Abu Dhabi: Thousands of police officers in Abu Dhabi and Dubai have learnt new languages in the past four years as the UAE hosts more than 200 nationalities speaking over 100 languages, according to a report of 999 magazine.

The report said it has become a common scene at UAE airports to see police officers talking to tourists in their own tongues, thanks to extensive language programmes aimed at enabling police staff of all ranks to speak widely spoken foreign languages.

Lieutenant Colonel Thani Butti Al Shamsi, Director of the Training Department at Abu Dhabi Police Headquarters, highlighted the fact that the department had devoted increased attention to language courses since 2007.

He pointed to police initiatives in focusing on foreign language efficiency among police staff. This is how "front desks" have been created at various departments, interacting directly with the general public, said Al Shamsi.

Programme extended

Courses were first focused on officers, but were later extended to all police employees. English was the centre of focus, but the police headquarters later included other languages including Chinese, Russian, Japanese and others.

Lt Col Al Shamsi said: "There are various divisions that require language courses for their staff, like the Criminal Investigation Department, Corrections and Reformation Centres, Immigration and Residency, airports and traffic departments,"

He said the interest in languages sprang from the vital role of communication with the public from a security perspective.

Inmate conversations

"For instance, the policemen at a prison centre have to have some knowledge of certain languages to facilitate their work in explaining rules and regulations to the inmates, and also to understand conversations between an inmate and others speaking the same language", he added.

He said his department provides high quality training programmes to the various sections, in coordination with external experts. Last year, 230 employees attended language training courses.

Thus for this year, 77 employees benefited from language courses. The cost per person ranges from Dh2,000 to Dh4,000.

Dependence on interpreters dwindles

Abu Dhabi: Following instructions from Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Chief of Dubai Police, a language centre was set up at the Dubai Police Academy. The centre started operations in 1989 with one foreign language, English.

As Russian and Chinese communities got larger, Russian and Chinese were added.

With more policemen speaking foreign languages, the dependence on interpreters dwindled.

Dr Essam Dablan, director of the centre, told 999 that the centre was set up in 1989. Currently, the centre also teaches German, Russian and Chinese.

Dr Dablan said the duration of a language course takes one year to 18 months.

In 2009, 465 police staff learnt English, 32 German, 19 Russian and 23 Chinese. The centre also prepares students for the Test of English as a Foreign Language and this year 80 students graduated.

What do you think of this initiative? Do you think all public offices should follow suit? Have you ever faced any problems due to the lack of communication?