1. It’s useful! Arabic is the fifth most widely spoken language in the world.
2. Travel! The Middle East is one of the most beautiful and diverse regions in the world.
You may not think of it as being a particularly popular tourist destination, but the Middle East and North Africa are home to some of the world’s most beautiful and dramatic scenery. In fact, there are over 80 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Arab world, ranging from the famous city of Petra in Jordan to the little-known Yemeni island of Socotra, which is home to a number of endemic species found nowhere else on earth.
3. Jobs! Arabic is one of the most sought after languages for employers.
Research shows that learning languages will increase your employability. Arabic is one of the most ‘in demand’ languages you can learn, particularly in the West. This is largely because of the number of native Arabic speakers worldwide – compared with the relatively small number of Westerners who can speak it well.
Anyone who follows the news will also be aware that Arabic is extremely topical at the moment. While Arabic is useful across a vast array of industries, it is particularly helpful if you’re looking for jobs in politics or in the security, energy and NGO sectors.
4. It’s a challenge! Once you’ve learned Arabic, you can do anything…
It’s no secret that Arabic is one of the more difficult languages to learn, which is why there are relatively few Westerners to have truly mastered the language compared with other European languages like French and Spanish. This is largely because the grammar is very different to that of English and European languages, but also because of the various different dialects spoken across the Arab world.
If you’re looking for a challenge, Arabic is certainly one. However, once you’ve learned the Arabic alphabet, you will also be able to learn languages including Persian, Kurdish, Urdu and Pashto. Arabic is also very similar to Swahili; though Swahili uses the Latin alphabet, a huge number of Swahili words are derived from Arabic.
5. To change the world! If more people learned Arabic and tried to understand the Middle East, the world would be a better place.
We are living in an era of terrorism, political uncertainty, fear-mongering, isolationism and fake news. Never has cross-cultural interaction and understanding been more important. You may have found yourself watching the news in the last couple of years, wondering what the hell is going on with the world and feeling like there’s nothing you can do about it.
The best chance we, the human race, have at solving the complex challenges of the 21st century – like civil conflict, terrorism, globalisation and climate change – is to arm ourselves with as much knowledge and understanding of the world as we possibly can. Every single person can contribute to this by learning about other people and cultures that are different to their own, and the best way to start? Learning a language!
The Middle East is one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented regions in the world, largely because of the incomplete, and often stereotypical narratives of the region we see in the media. Learning Arabic will help you better understand what’s going on in the region, allowing you to talk to local people and read first-hand accounts in the Arabic news and on social media.
Muslims pray together on the streets of Casablanca, Morocco, to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr, in June 2017 (image: Everyday Middle East)
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
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Header image: Oxford University Press