Language schools have recorded a surge in enrollment in Arabic language classes by residents across the GCC, as more people look to upskill following the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the height of the pandemic, Shireen Sinno, director of the Arabic Language Center, a private business established in Dubai 40 years ago, said she witnessed a record rise of interest in learning the mother tongue of the region.
Enrolments between April and December soared as people utilized more free time, she said.
“The growth in student numbers may be attributed to several factors,” she told Al Arabiya English. “With remote working, some students had a more flexible schedule that enabled them to carve out some time for learning Arabic.”
As some people lost their jobs at the start of the pandemic, they were unable to continue their studies, according to Sinno.
“Others decided to hone their professional skills, aiming to improve their employment opportunities,” She added“Knowing a foreign language is usually regarded as an asset by many recruiters, especially when it is the official language of the host country.”
More people also wanted to maintain “normalcy” by maintaining human interaction with others, said Sinno.
“Particularly during times of confinement that limited opportunities for networking and connecting with others, people sought human interaction with one another.”
A language spoken by more than 420 million people worldwide, the UAE has been at the forefront of a push to preserve the Arabic language with a number of initiatives to enhance Arabic language skills and bolster usage of the national language.
This has been especially evident withing school curriculums over fears the ability to write and speak Arabic properly are being eroded, with Arab youth preferring to speak English.
Sinno said Arabic language in the center – which is one of the first Arabic language schools in the Emirates - has seen interest from people of all ages and nationalities in the UAE and wider GCC.
Witnessing a revived interest in learning the Arabic language has, she says, been a positive side of the pandemic.
“We cannot but recognize the positive outcomes of the pandemic, despite its dark side worldwide,” she said. “In our case, we sought a new teaching venue - online teaching - which not only enabled us to sustain our teaching in a safe manner, but also opened doors for a broader audience to reach.
“This new venue also made it possible for many of our students who had to leave the country to carry on with their courses from all over the globe.”
Sinno said, as the pandemic prompted many people to reflect on their lives, find new paths and set new goals, more people sought to learn a new skill to give their lives purpose and focus.
As with many businesses, the Arabic Language Center switched to online teaching during the pandemic. Many students embraced the shift, she said.
The center now offers both online and face-to-face classes.
“Students have developed different learning preferences, and we ought to cater to these preferences.
“Some students identify themselves as “traditional learners,” who are more comfortable with a physical classroom setting. On the other hand, some have embraced online teaching, which according to them provided convenience, time efficiency and safety.”