Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Shoo? matkalem 3rabi?

Another interesting comment I hear from the local community is that expatriates don’t seem to have any interest or make an effort to learn Arabic, even though they are in an Arab country.

Well I think this is a very valid point to make. And it would be amazing if most expats could speak Arabic.

BUT, and now the problems start, it is VERY hard. Why you ask:-

1) In most private schools, although it is compulsory to teach Arabic, absolutely no emphasis is placed on teaching the subject effectively. So much so that most people I know who went to private school here have no clue about the Arabic language even after studying it for years.
This I know from personal experience and from people around me

2) The few expats who pick up the language eventually forget most of it. Why you ask? Well picture a typical day in Dubai(picture it from an expat point of view)?. Think about what you do from the time you wake up and go to sleep. How many times do you need to or actually speak Arabic? Rarely!

3) Even if you want to learn Arabic at a private institute, it is still difficult. I had a friend who attended Arabic language classes after work 3 times a week. And he said something very interesting. He is learning and speaking the language in class but once he steps out of the classroom he rarely has an opportunity to use it in his daily life. It’s like he is learning Arabic in a non-Arab city. He has to actively go out of his way to encounter situations where he will have to use Arabic. And most time when he actually starts to speak the language people easily notice that he is not a fluent speaker and start conversing in English with him.

This friend of mine eventually went to Jordan for a year to learn the language. He learnt more in a year there then in 3 years studying in Dubai. Mainly because he had to use it every single day.

4) Even my fluency of the language is deteriorating. Purely on the fact that I don’t use it that often.

I know expats who have lived here for 30 + years and still cannot speak more than few words in Arabic.

I guess what I am saying that the blame cannot be placed wholly on expats shoulders. The entire society functions this way.


secretdubai said...

Exactly the point - where the hell can one use Arabic here? Relatives come over and get all excited because they've learnt "salam", but don't get to meet a single Arabic speaker (and certainly not a monolingual one) during their entire stay. They say "shukhran" when "shukria" would be appropriate.

Anonymous said...

I completely concur with this summary. I spent the first 27 years of my life in UAE, and still cannot speak the language. Embarassing but true

On the other hand, I read an article that English is made compulsory for locals graduating fm govt funded universities. Do not recall much details of this, but this is going to further deteriorate the popularity of the language locally.

blogrosh said...


: )

Anonymous said...

lol i like the title, wonder how many can actually understand that! :D

You've said it all. It's good you also highlighted learning arabic at private institutes. It's true that you can't really learn a lot from them, and it'll make you wonder how after completing a simple course at their institute the UAE ministry of education can give you a certificate to certify that you know the language - just after 36 hours of study!

Crash course for pharmacists? Hell yeah.

3lo G said...

True,,, but consider this,,, How many times do locals (in Dxb) themselves speak arabic in a day?

You brought up the important aspect of practicing the language, and its not that easy unless youve got local/arab friends willing to teach

What is the language taught at universities here?

What language do offices answer you in when you phone them?

How many local arabic blogs can you count?

(On that note, I planned on starting mine in arabic, then I thought: who would read it?!)

BuJ said...

hey.. we have a UAE Community Blog in Arabic!!!!
(however I tend to write in English in it.. very guilty... but my computer has got no arabic keyboard is my excuse!)

Anonymous said...

what u have mentioned is 100% right.. the arabic language is just fading away from the UAE and maybe the arab world...

localexpat said...

I think that the primary reason why Dubai is become sooooo successful ( in a business context) is because of the common use of the English language. I don't see this as a threat but as a GREAT opportunity and facilitator, helping the city to advance.
But what I would ideally like to see is an education system where equal emphasis is made on teaching First Language English and Arabic to all students, instead of the present system where students going to public schools are proficient in Arabic but incompetent in English. And students attending Private English schools are the opposite.

BuJ said...

I know at least 20 people from non-Arab backgrounds who've been living in Dubai for years and years and still cannot speak Arabic (even though some of them try very hard to learn, and some have even been born here).

Before I'm due to go back to Dubai for a short trip I always prepare myself in advance to start talking more Arabic only to be shocked everytime I'm back by how little opportunity I have to speak my own language!

BuJ said...

PS: Perhaps all UAE embassies should display clear warnings that migrating to the UAE (particularly Dubai) does not mean you will have a fair chance to learn Arabic!

I know so many people who've made the move then got disappointed on the linguistic front.

BD said...

It also has to do with the way Arabic is taught. I recently started my second course in 6 years--and as of today have dropped it. Four 1-hour lessons completed and was not taught one single word of Arabic (no exageration)--only how to say, and then write the alphabet--which by the way hardly helps to read Arabic because often vowels are omitted. I persisted at 4 months of private lessons the first time around and although I learned a few words then, it was 90% about the in-discipher-able writing!

I can say, as an English teacher of many years, the best way to start with a beginner is to forget about letters and writing and jump right into oral communication--and also don't try to explain the language--just start using it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you mr. local expatriate. As per my personal experience, I can say that the opportunity of the expatriate to learn arabic is very limited especially if you are residing in Dubai. Being an expatriate I am trying to learn the language so that I can communicate well with my patients,but I am totally disappointed because whenever I'm starting to converse to them with my "little" arabic, they will talk to me in english.
Maybe it's about time that the UAE government should impose a rule that all expatriates must learn the arabic language....but learning resources must be available within the community. Let me share an example. I am working in a government hospital, upon our arrival and orientation, we had a basic arabic session and they gave us a pocketbook and some pamphlets that we can use. I can say that it is very helpful. I can say that Al Ain is the best place to learn arabic because a lot of locals are living in the said area.