Arabic as a Skill

2023 is the European Year of Skills. The European Union (EU) recognizes that ‘having a workforce with the skills that are in demand contributes to sustainable growth, leads to more innovation and improves companies’ competitiveness… Skilled workers enjoy better job opportunities as well as broader possibilities to fully engage in society.’ 

Fluency in two or more languages is a skill that is immensely useful in many professional, academic and social spheres. Bilingualism (fluency in two languages) and multilingualism (fluency in three or more languages) are considered ‘hard’ skills – skills that are concrete and quantifiable. While language skills are themselves a resume boost, they can also indicate ‘soft’ skills, or ‘interpersonal’ skills, which are more subjective and harder to quantify. These ‘soft’ skills that language learners develop can demonstrate a person’s adaptability, willingness to learn, motivation, cultural competence and ability to communicate well, to name a few! 

Professional and economic benefits of Arabic bilingualism or multilingualism: 

Arabic language skills are in high demand in today’s workforce. According to ‘The economic value to the UK of speaking other languages,’ published by RAND with University of Cambridge, the global demand for multilingual workers is increasing. Employers are especially looking for people who are skilled in Arabic, Chinese, or Spanish.  

 In the UK, Arabic is considered of national strategic importance to British interests. The British Council identified Arabic as one of the top five languages of ‘crucial importance for the UK’s future prosperity, security and influence in the world’ (Tinsley & Board, 2017). According to the RAND report, a ten percent increase in UK students who can learn and apply Arabic in a business setting could increase UK GDP over 30 years by £919mn – £944mn through a reduction in non-tariff trade barriers related to languages alone. 

In the U.S., the demand for skilled Arabic-speaking employees more than doubled between 2010 and 2015 and remains highly sought after today. The RAND report also indicates that Arabic-speaking employees in the U.S. and Europe earn higher wages than their monolingual counterparts, especially if there is greater linguistic difference between the native language and the second language (such as the difference between English, German or French and Arabic). Fluency in Arabic pays off! 

Students who learned Arabic through QFI-supported programming have gone on to work in journalism, medicine, law, diplomacy, finance, education and other fields. If you studied Arabic, we welcome you to share how your language skills impacted your career at! 

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