Languages spoken in Dubai and in the UAE

“Which language is spoken in the United Arab Emirates in general and in Dubai specifically? This is one of the first questions asked by those who look for information when going on holiday in Dubai or searching a job and relocating there.

In fact, the United Arab Emirates has the largest aggregation of ethnic groups, and it hosts more than two hundred nationalities, which makes it so attractive for tourists, travellers, workers and various companies.

HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the current Prime Minister, vice President of the UAE and Emir of Dubai has underlined the importance of the Arabic language as a symbol of the national identity, and in march 2009 the government decided to authorise it as the official language in all institutions and federal identities.

There is also an Emirati dialect with the same characteristics of the Arabic language spoken in the regions in the Southern part of the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf region. The particular position of the UAE has generated a rich and diversified dialect. Various archaeological excavations have shown the presence of different Semitic races in the past. Therefore, it is very easy to find out the variations of the language moving from one place to another.

Although the expanding and populating of the urban areas at the expense of the rural ones during the past 40 years, we can still distinguish three main areas: Abu Dhabi, the Northern Emirates, the East Coast. The book “Dialetto Emiratino” (the Italian edition of Spoken Emirati dialect, in Arabic “Al Ramsa Al Emirati”) represents a useful instrument to start interacting with the local Arabs.

Nevertheless, a cosmopolitan country must have a common language to help the people there understand each other. Being a former British protectorate, everybody (except those who live in the rural areas) speak English which is the “official” language for trading, business used by citizens and visitors. All road signs and official documents, are in Arabic with the English translations. Moreover, there are lots of newspapers, radio and television channels in English language.

For this reason, a foreigner who wants to live and work in the UAE is not obliged to learn the Arabic language. However, the local inhabitants highly appreciate it when foreigners try to learn their own language, and consider it a sign of respect and high opinion of their own culture. This makes integration easier, especially as far as the interpersonal and social relationships are concerned.

Together with Arabic and English, Hindi is one of the most spoken languages in Dubai and it is generally the most widespread mother tongue, followed by Urdu, which is the national language of Pakistan and is spoken by Indians and Pakistani who represent the majority of the population.

When visiting Dubai, you will get the opportunity to hear people speaking in Tagalog (Filipino), Russian, Serbian, and many other languages.

 

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