UAE: Learning Emirati dialect helps to know local culture, communicate better, says expert

People often learn the dialect for easy communication in government entities, for businesses and to have a fluent conversation

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Lamya Tawfik

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Published: Mon 19 Dec 2022, 1:06 AM

Last updated: Mon 19 Dec 2022, 1:09 AM

As the world marked World Arabic Language Day on Sunday, the founder of an institute dedicated to teaching the Emirati dialect said that learning opens the door to learning about the local culture and learning Arabic.

Speaking at the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival, Abdulla Alkaabi, Co-founder AlRamsa Institute, which has taught the Emirati dialect to non-Arabic speakers since 2014, said that many reasons make people want to learn it. The first is for cultural reasons. “They want to understand the society and people here,” he said.


He also said that a second motive is for business, giving the example of an American businessman who wanted to open a beauty centre and before doing that, he sent his sales representative to the institute to learn the dialect for six months. “Why did he do that? Well, because he was not only learning the dialect but also the culture. Because he wanted to succeed in the society they are entering,” he said.

Others learn the Emirati dialect because it gives them a better chance when communicating with government entities. He quoted Nelson Mandela saying: ‘If you speak a language that someone understands, you can enter his mind, but if you speak in his language, you enter his heart’.


Since they opened, Abdulla said that they noticed that there has been an increase in demand for learning the Emirati Dialect – notably as well during Dubai Expo 2020. “This is something we have noticed on our social media accounts. We have more than 8 million views on our social media. On Tiktok, we have more than 3 million. We try to be always present,” he said.

According to Abdullah, the institute supports the Arabic language in general and not just the dialect. “Even though we teach the Emirati dialect, we support the Arabic language. We meet people who say they enjoy our videos and learn a lot from us. Our presence supports Arabic,” he said.

He said that the institute’s approach is to focus on teaching conversational Arabic. “When children learn Arabic, they first learn the dialect. And this is our approach when teaching our dialect to foreigners,” he said, adding that this is a challenge for many Arabic schools that focus on reading and writing Arabic.

After learning enough Arabic to have a conversation, people have the confidence to dive more into the language and start to learn the alphabet. “However, many don’t want to go beyond conversational Arabic and are not interested in reading or writing”, he said.

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Abdullah said that many people who bring their children to the institute are people who have faced difficulty in communication, and they understand the importance of the Emirati dialect. “Especially those who have Arab or Emirati origins, they want to be connected to the society in which they live,” he said.

Some clients who are foreigners and speak Arabic fluently still come to the institute because they want to learn the dialect. “There are people coming to us, from South Korea, for example, who speak impeccable Arabic, but they know that the Emirati dialect is their way to understand the culture,” he said.


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