The official language in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is Arabic. The law, therefore, recognizes it as the language in government institutions including education establishments, and all branches of media. Linguistically, it is a Central Semitic language. Although several variations of the language are used, official documents, books, newspapers, and magazines are written using the Modern Standard Arabic. This version is founded on Classic Arab which is complex. The other version of the Arabic language used in UAE is Gulf Arabic spoken by the Emirati people. Until 1971, the UAE was under British control, and therefore English is a primary bridge language. It is also a requirement when applying for most local jobs. The Arabic alphabet is made up of 28 letters. Arabic is the fifth most extensively used language in the world and one of the oldest languages globally.

The native population in the United Arab Emirates comprises of approximately 1.4 million citizens. About 50% speak Arabic. Out of this percentage, 40% speak the Gulf Arabic dialect. Nearly 30% of the UAE’s residents are Indian immigrants who speak Hindi. Iranians, on the other hand, make up about 5% and speak Persian language.

The Arabic language is usually written from right to left. Interestingly, unlike English, the Arabic language has distinctive verbs for gender, singular and plural forms. For instance, while greeting people in English regardless of being male or female, we use, ‘how are you’ and the English sentence stays the same for the two genders. However, in Arabic, “kaif Halak” is used when greeting a man, and “kaif Halek” while greeting a woman. Usage of /e/ in place of /a/ distinguishes the gender and makes the sentence grammatically accurate. Other useful words and phrases in UAE include ‘shukran’ for thank you, ‘afwan’ for you are welcome, ‘la afham’ which translates to I do not understand, and ‘ma'aa ssalama’ meaning goodbye, among others.

Besides Arabic, UAE is home to other indigenous languages. One of these languages is Persian, also known as Farsi. It is mainly used by the small community of Iranians residing in the United Arab Emirates. The other minority language in the country is Hindi. It is primarily spoken by the Indian immigrants living in the country. The Hindi language is taught in Indian schools, which are predominantly headed by wealthy Indian expatriates. Other languages in UAE include English, Malayalam, and Urdu.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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