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KT Debate: What's your take on learning Arabic in the UAE?

Team KT/Dubai
Filed on August 23, 2020 | Last updated on August 23, 2020 at 11.28 am
Arabic, learning, language, kt debate

(Photo: Alamy)

We asked three residents each as to why they did and did not learn Arabic.

Itching for a debate? Want a battle of the brains with a cross-section of UAE residents, who come from over 200 different nationalities? Here is your chance to speak out on issues that matter. Be part of 'KT Debate,' a weekly column where our readers are free to agree and disagree; where we promote diverse thinking and genuine disagreements. There is no winning or losing side. Here is where ideas converge and horizons widen. Here is where minds meet and communities evolve.

To learn or not to learn Arabic

Most of us have, at one point or another, intended to learn Arabic. After all, we live in the UAE and may have felt like an illiterate during exchanges in Arabic. There are some who showed the will to sweat through the rigours of mastering a new language. But many did not bother or simply did not think it worth wasting their dime on. We asked three residents each as to why they did and did not learn Arabic.

Read on - KT Comment: The folly of not learning Arabic

This is what they said:


I have always been passionate about learning Arabic language due to my origins (Comoros Island). Born and raised in France, I never had the chance to learn Arabic, so when I landed in Dubai in 2013, I had the opportunity to take some classes. Understanding Arabic language was helpful during my business trips, especially in Saudi Arabia. Speaking the local language always helps create a human connection when you meet someone for the very first time. - Naguib Toihiri, Digital marketing expert

I travel extensively in the GCC and have found that not everyone can speak English. That's when I thought of learning Arabic. I have lived in the region for 15 years and I feel it's imperative to learn the local language. It also helps to open conversations with my clients. Additionally, when going through government documents the knowledge of Arabic is helpful. Also, when driving to other parts of the GCC, you are able to read sign boards, labels and directions as it's stated only in Arabic. - Arijit Nandi, Director, The National Investor

I arrived in Abu Dhabi six years ago and we felt something would be lost if we did not learn the language. My husband and I started taking formal lessons and it has been a fascinating journey. Learning the language has opened up access to people and given us a deeper cultural understanding of the place. Commitment is important. We bought lot of learning resources and joined an Arabic learning club. We also hired an Arabic tutor to play with our five-year old daughter, Dalia.  - Dana Downey, New York University, Abu Dhabi


I lost interest midway as Arabic has three forms - singular, dual and plural. I found it quite confounding and difficult and it wasn't remotely close to English, Hindi or Bengali, the languages that I know best. Besides, I was always lagging in my homework and I felt I had to exert a lot of pressure to attend those Arabic weekend class. I found myself losing interest as I was unable to participate in the class and answer my instructor's questions. That's when I decided to discontinue. - Devika Menon, Housewife

From the very first day of arriving in the UAE, there's a comfort of talking in a known language (mostly Hindi). The UAE, especially Dubai, embodies the idea of a cosmopolitan city and you find yourself listening to languages from every part of the world. Learning Arabic is a sign of respect to the UAE - a country you call home. It surely is incredible to see how the language barrier is never an issue in your day to day life in the UAE. Everyone is respectful of each other's origin. - Akshay Dewan, Mechanical Engineer

I came to the UAE in 2014 and was surprised to know that majority of expats do not know how to speak or read Arabic.I also never felt the need to learn because English is widely spoken. And, I have never worked for an Arab family where I would have needed Arabic for basic communication. It is a very interesting language and a difficult one too. I think someday if I happen to work in an Arab household, I will pick up the language slowly. That will be huge achievement and definitely an advantage. - Sherill D. Marquez, Filipina housemaid


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