Dubai one of worst cities for English language - study

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Dubai is one of the poorest cities in the world for its proficiency in the English language, a position that could see it lose out to foreign direct investment, according to a new report. 

The emirate was ranked 49 out of 54 countries, below Qatar (37) and Kuwait (45) but slightly above Saudi Arabia (52), in the EF English Proficiency Index.

“English proficiency is a key factor that determines where multinationals in high-growth, knowledge-based sectors choose to locate their regional hubs around the world,” said Michael Lu, EF Senior vice president.

“Tourist destinations can never rest on their laurels. Locations with better English proficiency are better placed to gain share in the $6 trillion tourism market, which accounts for about nine percent of the global economy,” he added.

The survey, which polled 1.7m working adults from around the world, found Swedish employees to be the most proficient in English followed by Denmark and the Netherlands while those in Libya ranked the lowest, slightly below Thailand.

In most cases the research showed that people living in big metropolitan areas are much more proficient in English than those that live on the outskirts of a city or further afield. 

The largest proficiency gap in any one country was between Moscow and Russia as a whole, noted the report. “This reflects the large economic rewards and opportunities available to English speakers in international urban centres,” it said.

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Posted by: Nesma

@Debbie, your logic is self serving otherwise how do you explain some of the top 20 countries with thriving economies that are staunchly nationalistic and where English is not as essential - countries like Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, Argentina, South Korea, Turkey, France, Germany, Germany, Italy, Russia and Mexico. These G20 countries have not abandoned their national language for any trade or commercial reasons, far from it, it is incumbent on anyone who wishes to work in these countries to learn and be proficient in the language of the host country. Do you expect the throng of Greeks seeking jobs and a better future in Germany to use Greek instead of German???
In the UAE, there are people who have lived here for more than a generation who refuse to learn and speak Arabic, and who are determined to maintain communities that represent their motherlands, more than the UAE itself, just like citizens of Mexican origins in the USA, African origins in France and Asian origins in the UK.

Posted by: Asaad

Arabic is very much ingrained in most Arab societies from Mauritania and Morocco to Egypt and Sudan, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen and all Arabian Gulf countries except the UAE, it is only in the UAE that Arabic has been sidelined. I called a few five star hotels in Dubai to book the best hotel Eid deals and was shocked to be told by the operator that nobody converses in Arabic, even a couple of hospitals and many medical centers do not comprehend Arabic, and do not even have Arabic websites - this is just unthinkable in most countries and would be considered an affront to the nation. I cant imagine calling a hotel in China or Germany or Turkey and be told, 'Sorry Sir we do not speak Mandarin, or German or Turkish here'.

Posted by: debbie

there is nothing shocking or negative about this. it is the way the uae is positioned. the uae's leadership and business community positioned the UAE and especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi as a 'global hub' and 'tourism destination' with iconic real estate developments sold to foreigners. Business naturally speaks the language of those that it caters. quite frankly the UAE's international-ness is its competetive edge. Which is why people dont like doing business in the UAE rather than - Qatar, Saudi or Mauritania!

Posted by: Saeed

That is why the UAE will host the 2nd International Conference on Arabic Language in Dubai from May 7 to 9, 2013 under the patronage of the UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Posted by: Natasha

EF should focus on the quality of the host families they put the students in more than doing this research because many students from their exchanged program were not happy with their host families. As I was one of them, after one year attending the program, EF did not care to help the students as much as they should. It resulted in the pro-long psychological effects toward particular culture and race. Isn't this need to be concerned more?

Posted by: Alfred

I have visited many countries from Japan and China to Most European countries such Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Turkey and all of these countries' national languages play a major role in promoting their respective national identities and local tourism. Dubai and the UAE as a whole must do much more in promoting their own eloquent and sweet language Arabic. The cornerstone of a national identity is and will always be the national language.

Posted by: WHJ

What rubbish. Ranked below Kuwait! Really!
And yet Dubai continues to thrive and prosper, develop and modernize. Businesses from around the world are still flocking to Dubai to set up shop. Major educational and entrepreneurial conferences and summits are always held in dubai.
I guess we should expect more bashing now that Dubai is emerging once again as one of the most resilient cities in the world, while the "index keepers" languish in the misery of their failures.

Posted by: Telcoguy

@WHJ not sure how your logic works. Do you understand the whole concept of correlation and that his report is not focused on the UAE (shocking i know)
But I have some more data points for you. I share GRE scores already, and now I found the scores of GMAT that as you probably know tests both verbal and quantitative, first the good news. By country of residence UAE scores and average of 521, similar to the US. Most Asian and WE countries are in the 580 or higher.
The funny part is when you look at the country of citizenship, then UAE scores drop to 371, one of the lowest. Lower than Bahrain, Qatar or Kuwait
So yes, you score lower on every single standarized test I can find, I really find difficult to believe that all these tests are part of an "attempt to discredit Dubai"
Other people would be concerned at how poor the results. Not you.

Posted by: WHJ

@telcoguy. By the report's logic, Kuwait is a better tourist destination because they score better on the index. Really?!
Just because EF are forthcoming about the report's shortcomings doesn't make it reliable.
Do you see businesses and development projects being affected just because the unskilled labourers don't speak grammatically-correct English? Do you not see the advancement and the progress in Dubai in spite of this ridiculous index?
Have you heard of a business venture closing shop in Dubai because the people allegedly don't speak good English? Are you claiming that English proficiency among unskilled labourers will determine the level of FDI?
These attempts to discredit Dubai are useless.

Posted by: Telcoguy

1) The report is not a scientific research, that does not mean is "not credible". As a matter of fact they are most forthcoming than most other "reports" published in AB as they explain their methodology and the shortcomings.
2) How can you state that there is no impact on FDI? Have you checked the correlation between their score and the level of FDI? Oh wait, you mean for DUBAI... well guess what this report covers the whole world, it is only AB that is using Dubai in its headline to cater to the easily excitable crowd.
3) How do I know what? The interaction between the attendants to a summit and the vast majority of the population? With all the low-skilled stuff that are the backbone of Dubai economy and probably make a substantial chunk of this report?
4) Can you read? you are claiming this report is here to bash Dubai. I am asking you who is paying for this bashing? or is it coming from free, out of jealousy?
Oh btw, Kuwait scores higher than Dubai in the TOEFL results too.

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