Arabic is spoken by approximately 200 million people and is an official United Nations language.
Its influence extends from Mexico to Malta and England to Kenya. And because of its role as the language of the Quran, its knowledge can be an advantage in learning the languages influenced by it.
Almost all official documents and forms in the UAE are in Arabic, as well as all the laws and decrees. Living in the UAE, it is very likely that you will find yourself in a situation where knowledge of Arabic would be to your advantage.
Residents of the UAE learn Arabic for various reasons. In recent years, the political situation in the Middle East as well as a growing curiosity about Islam has led to an immense growth of interest in the language.
Others might choose to learn it for business or to discover their roots. According to teachers of Arabic as a second language, the popularity of the language is rising, especially in the UAE.
The Arabic language can be broadly split into standard Arabic and colloquial dialects. There are a number of colloquial dialects such as Egyptian, Levantine, Maghreb and Gulf. Because of the role of Egypt and the Levant as the long-time centres of Arab culture, their dialects are probably the most commonly understood in the Arab world.
With the emergence of the Gulf states as the regional economic centres in recent years, the Gulf dialect has also gained popularity. The Maghreb dialect of North Africa is perhaps the least understood in the Arab world.
The type of Arabic one may choose to learn depends on the purpose. According to Bariya Ataya of the Arabic Language Centre in Dubai, the language interests those who are motivated by political situations concerning the Arab world, those with Arab families, employees of multinational companies and expatriate Arabs who only have a basic knowledge of the language.
While much of the popular modern Arabic music and television shows are in colloquial dialects, newspapers, news channels, and official documents, as well as laws, are in standard Arabic.
Those who want to learn conversational Arabic for business dealings would prefer to learn the dialect of their country of residence, or a popular dialect like Egyptian or Levantine if they tend to travel in the Arab world.
Academics, diplomats, religious scholars, lawyers and journalists would be more concerned with learning standard Arabic.
Where to go
There are several Arabic language institutes in the UAE, most offering intensive courses at different levels. Some are informal and inexpensive while others are certified and internationally recognised.
Price range: Dh20 to Dh80 per hour.
Gulf Arabic Programme
The Arabic Language Centre
Arabic Language Programme
University of Wollongong
+971 4 3672400
Range from teaching basic greetings and pleasantries to the intensive audio courses, often offered academically. Most only teach the basics of either a certain dialect of Arabic or standard Arabic. Due to the importance of pronunciation in Arabic, audio courses are more effective.
Can be useful to learn Arabic from a native speaker who is not necessarily a qualified tutor. Classifieds often have "language exchange" postings where a speaker of one language offers to teach it in exchange for another. This can be a convenient and affordable or free option.
According to retailers, they are the most popular method of self-help learning. Audio books in the form of CDs and cassettes can be useful in learning spoken Arabic on the move.
Price range: Dh20 to Dh100