Arabic is one of the most spoken languages in the world – and the language of a diverse range of countries that have many similarities but also a number of differences. It is the language of a part of the world that is full of culture, creativity and history – plus, it is the home of some of the wonders of the modern and ancient world, such as the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt and the historic site Petra in Jordan.
Arabic is also the language of much of the MENA region (in other words, the Middle East and Northern Africa). The region is oil and gas rich, and so its prosperity is tied to global interests – but it is also a region full of tensions due to ongoing civil wars and political unrest. If your organisation is innovative and has an entrepreneurial spirit, a working knowledge of Arabic could unlock opportunities in one of the most resource-rich, volatile and economically diverse parts of the world.
Challenges and Opportunities in the MENA region
The most obvious business opportunities in the MENA region are offered through the energy industries – oil, petroleum and gas – but climate change is an unavoidable modern concern, and new innovations in renewal energy mean all bets are off when it comes to the wisdom of investing in fossil fuels.
However, this trio of energy resources is not the only part of the resources puzzle. The MENA region is also rich in other natural resources, such as phosphate (Morocco and Tunisia both have strong operations in this market).
The MENA region is more than a resource-rich region, with many countries looking beyond what lies beneath the ground. Technology and finance are two sectors that are on the rise, notably in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, respectively. High-profile sporting events such as the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix also suggest that parts of the region are looking beyond natural resources to generate GDP.
Many countries in the region are challenged by high inflation and food insecurity, which is slowing down the growth of developing economies in the region. COVID-19 also exacerbated pre-existing economic challenges in the region. While many governments have provided support to their people in countries across the region, the path ahead remains unclear and the economic outlook appears precarious. However, innovation and investment in the MENA region’s people and in greener energy solutions could pave the way to a more prosperous future.
Humanitarian concerns have also impacted the MENA region for some time. Civil war, revolution and refugee crises are a fixture of the region, and 15 million people have fled Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen to seek refuge, leading to the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.
It is hard to predict what the future holds for the MENA region. However, this is a part of the world full of potential, so while the future may be unknown, it is still full of possibility.
Facts and Figures: Arabic and the MENA region
Here are a few interesting facts to know about Arabic and the MENA region before you get started on your language-learning journey.
- Arabic is the sixth most spoken language in the world. It is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations (the other five are English, French, Mandarin, Russian and Spanish).
- Arabic is an official language in 23 countries, including Morocco, Algeria, Syria and much of the Arabian Peninsula.
- Arabic is written right to left rather than left to right – which is also true for Hebrew.
- Arabic is the language of Islam, and the language in which the Quran was written. This form of Arabic is known as Classical Arabic, but this has since evolved into Modern Standard Arabic (which is the form of Arabic spoken today). Modern Standard Arabic is the ‘lingua franca’ of Arabic-speaking regions because it can be mutually understood by many different Arabic dialects.
- The Arabic alphabet is the second most widely used system of writing in the world after the Latin alphabet. The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters.
Click here for more facts and figures about the Arabic language and culture in the Arab world.
Three Top Tips to Help You Get Started
Learning a language with a different alphabet may seem like a challenge, although there are ways to take the pain out of the learning process. Here are three tips to help you develop your language skills and build your confidence.
- Practise regularly – ideally every day! – if you can. This is a new language with a whole new alphabet, so little and often may help to reinforce your learning far more than an afternoon of intense study every week or two.
- Listen and learn! If you have a friend or colleague who speaks Arabic, see if they would be happy to practise with you – and listen to how they pronounce key words and sounds, too. Of course, listening to radio and watching TV and movies will help as well, but an in-person (or virtual) conversation may help you put key words into context, especially the business context (if you are learning the language for work).
- Keep your ‘why’ in mind. Taking on learning a new language for business is an ongoing, long-term commitment, so remind yourself of why you are doing this. Is it for a promotion, new business opportunity, or to connect with future clients? Remembering why you are learning Arabic can motivate you – and it may help you stay on track when the going gets tough.
If you would like to find out more about learning Arabic as a way to help you grow your business prospects in the MENA region, contact us today. We can work with you to develop a bespoke language-learning plan for your business, as well as provide cross-cultural training to help you connect with your global colleagues, whether virtually or in person. All our courses can be taught live online.
CTA: Why Learning Arabic Is a Great Business Idea
Arabic is one of the most spoken languages in the world – and the language of a part of the world that is full of culture, creativity and history. It is also the primary language of the MENA region (the Middle East and Northern Africa), which is resource rich but politically and economically unstable. In this article, we explore how learning Arabic may help you tap into the potential of a region where business opportunities abound – even if they come with challenges.