If you are a resident of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), you probably know how to speak English or Arabic, or both. However, your language proficiency may vary depending on your nationality.
Arabic is the official language of the United Arab Emirates, but English is the most widely spoken language. Most locals and expatriates residing in the country can speak, or at least understand, English.
Here the five best reasons to work on improving your English proficiency while living in the UAE.
1. English-speaking foreigners dominate the UAE population
The UAE, formerly organized as the Trucial States, was under British protectorate from 1820 to 1971. It is a unique country mainly because of the disproportionate number of foreigners residing in the country.
Statistically speaking, if you are residing in the UAE, you are more likely to be an expatriate.
Only 11.48% of the population are locals while the overwhelming other 88.52% of the population are expatriates. The largest groups of expatriates are from India and Pakistan, comprising 25% and 12% of the expatriate population, respectively.
English is the common language that is widely spoken and understood by most of the expatriates.
2. English is required in higher education
Are you planning to enroll in a university in the UAE? That’s a great idea since there are world-class universities found in the country.
According to the international rankings of the Times Higher Education and Quacquarelli Symonds, the top universities in the UAE are the following:
- American University in Dubai
- American University of Sharjah
- University of Sharjah
- United Arab Emirates University
- Khalifa University
- Abu Dhabi University
With English being a dominant language used in international business, and a second language in most countries, including the UAE, English proficiency is one of the school admission requirements, top universities and other higher education institutions in the country.
For instance, if you are an expatriate and you want to apply to American University in Dubai, you need to have a minimum score of 550 in Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL, Paper-based) to qualify for undergraduate courses.
3. English is the language of international business
Whether you are a businessman or a professional looking for a career, UAE could be the best country to look for your fortune.
The city of Dubai is a globally renowned business hub that also serves as a cultural melting pot. Many multinational corporations have headquarters in Dubai.
The city offers great opportunities for international entrepreneurs and professionals mainly because of its business-friendly policies. Foreigners are allowed to own properties and enterprises in the city and the government does not collect individual income tax.
English proficiency is likely to be a requirement if you are applying for a job, whether it is skilled manual labour or a managerial or executive position. Top corporations and businesses typically prefer applicants who know how to speak and write in English. Those who are proficient in the language have the competitive edge to be hired and be promoted.
4. English is the gateway to learning other languages
If you are an expatriate residing in the UAE, you will be exposed to Arabic also on a daily basis. From public signage to newspaper articles, radio programs and television shows, you will be bombarded with Arabic and other languages each time you are faced with the various media forms.
You can use English for most business transactions and ordinary conversations with other residents. However, if you really want to be culturally immersed, you should also learn the other common languages spoken by the population, like Arabic.
If you are proficient in English, it would be easier to learn other languages, either through daily exposure or formal study. English serves as the gateway to learning other languages spoken by the locals and expatriates.
5. English language speakers can take advantage of tourism growth
You can take advantage of the growing tourism industry in the country if you are good in English speaking either as a second language or as your native language.
In 2016, about US$ 18.7 billion was directly contributed by the tourism industry to the economy of the UAE, or roughly 5.2% of the country’s GDP. This directly supported 317,500 jobs that included hotel, restaurant and entertainment jobs. The local retail industries also benefited. The tourism sector is predicted to rise to US$ 31.6 billion by 2027.
If you have a company that is directly or indirectly catering to tourists, you have the advantage if you have employees who are proficient in English. From promotional materials like brochures and websites to direct interactions with tourists, you need good English to communicate.
If you would like to become more proficient in the English language than you presently are, you can enroll in an English language school in Dubai. There are degree courses or short-term courses you can take, depending on the career or business you want to pursue. Whether you are an expatriate or a local of the UAE, learning this language will benefit you in more ways than one.
Sybil AbouRahal-Jones is the Marketing & Communications Manager at The English College in Dubai. She majored in Graphic Design and has experience of 20 years working in Graphic Design, Branding, Marketing and Communications. Her role is to set the MarCom strategy for both primary and secondary schools, and implement branding, graphic design, internal and external communications, marketing, and digital marketing.