ULG’s Language Solutions Blog

The Growing Importance of Arabic in Business




When a language gains prominence around the world, there is a rise in the demand for speakers of that language in governments and businesses around the world. Higher salaries and unique job positions attract and motivate employees, while businesses benefit from relationships founded on positive communication and interaction with global clients.

In recent years, Arabic has proven to be one such language. Arabic-speaking countries are major players in the global economy. And Arabic is currently ranked on the Power Language Index (PLI) as the 5th most important language based on several factors including the number of native speakers, the economic output of those native speakers and the importance of the language in world diplomacy.

Economic Growth of Arabic-Speaking Countries

Arabic is the official language of over 20 countries, and has nearly 300 million native speakers. Economically, these countries have grown quickly in a short amount of time, and the Arab world has a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion.

With a rapidly emerging consumer base, potential trade prospects, and profitable business partners, countries in the Arab region represent a great opportunity for businesses looking to globally expand. Many of these countries, such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are deeply involved in global trade, and are among the largest exporters and importers in the world.

High Business Demand for the Arabic Language

The preferred communication methods in Arabic speaking countries are high context. That means that communication is based around the underlying context and tone in a message. This high context communication stands in contrast with many Western languages, making it more difficult for international businesses to navigate the Arab market.

In this respect, Arabic is vital for any external global businesses that want to build and maintain healthy, long lasting relationships with Arab consumers and organizations.

Despite the only growing importance of Arabic, the Western world has been ill-prepared in meeting the high demand for Arabic speakers. In the United States, a study found that roughly 32,000 out of 21 million college students studied Arabic. That number has declined since 2009, and is being rapidly outpaced by those learning Chinese and Japanese.


Photo Source: Enrollments in Languages Other Than English in United States Institutions of Higher Education, Fall 2013


The difficulties between many Western languages and Arabic come from their different writing and grammatical systems. The apparent difficulties have created a shortage of willing candidates to study the language, despite the high demand for Arabic speakers.

Bilingualism has become a highly sought-after skill for employers, and Arabic has shown itself to be a profitable skill. While English has become the lingua franca in business, many Arab countries ranked last in a global test for English proficiency, further highlighting the need for Western businesses to use Arabic if they want to find success with Arab businesses and markets.

Supply Will Meet Demand

Arabic will continue to increase in importance in business over the coming years. The economy in many of these countries has rapidly diversified, leading to many more opportunities for international industries to enter these growing markets.

With the competitive salaries and positions available to fluent speakers, Arabic will become an invaluable skill for any job seeker. While the push for Arabic language education in the Western world might take some time, the pieces are in place for the supply to meet the enormous global demand.