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When in Qatar, why not learn Arabic?

By BritishBedu

When I arrived as a new expat in the region, I was determined to get something enriching out of the experience of living in the Gulf.  I didn’t want to simply live a British life abroad.  

The main elements to that were understanding the culture, find more about Islam, making friends from the Arab community and learning Arabic.

I was quite shocked to discover that many of the British expats I knew who had been in the country for many years didn’t speak a work of Arabic.  But the truth of it is, one can live perfectly well here without learning the native language.  

And why is this?  Several reasons:

  1. 1) According to the World Population Review, Arabs make up less than 30% of the population and Qatari nationals only half that.  Therefore, the majority living in Qatar are not native Arabic speakers.

  2. 2) Those working in the service industry are, on the whole, non Arab, making English the language of day to day transactions

  3. 3) Qatar was a British protectorate from 1916 to 1971

  4. 4) Qataris tend to be well educated and the majority can speak English

  5. 5) The international language of business is English


Learning Arabic in Qatar, then, is a choice and not a necessity but if you’re prepared to make the effort, there can be some interesting benefits:

  1. 1) The positive and enthusiastic reaction from Arab friends and colleagues

  2. 2) Improved career prospects in the region and elsewhere  (Arabic is the 5th most spoken language in the world)

  3. 3) Travelling around the region is easier and more fun

  4. 4) Catching out colleagues in meetings who start talking in Arabic, assuming you wont understand !

My learning came in various forms such as socializing with Arabic speaking friends, as well as attending formal classes.

In Doha, the Sheikh Abdulla Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Centre (otherwise known as the Fanar Mosque) offers free lessons:

If you want to splash out a bit, there are centres which offer structured lessons, resulting in certificates for your efforts. Berlitz Language School is the one I attended, offering classroom, private group or one-to-one learning, depending on your lifestyle and budget.

There are now a variety of tools, some of them free, which can top up traditional methods of learning.  A simple google search will give you a number of lists…. This is quite a comprehensive one:

So there are plenty of resources and plenty of reasons to give learning Arabic a go – you never know what opportunities it might open up!

To read more from the British Bedu check out her blog ‘Dear Doha Diary’:

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By E.Gohary• 1 year 3 weeks ago.

Why any foreigner try to learn Arabic if the country it self uses English as a primary language in many places and companies.

If the Arabic Language is a must to get a job in Qatar .. like Saudi Arabia , Then they will find time to learn Arabic for sure.

By arabicstudent• 1 year 8 months ago.

Forgive people who dont venture into learning Arabic. It is that hard. Unless you try hard for 10 years you wont reach anywhere.

By PunchLiner• 1 year 8 months ago.

KH needs the aptly titled book 'Arabic for Dummies'

By Molten Metal• 1 year 8 months ago.
Molten Metal

Will join but am afraid ............

By GodFather.• 1 year 8 months ago.

Thanks for sharing Britishbedu, I must confess, been here nearly 10 years, only once did I try to attend a course but after a few lessons I gave up. It was at the Qatar Guest Center which used to be in Bin Omran.

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