Everyone learns English. Many people want to learn Spanish. The world keeps preaching you should learn Mandarin. Fact is, that you and probably everyone around you bases the decision which languages to learn either on what society says you should learn or on nothing at all.
If I told you I would move to Jordan for one year to study Arabic, you would think I`m stupid. Arabic is a useless language, and the Arabic culture even more, right?
Ever wondered where coffee comes from? Joghurt? Hummus and Falafel? What about the compass which guided Christopher Kolumbus to America? We even got the zero from Arabs! Imagine you`d need to write 1999 without zeros! Ancient romans wrote MCMXCIX — no, not that fancy luxury-bag-brand…
If you`re still wondering why a European would fly across the Mediterranian for non-touristic reasons, keep going. Here are 7 reasons, why you should absolutely start learning Arabic — and why you won`t start until it`s too late.
1. Arabs make up a huge part of our world
295 million people speak Arabic as a first language. For 250 million, its the second language. That is already half a billion people. Roughly 49 million tourists from the Middle East visit Europe and America (and other regions) for touristic purposes. According to Kai Chan, Arabic is the fifth most powerful language in the world (http://www.kailchan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Kai-Chan_Power-Language-Index-full-report_2016_v2.pdf). Not only since the civil war in Syria, millions of Arabs fled, emigrated and settled down outside their countries. Geographically spoken, this language is useful from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east. From Syria in the north until Yemen in the south.
But Philipp — those areas are not important right? And when will you ever be in the Middle East besides for tourism?
Far from right young Padawan. Go for number two.
2. Arabs play increasingly important roles in economics and politics
You only need to have a look at Saudi Aramco, the largest oil company in the world, to see the role of Middle Eastern oil in world economics. But its not only black gold in this region. No matter if you talk about Dubai, the growing and thrilling hub of astonishing modernity and lots of money, or tourist masses in Marakkesh. Have a look at the financial investments of Arabs in Europe and America or at growing corporates and startups. There is even an own financial system, called Islamic Banking, which works fundamentally different from the western one. Politics in the Middle East is increasingly loosing dependence on the USA and Russia. With growing wealth, the self-confidence rises. Ever heard of NEOM? This mega project aims to be the biggest futuristic city on earth — built by and in Saudi-Arabia.
3. The Middle East rises secretly
The moment it becomes obvious, it will hit the western world
unprecedentedly. When Europeans owned large parts of the Middle East, they wanted to print two stamps on them. The first one was modernisation. The second one was and is westernisation. While current Arab leaders still aim for the first, not everyone is interested in the second. Arabs rise into their own modernisation. Religion, culture and habits become more and more important. But while Rihanna and Lady Gaga as well as Hollywood movies are known throughout the world, the corresponding Arab stars and influencers remain unknown in the west. No matter if you call it arrogance or ignorance, the fact that singers such as Sherine, with hundreds of millions of clicks on Youtube are absolutely no-name outside the Middle East, shows the markets that lay hidden there.
4. There is literally no competition while learning Arabic.
Spanish or French both have in common, that there are hundreds of thousands of other students who learn these languages. Try counting those friends of yours, who study Arabic. One hand should be enough, right? On top of that, many second generation Arabs who grew up out of their countries, only know how to speak their local dialect, not how to speak the modern standard language (MSA or Fusha). So these are not competition as well. In fact, fluency in this language opens up top opportunities in fields such as Politics, Finance, Consulting, Military, Banking or Research. Economically, demand for Arabic professionals is high, but supply is low.
5. Arabic has profound synergy-effects
Arabic is the language of Islam. So in case you have any connection to Islam, this language will open up your horizon for deeper understanding and engagement. From a non-religious but rather linguistic perspective, Arabic is also benefitial if you decide to learn Turkish, Kurdish, Farsi or even Hindi. These languages have strongly been influenced and often carry hundreds of Arabic loanwords. Ivrit, the modern Hebrew spoken in Israel, is also a semitic language. Studying Arabic definitly enhances your understanding of modern Hebrew.
6. Arabic makes you more intercultural.
The Arabs have influenced the world as far as up to northern Spain or to Malaysia. Arabic philosophy mixed with Greek philosophy. The cuisine continues to influence Europe, America and Asia. Arabic literature is world-class and ranges next to classics such as the Gilgamesh or Homeric eposes. Islamic fashion starts to influence western brands while influencers from Beirut or Dubai and Kuwait set standards for fashionable women in the Middle East. Morroccan-Indian Nora Fatehi recently covered the Bollywood-song Dilbar in a viral Arabic version (yeah- with some Indian influences).
7. Travel the Middle East
I don`t mean that 4-star hotel in Dubai or Morocco. I mean real travel. Backpacking, Couchsurfing or at least trips outside of malls and western hotels. Imagine the benefits of bargaining in Arabic with the traders in Morocco or ask your way around in a taxi without English. Making new experiences is key and this region rewards you a lot. Nothing against Florida or Mallorca. But if you search for sun AND culture, this place is a match for you.
Thanks for the info but I still don`t know why I should learn Arabic!!
Don`t get me wrong. Arabic won`t be the best decision for everyone. And Spanish or Mandarin can be a good choice too. Just take this as a friendly reminder to open your eyes and look beyond what society tell you and beyond what your parents tell you to learn. 30 years ago, nobody would have said you should learn Mandarin. Now, China is expanding and influencing the world more and more.
Learn more about Philipp here