±A - Join Our Community

Learn from the experiences of other expats and make new friends in our disccussion forums and Facebook groups

±A - Cigna

±A - Read Our Guide

The Expat Focus Guide to Moving Abroad contains everything you need to know when planning an international relocation available now, completely free

±A - Compare Quotes and Save

Insurance, FX and international movers

±A - Listen to the Podcast

The Expat Focus podcast features interviews with expats living abroad and service providers meeting their needs subscribe today!

±A - Expert Financial

From our tax, investment and FX partners

±A - ExpatFocus Partners

Expat Focus Partners

Become a Partner. Click Here.

Speaking the Language

United Arab Emirates (UAE) - Speaking the Language

The official language of the UAE is Arabic. However, it is possible to find different languages spoken fluently by the locals. Expats are not required to learn Arabic as they can get along fine using English.

Arabic is considered a sacred language and national heritage of the UAE citizens. It was the language spoken by the ancient Emirati and the language that many Muslims associate with their religious beliefs. Governments in the UAE conduct all their state matters in Arabic. This includes writing and interpreting legislative rules. Official radio and TV stations broadcast their content in Arabic as well. Many of the local print media, like newspapers, are printed in Arabic.

Urdu is the second most popular language spoken in the UAE. Urdu is the official language of Pakistan. Indians are the second majority group living in UAE after Arabs. Other languages spoken in the UAE include Tagalog, Mandarin, Tamil, and Indonesian.

As ethnic diversity grows in the UAE, Arabic is spoken less and less by the locals. UAE locals prefer to use English as a language that unifies all nationalities. Urdu is also commonly used by the locals and sometimes laced with a little Arabic. More languages that borrow from Arabic include Pashto, Farsi, and Kurdish.

As an expat, communicating with the locals in the UAE should be easy because everyone speaks English very well. English is a common language in major cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Many of the road signs and public notices have English translations. Hotels offer their menus in both Arabic and English as well. Thus a foreigner is not compelled to learn the Arabic language while working or living in UAE.

However, learning the Arabic language gets you assimilated into the local culture faster. Furthermore, the majority of English-speaking UAE citizens live in the big cities. On the outskirts, the common language is Arabic.

Therefore, it is important to acquaint yourself with some Arabic, especially if you are travelling to or working in the rural areas. The alternative is to have a translator with you wherever you go.

The locals appreciate it when others make an effort to learn their language. They consider it a sign of appreciation and respect for their culture. Learning Arabic helps you blend in better. You will also enjoy local media better and take part more in enriching conversations.

How to learn Arabic

There are plenty of avenues available to help you learn and speak Arabic in the UAE. In addition, the Arabic spoken by millennials is a simplified version.

Learning Arabic may seem a bit difficult at first. The Emiratis write their language in cursive script, from right to left. Arabic words are also pronounced fast when spoken and it may seem impossible to comprehend every word. Still, it takes a short time to understand modern standard Arabic. For the expat who wants to enjoy and assimilate into the Arabic culture, here are a few ways to do that.

Take a Language Course

There are plenty of educational centers that offer Arabic lessons for free. These learning centers are established in the big cities. Expats in Dubai or Abu Dhabi can enroll in classes in any of the following Arabic teaching centers.

Kalemah is a Muslim center located in Dubai. It provides free Arabic courses to new Muslim converts.

Eton Institute
Eton Institute is a learning center that forms part of the Knowledge Village in Dubai. It offers Arabic classes to interested expats and new Muslim converts.
Email: contact.uae@etoninstitute.com
Phone: 800 ETON (3866)

Berlitz Languages Centers
Berlitz Language Centers are located in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and AL Ain. These centers offer private Arabic classes to non-native speakers. The center also holds group courses to help students learn spoken Arabic faster. Here an expert will learn both written and spoken Arabic.
Tel: +971 4 331 5600 / +971 4 331 0221
Fax: +971 4 331 4954
Email: info@arabiclanguagecentre.com

Mother Tongue Center
Mother Tongue center is located in Dubai. This center dedicates its Arabic learning curriculum to non-native speakers alone. Mother Tongue Center is a useful institution for learning the Arabic language and culture.

There are plenty of Arabic TV stations in the UAE to tune into and learn the local language. Find those Arabic TV stations that broadcast their content with English subtitles. This helps you learn some of the common Arabic faster.

Interacting with the locals is by far the most effective way to learn Arabic. You get to learn both formal modern Arabic and plenty of slang phrases used by the urban Arabs. A friend who speaks Arabic will also help whenever you make written or pronunciation mistakes.

Read more about this country

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.