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Speaking the Language

Qatar - Speaking the Language

The people of Qatar are called Qataris and the majority of them are Arabs. The official language of this country is Arabic, but most people also speak English, especially when carrying out business. There are also numerous other dialects in use. These include Urdu, Balochi, Malayalam, Pashto, Hindi, Telugu, Tagalog, Tamil, Sinhalese, Nelapi, and Bengali.


Arabic, as a formal dialect of Qatar, is divided into two groups: Gulf and Standard. Standard Arabic is also known as Al Fus-Ha and Al Arabiya or High Arabic. Gulf Arabic, on the other hand, is also known as Khaliji and Qatari. Gulf Arabic is also divided into two other tongues: South and North Qatari. It's important to know that both these groups are used and easily comprehended by other nations in the Middle East. Nations that fully understand those tongues are Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Dubai, Iran, and Bahrain.


As in the most countries, English is widely used in Qatar. The reason for this can be found in the fact that Qatar was once a British protectorate. The Qatari government has even encouraged it as the second dialect in the country, after Arabic. English is also widely used among numerous non-Arabic speakers. This happens mostly because of numerous guest workers from countries such as China, Japan, Canada, India, South Africa, Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines. It is still important to know a few basic words in Arabic because it can be very helpful to understand a bit of the local language, just like in any other country.


Farsi, or the Persian dialect, is spoken by Persians who are sometimes referred to as Iranians. As this is an ethnic community in Iran, this language is the part of the Indo-Iranian family and it's also the official dialect of Iran. Farsi first appeared in Qatar in the 1900s when a certain number of Iranians migrated to the country, mostly working as boat builders. This population has increased over the years, so now there aer around 30,000 Persian people living in Qatar, and Farsi is broadly used by those people.


This widely used dialect is a form of Hindustani language. It is believed that it originated in the 8th to the 13th century, largely influenced by Arabic and Persian languages. Both of these languages have given a lot to the Urdu language. About 99% of Urdu verbs trace their roots to Prakrit and Sanskrit. However, these speakers are not an ethnic community, but more a group of several ethnicities. The majority of Urdu speakers live in Pakistan where it is the official language. Nowadays, Urdu speakers make up about 117,000 of Qatar’s population.


This language is not the equivalent of Malay which is a dialect in Malaysia. Malayalam is actually in the Southern division of the Dravidian dialect family. It is mostly linked to Tamil, but it has been also influenced by Sanskrit. Malayalam is one of 22 formal dialects and 14 regional dialects of India. It is also used in countries such as Israel, Bahrain, United Kingdom, Fiji, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and Qatar. Malayalam speakers came to Qatar as guest workers and brought their language with them, which later spread around the country.


This is the language which is spoken by the Baloch people who originate from Southern Pakistan. Their home was originally in the southern regions of the Sind and Baluchistan provinces. Most of these people have migrated to the Arabic peninsula, bringing their language and culture as well. The Balochi language is divided into three categories: Southern, Western and Eastern Balochi. The Balochi speakers in Qatar speak Southern Balochi and they make up about 37,000 of Qatar’s population.


Pashto is an Indo-European language which originates from the Iranian dialect family. At times it is referred to as Afghani and it’s the official language of Afghanistan. This language is mostly linked to the people who live in the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan. There are 50 to 60 million people in the world who speak Pashto. Pashto people, like other minority ethnic groups in Qatar, came as guest workers spreading their dialect and culture.


This language is spoken by the Filipino community in Qatar. The total population of Filipinos in Qatar is around 200,000. They mostly work as domestic helpers, in the travel sector, or in construction. As of 2009, the Filipinos make up the second-biggest community of guest workers in Qatar, after Indians.


Sinhalese, also known as Sinhala, is the local language of the Sinhalese community. It is the the biggest ethnic community in Sri Lanka. Sinhala is actually used as a second dialect by numerous other ethnic communities in Sri Lanka. Their total population in the Qatar is around 37,000.


The Nepali language is used by the ethnic community from Nepal. Most of them are guest workers, permanent citizens, and their descendants who have been born in Qatar. Most Nepalis work in the construction sector. As of 2010, a total number of 9,650 Nepalis came to Qatar.

Language schools in Qatar

Qatar has a large number of institutions where expats from around the world can learn local Arabic, as well as English, French and German. Here is a list of some well-known language schools in Qatar.


Qatar University College of the Arts and Sciences
Offers: A year long course for non-native Arabic speakers, open to students at Qatar University.

Hamad Bin Khalifa University Translation and Interpretation Institute
Offers: Two levels of Arabic instruction, an intensive program and a 13-week semester course.
Email: info@fanar.gov.qa
Phone: +974 4425 0175 (men) and +974 4425 0173 (women)

Maryam Ibanata Imraan Center
Offers: Arabic lessons for Muslim women and girls at four levels. Yearlong courses, held twice weekly on Mondays and Wednesdays. Fee: QR 500.
Email: markazmaryam@gmail.com
Phone: +974 4450 5301

Berlitz Language Center
Offers: Arabic classes in two levels, held twice a week during the evening for three months. Small classes (4 to 8 students).
Fee: QR 3,400
Intensive private classes available at QR 7,000

Qatar Center for the Presentation of Islam
Offers: Arabic and Qatar dialect lessons for non-Arab speakers, Classical Arabic lessons for non-Arab speakers, and Islamic Arabic lessons for non-Arab speakers. Classes are divided by gender.
Phone: +974 4441 1122

Cactus Language Training
Offers: individual and small group Arabic language courses, Arabic language and cultural training courses, general business Arabic courses, all on a full time or part time basis. Also offers individual courses in Dutch, English, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian and Spanish.
Phone: +44 84 5130 4775


British Council
Offers: 30-hour English courses for adults (ages 18 and older) at 4 levels.
Fee: QR 2,200/course
Phone: +974 4425 1888
Email: general.enquiries@qa.britishcouncil.org

Stenden University Qatar Campus (Netherlands-based university)
Offers: General English classes, IELTS exam preparation, Business English courses, English conversation classes, and private English lessons.
Phone: +974 4488 8116
Email: info@stenden.edu.qa

American School of Doha ESL Program
Offers: ESL classes for children ages kindergarten to Grade 8.
Phone: +974 4459 1500
Email: dwelch@asd.edu.qa

US Embassy Qatar
Offers: The US Embassy in Qatar recruits US academics in the field of teaching ESL for short-term workshops in Doha. These workshops are held at various points throughout the year at schools and interested institutions in Doha.
Email: kirbyjj@state.gov

Educate Learning Center
Offers: English language test (TOEFL) preparation classes, general English courses, corporate English courses, English for business professional classes.


Institut Francais
Offers: group classes, workshops to prepare for DELT and TEF examinations, business French classes, and private French lessons to students of all ages


German Embassy
Offers: German language lessons for adults at the German School, Mamoura area of Doha. New courses start in January, April and October each year.
Phone: +974 6650 7960
Email: deutschunterricht.qatar@gmail.com

Read more about this country

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