultural employment market with over 200 nationalities calling Emirates their home. With Arabic being the national language, it definitely gives an added advantage to job-seekers.

Arabic is a powerful language of global communication and has more than 400 million people currently speaking it worldwide.

The prime learners – 36.1 per cent – are in the 26-35 age bracket, followed by 31.7 per cent between 35-50 years and 20.2 per cent being between 16-25 years, it said.

The majority of Arabic students come from Saudi Arabia (16.9 per cent), followed by students from the US (16.2 per cent), Europe (11 per cent), the UAE (10.8 per cent), Qatar (5.6 per cent), and the UK (5.2 per cent).

Unique advantage

Deepa Sud, CEO of Plum Jobs, said many organisations operate in English because of the available demographic workforce available in the UAE. However fluent Arabic speakers are mandatory in the legal profession and related disciplines such as contracts and tenders.

“Like any additional language, speaking Arabic is an advantage in the UAE because it helps create differentiating touchpoints in the customer experience journey for any business… This gives them a unique advantage to secure more customer-facing roles such as sales, marketing and customer service because organisations can boost sales and customer loyalty and retention when they offer Arabic to customers who can build a stronger rapport,” said Sud.

Deepa Sud. Photo: Supplied
Deepa Sud. Photo: Supplied

Getting extra edge

Nicki Wilson, owner and managing director of recruitment consultancy Genie, said that being bilingual is a great way to enhance mind and skillset.

“As people enter the job market, either through junior or graduate roles, I believe that knowing Arabic would give you that extra edge over other candidates trying to gain their first job roles. We have seen a lot of people looking to land their first job but if you had proficiency in multiple languages, I do think that employers look favourably upon this for a lot of the junior positions.”

She said most of the clients mainly require proficient English, but to know Arabic is advantageous.

“It is for sure a valuable skill but not necessarily always needed to land a job opportunity. It really is dependent on the industry in question and the job role as to how much of an advantage it would be. This is a great skill to have as many documents are still written in Arabic,” she added.

Nicki Wilson. Photo: Supplied
Nicki Wilson. Photo: Supplied

“If someone wanted to join a business who were predominantly Arabic nationals in leadership roles, this is where someone might think about learning Arabic to give him that extra je ne sais quoi (I don't know what).”

Over the next few years, Wilson believes that learning Arabic would be a growing requirement, as a lot of focus has been on the Saudi market as there is more of a need for bilingual candidates and a lot of the opportunities are still headquartered in the UAE.

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