Dubai one of worst cities for English language - study

Glitzy emirate may be cash rich but is lacking seriously when it comes to English proficiency

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: Hisham

I co-sign on that! There is no reason why internationalisation and preservance of identity should not go together. And expats in the country should do more to femiliarise themselves with the culture and language of the country. Even if they only plan to stay here for a period of three years or less, it will only make their minds richer.

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: 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: WHJ

@telcoguy. As usual, your reply is lacking in substance and credibility.
1) If the report is not credible then what's the point?
2) The report mentions the negative impact on FDI. My point: no significant negative impact.
3) How do you know? Did you attend the last Entrepreneurial Summit held in Dubai only a few days ago? Did you see the level of interaction?
4) You think this report is paid for by Dubai? Looks like you have privileged information, and quite an imagination I might add.

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