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The Interference of English in Emirati Arabic and the Anglicization of Emirati Schools

18/10/2022| By
Jean Pierre Jean Pierre Ribeiro Daquila

This article explores the changes in the Emirati school system from Arabic to bilingual curriculum (English and Arabic) as well as the influence of English in Emirati Arabic: English loanwords and verbs in Emirati Arabic; as well as their occurrences in light of age and gender, two important social variables related to linguistic behavior. To do so, we administered questionnaires and recorded Emirati high school students (aged 17-18), Emirati alumni from 38 to 50 years old, as well as elderly Emiratis aged 64 to 66, which means a generation gap of over 40 years from the youngest to the eldest group. We will analyze which English loanwords and verbs are present in Emirati Arabic due to historical reasons and the most recent incorporations due to modernization factors.

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The Interference of English in Emirati Arabic and the Anglicization of Emirati Schools


Jean Pierre Ribeiro Daquila 1,2

1 ESERP Business and Law School, 08010 Barcelona, Spain;

2 Department of Applied Linguistics, Faculty of Philology, University Complutense of Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain


This article explores the changes in the Emirati school system from Arabic to bilingual curriculum (English and Arabic) as well as the influence of English in Emirati Arabic: English loanwords and verbs in Emirati Arabic; as well as their occurrences in light of age and gender, two important social variables related to linguistic behavior. To do so, we administered questionnaires and recorded Emirati high school students (aged 17-18), Emirati alumni from 38 to 50 years old, as well as elderly Emiratis aged 64 to 66, which means a generation gap of over 40 years from the youngest to the eldest group. We will analyze which English loanwords and verbs are present in Emirati Arabic due to historical reasons and the most recent incorporations due to modernization factors.

Key words: Emirati English, Emirati Arabic, Arabic dialects, loanwords, loan verbs

1. Introduction

This study aims to analyze the change in the Emirati school system from Arabic to bilingual (English-Arabic) as well as the interference of English in Emirati Arabic. There has been a massive influx of immigrants since the establishment of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 1971, mainly in the two major cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi [1,2,3,4]. An urgent need for international schools aroused and English started being used in most public places and services, such as cinemas, shopping malls, street markets, restaurants, bars, and taxis. Nonetheless, The bonds between the UAE and England date back to 1809 [1,2]. Therefore, English has left its mark on Emirati Arabic.

We will examine closely Emirati High School changes and enhancements throughout the last 20 years and analyze how these changes have been affecting Emirati Arabic. We will also check if the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, from now on MI, as a tool to facilitate students’ learning has been applied in these institutions. MI has always been the focus of our studies and we would not like to miss the chance to see if the theory is in use in the UAE. MI, proposed by the American psychologist and educator Howard Gardner, came to light in 1983 in his memorable book Frames of Mind [5] in which he advocates eight intelligences and not only one as defended prior to his theory. These intelligences are bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, musical, linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist. [5].

To fully understand this study, it is crucial to know the difference between Emirati Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic. Emirati Arabic is the dialectal variant of Arabic used in the UAE. Emirati Arabic is simpler in rules than the formal and official language shared among all Arab countries: Modern Standard Arabic, or MSA for short. MSA is the language used in the Arab world for the books, at school, newspapers, news on television and formal speeches; while each Arab country possesses a dialectal variant to communicate at home, among friends, and in informal occasions, such as doing the shopping or at the pharmacy.

In order to appraise the characteristics of Emirati high schools, 200 participants answered a 22-question form. As regards the usage of English words and verbs in Emirati Arabic 150 participants were interviewed. The research questions were the following:

1. Is the influence of English on Emirati Arabic greater in the last two decades or does this interference dates back to the postcolonial English, more specifically from 1809 – 1966, according to Schneider [6]?

2. How different is the Arabic spoken by older Emiratis (over 63 years of age) and teenagers?

3. Is the influence of English detrimental to the endurance of Arabic in the UAE?

4. As schools have modernized and followed western patterns of learning, have any Emirati schools adopted MI into their practices?

2. Historical and Theoretical Overview

The aim of this historical investigation is to interpret the three periods of linguistic change in the UAE. Utilizing Schneider’s [6] ‘dynamic model’ of postcolonial English in the UAE, we can classify three major phases of language change. Firstly, the ‘foundation phase’ (1809 – 1966) with the introduction of English; secondly, the period of ‘exonormative stabilization’ (1966-2004) and finally the ‘normalization’ period (2004 until today). Our central analysis is how English in these three periods has influenced Emirati Arabic.

2.1. Language and society in the Emirates and its early connection with England

The development of English in the UAE can only be observed synchronically, whereas it can only be understood historically. Therefore, conceptual tools that are historically sensitive need to be developed to suggest and open a space of historical observation and interpretation.

History is a timeline full of human activities who have various types of relationships among them and whose actions influence one another. Therefore, hierarchy, authority, power, and normativity are crucial in order to understand historical processes. [7]

2.1.2. The Three Major Phases of Linguistic Changes in the UAE

The foundation phase or the commencement of English in the UAE lasted from 1809 until 1966 [1, 6]. The UAE and Britain have bonds for over 220 years. Prior to the nineteenth century, British sole interest in the Gulf was the port of Muscat. Nevertheless, such fact changed when British Indian shipping was threatened by Arabs of the lower Gulf in 1797 [8]. In 1809 and 1819 Britain sent expeditions to a few Qasimi ports (in the areas of Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah, two of the Emirates which comprise the UAE), this can be viewed as the first linguistic phase [6], or the ‘foundation phase’ when dwellers had their first contacts with English. The bonds the UAE have with England lengthened when in 1820 England imposed the General Treaty against piracy which resulted in an area known as “The Trucial States”1 , which comprises nowadays the UAE [1,8]. Not only did the British protect the coast and land in the event of an assault, but it also accepted accountability for the safeguard of other Gulf countries: Oman in 1829, Bahrain in 1861, Kuwait in 1889 and Qatar in 1916 [8]. Britain accepted the role of protector, and the rulers honored their duties and commitments as protégés. Two further treaties in 1888 and in 1892, including the Treaty of Perpetual Maritime Peace, signed in 1853, reaffirmed Britain’s role as a protector. In the early 1930s the first oil company groups explored the geology in the UAE. Such discovery contributed to Britain’s decision to continue in the Gulf after its withdrawal from India in 1947 [1, 8]. Subsequent to the Second World War, all the oil companies set up in the Trucial States were British-possessed. The British Government urged the Gulf rulers to invest their surplus oil income in Britain. British aircraft was connected to the Gulf to protect the latter. Imperial Airways (now British Airways) and the RAF (Royal Air Force) had bases in Sharjah (UAE). In 1941 the British post organization was inaugurated in Dubai (Figure 1). From 1948 on, all mail posted from the Trucial States utilized British stamps depicting the British monarch as we can see in Figure 2 below:


Figure 1. Picture of a Mailbox in Dubai, the Figure 2. Trucial States Stamps on an red color of the British mailing is still kept. envelope of a letter to England.

During the 50s the Egyptians began to advance Arabic music, movies, writing and papers with an end goal to build Egyptian impact among the Gulf, they additionally sent educators to the area. The National Front of Dubai was established in 1953 to stop the colonialism [8]. Rules and British officials came under mounting criticism from anti-colonialists around the globe, therefore, the British government chose to give more independence to the rulers, who, nonetheless, dreaded the vulnerability that autonomy would cause.

From 1966 to 2004, we have the second phase, or the exonormative stabilization [6], when English became the bureaucratic and schooling language. Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan came to control in Abud Dhabi in 1966 and started to govern the Trucial States. The British pulled out the entirety of their Troops; in any case, the British pilgrims didn't leave the region. Hundreds of the native population found high-ranking employment in the UAE. Basically, each of the main directors of public works, education, medical services were Britons, and the military unit were led by British officials. British engineers and architects designed all the bridges, buildings, and facilities as cities in the Gulf developed whereas the British Council developed secondary education in most Gulf shaikhdoms and provided college grants for hundreds of Gulf students to study in Britain.

On the 2nd of December 1971 the United Arab Emirates was formally settled. British Prime Minister Edward Heath took two main actions to ensure the protection of the Gulf after the withdrawal. First, he established a group to study the problem of defense in the area. This group recommended that America be encouraged to expand its military presence in the Indian Ocean. Second, he provided defense by supplying British commanders to assist with military training and command. Hundreds of Britons were still in charge of the UAE's police, airports, hospitals, and freshly established army. Many people still live there now. The UAE government recruited 172 British loan service officers in 1988 [8]. "The British community rose from a few thousand at the time of independence to over one hundred thousand," as per Boyle [9]. English became the country's lingua franca, with English being used in the oil and gas sector, aviation, shipping, and commerce. It was also the language of the South Asian migrant worker, who made up a sizable portion of the population. For the indigenous people, English was seen as the language of modernization [10]. As the number of immigrants increased, the Emiratis became an ethnic and linguistic enclave within their own country.

Following the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the percentage of non-Gulf Arabs working in sectors including education, engineering, and medical in the Gulf plummeted from 72 percent in 1975 to 29 percent in 2002. [11]. Since 1990, non-Gulf Arabs have been replaced by professionals from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India, who have accounted for half of the Gulf workforce [11], boosting English usage in the UAE. Emirati Arabic has the imprint of almost a century of treaties with England. Because the Emiratis were unfamiliar with all of the new technology and objects introduced by the Englishmen, they adopted many English words, such as lift, light, glass, cycle (for bicycle), class, finish (meaning to quit or be dismissed from work), and many others, which can be seen in greater detail in section 2.2.2.

The nativization phase, which runs from 2004 till today, is the third and final phase. This time is not yet fully defined because it is still unfolding. According to Karmani [12], the UAE government rushed to modernize and westernize the educational system, leaving behind an archaic educational system based on memorization. This third phase of Schneider's 'dynamic model,' began in 2004 [9] when the Abu Dhabi government began a fast diversification of its economy, including high-tech and heavy industries, nuclear power facilities, and the rise of luxury and cultural tourism. As a result of these developments, the expatriate population grew quickly, from 3.3 million in 2005 to 8.8 million in 2021. [3], which means 88,52% of the total population.

2.2.The influence of English Language in Arabic dialects

Nobody can deny that English has become a worldwide language in recent years. The current English prestige is the result of British colonial expansion at the turn of the nineteenth century and the growth of economic dominance of the United States in the twentieth century. The various reasons for such prestige according to David Crystal [13] are: English is widely regarded as the worldwide business and commerce language; this is a cost-effective argument. English became the language of science for practical and philosophical reasons, such as in academic conferences and technological systems. In addition to satellite television, tourism, and popular music, English is the most widely spoken language in the world. Other languages, Crystal believes, are unable to maintain their values without the influence of English because of these features.

After independence, Arab countries began a process of Arabization in search of an Arab identity. Despite this, due to economic and tourism needs, French and English are still commonly used. These languages are connected with open-mindedness and improved work chances in the Arab world. Even in Tunisia, which was under French domination for 75 years, we can see a preference for English over French in the tourism sector [14]. In Egypt, and particularly in the United Arab Emirates, English is widely spoken. According to the KHDA (Knowledge and Human Development Authority), this might explain why, each year, an increasing number of parents enroll their children in foreign schools in the UAE. In the 2011/2012 academic year, 200,000 Emirati pupils were enrolled in Dubai's private schools[15], this number increased in 2021/2022 to 289,999 students [16]. The majority of these Emiratis attend schools in the United States or the United Kingdom.

Nowadays, we can see an increasing trend in the Arab media to use words, sentences, cartoons, and advertisements in English. The former general secretary of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - Abdel Aziz Al-Twigrii raised the issue of the 'commercial world' corrupting Arabic, particularly among youngsters, during the conference "The Arab Child's Language in the Age of Globalization." [17]. In today's Arab world, young people make up the majority, which might lead to language differences [18]. More than 80% of pupils prefer to read and write in English, according to recent research in Abu Dhabi [19] involving 8th and 9th grade students, parents, and instructors. When it comes to expressing their feelings, half of the students indicated they found it simpler to do so in English. When it came to the internet, 98,6% of the students expressed their preferences to the English language. Arabic was only dominant with regard to the language students used to talk with their friends (54%) and the language used when talking to family members (90.7%). A similar study [1] with 25 children, aged from 8 to 11 and their parents indicated that 96 % of the children prefer to read in English rather than in MSA. However, when these children were introduced to the same book in Emirati Arabic, the majority preferred the Emirati version over the MSA one. Nevertheless, MSA is perceived as the language of the educated society. The Koran is only valid in the language of its revelation, which is MSA. Muslims would not accept alteration of the sacred book; not even Arabic dialects influence the language of the holy book. As a result, literary Arabic serves as both an identity for the Arab world and a means of conserving the classical language. Furthermore, research conducted by Kennetz & Carroll [20] on Emiratis' interactions with their families indicated that Arabic is the preferred language for communicating with their parents. Husbands and wives also preferred to converse in Arabic. However, 13% reported that they spoke in a combination of Arabic and English. This might be because the legislation allows Emirati men to marry women from any country, thus not every Emirati man is married to an Emirati woman. Emirati women, on the other hand, do lose their nationality if they marry a non-Emirati. As regards siblings, 15% utilize a combination of Arabic and English to interact with one another, while the remainder use only Emirati Arabic. The usage of English and Arabic by parents and their children has increased by 33%; this may be owing to the expanding use of English in primary and secondary schools, resulting in students bringing home assignments in English, or due to children's television programming and English speaking maids hired by the family.

2.2.1. Code-switching and Arabic lexical items in English

The alternating or mixed usage of two or more languages within the same discourse is known as code-switching, which is a quite typical occurrence among Emiratis. When they speak Emirati Arabic and utilize English terms, as well as when they speak English and employ Arabic lexical elements. The latter will be the topic of this chapter. This language process occurs for a variety of reasons. One of them might be due to a lack of English counterparts, or it could represent the speaker's emotional attachment to the L1, in this case Arabic. Wallah, in sha' Allah, and ma Sha' Allah are three common expressions found not just in Emirati Arabic but also in Arabic in general [21]. Examine the following three lexical elements in sentences:

Wallah, she did not let on our secret.

The usage of the word "wallah" rather than "I swear to God." This code-switching can be explained by the speaker's emotional attachment to Allah, the Koran's God; it is not the same to say Lord or God as it is to use the Koran's original word. Muslims would not accept any translations of the holy text.

In sha’ Allah my son will pass his exam tomorrow.

This often used term in the Arab world can be interpreted in two ways. The first is 'God willing,' which literally means 'If God wills,' like in the preceding statement. The second meaning would be the following:

In sha’ Allah I will go to your party on the weekend.

In sha’ Allah is also a very polite way to decline in the Arab culture. As a result, if you propose something to an Arab and he responds in sha’ Allah, there is a good probability that he will not do what he is stating.

Ma sha’ Allah your new house is amazingl!

Instead of explaining this exceedingly sophisticated Arabic term, which is best translated as "God has willed it," ma sha' Allah is used. Ma sha' Allah is a phrase to show gratitude and to ward off the evil eye. As a result, our phrase would read: Wow, congratations! I'm not giving you the evil eye because your new house is beautiful. By the presence of Allah, we may infer both fondness for the L1 and language economy, as the phrase in Arabic is far briefer than in English. In the Emirates, we must utilize ma sha' Allah at the beginning or conclusion of every phrase when praising someone or anything they own. In comparison, this term is not as popular in Morocco as it is in the United States.

Code-switching is also influenced by socioeconomic status and national identity. When discussing religion, the economics, or politics, educated speakers prefer to use more formal terminology. Another sociolinguistic rationale for code switching is to create a sense of community [22]. To emphasize or clarify an utterance, Arab speakers in Jordan frequently switch to English. Even if a non-Arab individual is an excellent Arabic speaker, the Arab speaker shifts to English to ensure that he is understood or to win respect from the non-Arab interlocutor [23]. Our research, on the other hand, focuses on interactions among Emiratis or Emiratis interacting with other Arabic speakers (see, Appendix C).

2.2.2. English lexical items in Emirati Arabic

When an Emirati uses technology terminology, they are often used in English; for instance, the mobile phone charger, instead of the Arabic counterpart,شاحن (shaa7in), because when he goes to any mobile phone store, he will most likely have to express himself in English. iPhone and Samsung stores, supermarkets, restaurants, and banners are all in English in Dubai Mall, the Mall of the Emirates (Dubai) and the Mall of Abu Dhabi [1]; we can hardly find any staff members who speak Arabic in any shopping malls.

There has been a surge in the use of English vocabulary and verbs in Emirati Arabic as a result of technology and the use of English as a lingua franca in large cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. All of the terms listed below are regularly used in Emirati Arabic:

Glass, good luck, pen drive, charger, already, online, yes, same, business, nice, hi , gym, bye, tour, private and metro among others.

As we can see in the extract below for beginners of Emirati dialect book of AlRamsa institute:

مريم: اوكي، يالله نسير الفود كورت بعد الاجتماع على طول

Maryam: okay, yalla neseer al food court b3ad el ejtema3 3alla tool.

Maryam: Okay, Let’s go to food court immediately after the meeting.

The following verbs are typically used in Emirati Arabic. They maintain the identical rules of conjugation as verbs in MSA.

to cancel / to check / to download / to park / to finish (with the meaning of quitting a job or being fired)

For instance: Ana abark huni. I park here. We have the prefix a- (from abark) which is used for the first person singular present for any Arabic verb. Depending on the speaker, he will pronounce abark, as there is no letter p in Arabic and Arabs use b instead; other speakers with better knowledge in English would pronounce apark.

There are also English words that deal with mechanical matters borrowed through an Indian tongue and hence modified to suit the Arabic pronunciation e.g. words such as “draywel” is a modified pronunciation of the English word “driver”; “motar”, which means “car”, is a modified pronunciation of the English word “motor” [24].

2.3. The initial school system in the UAE

The Al Tatweerya School in Sharjah was the first formal school in the United Arab Emirates, and it was followed by the Al-Ahmadiya School (1012) in Dubai in 1907. [25 , 26]. This type of education was heavily impacted by Arabian reforms, which stressed Islamic and Arabic identity as the nation's essential values, hence it placed a great priority on teaching the Quran, Hadith, and Arabic language commitment. Staff for these new schools was brought from other Arab nations that had been occupied by the British – either directly or indirectly- such as Egypt, Palestine, and Jordan. [27]; our research might back up this claim, as more than 90% of the alumni participants claimed to have had Egyptian English professors, with a handful from Palestine and Jordan (see Appendix B); these findings are consistent with Onley, [5].

Al Qassemia Reformation School in Sharjah was the first to establish a female department in 1955. In the same year, the British government opened Sharjah's first comprehensive Western-style curriculum school. Schools were also constructed by the British administration in Abu Dhabi, Ras al Khaymah, and Khawr Fakkan. All of the British-established institutions were technical schools with the goal of teaching learners fundamental agricultural and industrial skills. The first aged educational center for illiterate male elders was established in 1956 with the goal of providing them with adequate opportunity to study and deal with the changing world. [28]

2.3.1. The modern school system in the Emirates

Sheikh Rashid, the ruler of Dubai, founded the Education Department in 1958, a move that shifted the power of information distribution away from affluent merchants who funded earlier institutions and toward state-sponsored schools. By 1960, the number of schools did not exceed 20, and the total number of pupils was believed to be around 4000 [29]. The 1970s saw a shift from fishing, pearling, and agriculture to global oil export. Shaikh Zayed's objective was to invest on health and education. When the current Emirati Ministry of Education was founded in the 1970s, English was first included in the national curriculum, according to Davidson [25], in Grade 7. The ministry's main objective was to expand the number of schools and pupils in a quantifiable way. For UAE natives, education has been made obligatory in the elementary stage and is free at all levels. English was introduced in Grade 4 in the 1980s and Grade 1 in the 1990s. [30]. In the 1980s, the following national curriculum was created:

Table 2.4.

Education School /level Grade from Grade to Age from Age to total years Certificate granted
Primary Primary School 1 5 6 12 5  
Middle Preparatory 6 9 12 15 4  
Secondary Secondary 10 12 16 18 3

Secondary School

Leaving Certificate


Technical Secondary


10   12 18 6

Technical Secondary






One of the UAE's top concerns is education. "The best use of wealth is to invest it in raising generations of educated and skilled individuals." (Founder of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan) Adult literacy rates were 69.5% in 1975, however they are currently close to 95% for both genders. There were few official schools in the nation in 1952. A school construction initiative in the 1960s and 1970s helped to extend the educational system. Better preparation, more accountability, higher standards, and enhanced professionalism are all part of education reform. Approximately 803 thousand students were enrolled in 1,174 public and private primary and secondary schools in the 2013-2014 academic year; this number climbed to 905 thousand pupils in 2019-2020 [31]. In addition, rote instruction is being replaced with more interactive forms of learning, and English-language education is being integrated into other subjects, such as math and science. [32]

The Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), the Dubai Education Council (DEC) and the UAE Ministry of Education (MOE) are each tasked with education reform, while preserving local traditions, principles, and the cultural identity of the UAE. One of our main objectives is to analyze how this new generation of high school students differs linguistically from the generation who went to high school 20 – 32 years ago.

In 2017, Ministry of Education (MoE) introduced the national-level Emirates Standardized Test (EmSAT) [33] test to measure pupils’ knowledge of Arabic, English, Maths and Science. EmSAT includes three types of tests:

- Baseline test: This test measures students’ skills and knowledge required for Grade 1.

- Advantage test: This test tracks the development of students in Grades 4, 6, 8 and 10 during their general education.

- Achieve test: This test assesses the knowledge and skills of students in Grade 12 as they finish their general education and pursue higher education. This test is vital for college admission and placement. Since October 2019 besides measuring students’ knowledge of Arabic, English, Maths and Science, students are also being tested in Biology and Computer science.

EmSAT takes the role of Common Educational Proficiency Assessment (CEPA) which all state school learners in Grade 12 were required to take as a prerequisite to entering public universities or colleges in the UAE or receiving government scholarships to study abroad.

The Madares Al-Ghad (Schools of the Future) were founded in 2007 in response to PISA findings that showed the UAE falling short of international standards [34]. The Madares Al-Ghad were established to encourage the use of English as a medium of teaching in mathematics and science, as well as in English [27].

Regarding the triennial PISA test [35], the Emirates in 2018 performed better than in 2015 taking position 46th out of 77 countries. The UAE government’s aim is to be among the top 20 countries on PISA scores by 2022, when the next cycle of the assessments is taking place. The government had set the selfsame goal for 2018. Nevertheless, it was not achieved. Despite the dismal performance of the Emirates in the PISA ranking, they hold the best position among the Arabic countries. Moreover, in PISA 2018 most private schools were meeting the target while public schools were falling short [36].

2.3.3. Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), a solution to big cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the Emirates?

Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is a term created in 1994 by David Marsh and Anne Maljers (Johnson & Swain, 1997) also known as language immersion or content-based instruction. CLIL is an approach that teaches content through an additional language (foreign or second), thus teaching both the subject and the language. The idea of its proponents was to create concepts which encompasses different forms of using language as medium of instruction.

CLIL is founded on methodological concepts developed via "language immersion" research. Language immersion is a technique of teaching a second language that employs the target language (or L2) as the medium of instruction. Language immersion, unlike more conventional language courses, employs the target language as a teaching tool: it immerses learners in the second language. The L2 is used for in-class activities such as math, science, social studies, and history, as well as outside-of-class activities such as meals or everyday work [37]. Immersion programs today are modeled after those established in Canada in the 1960s, when middle-class English-speaking parents persuaded educators to launch an experimental French immersion program which allowed their children to learn about the customs and culture of both French and English-speaking Canadians The European Commission has recognized CLIL as a fundamental method because it can give effective chances for learners to employ their new language abilities right away rather than learning them for later use. It opens access to languages for a wider spectrum of students, fostering self-confidence in young students and those who have struggled with formal language training in general education. It gives students exposure to the language without requiring additional time in the classroom, which is useful in vocational contexts. As a result, the European Commission has resolved to boost teacher training in order to improve the teaching of non-linguistic subjects in foreign languages. We believe that before this massive implementation of international schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the Ministry of Education should have considered immersions in Arabic, to promote its culture and to unite expats and autochthonous people. We found out that with the only two-hour Arabic classes per week, expats are not able to keep a conversation in Arabic with natives. Both because these classes are grammar focus (there is seldom oral practice) and because they learn Modern Standard Arabic and Emiratis speak Emirati Arabic.

2.3.4. Varieties of School

The goal of Koranic education is to memorize the whole Koran. The infant first listens to the Koran being read aloud and memorizes a few passages before being taught the Arabic alphabet. The primary curriculum in the initial years of school is straightforward: pupils must learn to read and write in the sacred text's language. This is the most frequent form of school in Arab nations. It was as well as the most prominent in the United Arab Emirates until the nativization phase, which started in 2004. The UAE government modernized and westernized the educational system, leaving behind an archaic educational system based on memorization [12]. Not just the Emirates, but the Arab world as a whole, begins teaching the Koran to children as young as six years old in primary school. Arab children learn classical Arabic from their sacred book till they graduate from high school. Despite the fact that private schools include both Arabic and Islamic studies in their curriculum, the Ministry of Education states that pupils are only obligated to attend Arabic classes, with non-Muslims having the option to skip Islamic Studies. The federal Ministry of Education must authorize the instructor before he or she may teach Islamic Studies.

The contemporary secular school has begun to accept all acquired knowledge equally, rather than focusing on religious texts. There formed a group of teachers who were selected based on their academic abilities rather than their moral character. However, the distinction between traditional and secular schools should not be drawn too broadly: not all traditional institutions were religious, and many secular schools had religious leanings.

In today's educational environment, the relative value of interpersonal intelligence has been reduced: one's ability to recognize the other as an individual, one's ability to create a tight bond with a single mentor. Intrapersonal abilities, on the other hand, are always improving as the individual is responsible for his own studies [38].

2.3.5. Multiple Intelligences in the UAE

Not much literature has been written in the UAE concerning MI. A study [39] revealed that from the 125 participants, students with learning difficulties from learning institutions in the United Arab Emirates, only 10% of them considered themselves as naturalist, musical, mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal, and visual in intelligence. And only 9.84% and 9.76% considered themselves as interpersonal and linguistic in intelligence. The researchers attribute this lack of MI in the UAE is due to the traditional educational system: lack of instructional materials, poor teaching. A draw back from this study is that they only analyzed students, leaving aside teachers’ participation.

3. Participants

Part 1 (students and alumni to assess high schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi)

In order to analyze English words and verbs used in Emirati Arabic; as well as their occurrences in light of age and gender, two important social variables related to linguistic behavior [1, 40]. The type of school (public or private) was also taken into consideration. Participants to all groups were selected randomly.

100 alumni (from 38 to 50 years old), from now on mentioned as alumni group, from Dubai and Abu Dhabi were chosen at random to answer a twenty-eight-question questionnaire whose objective was to find out how Multiple Intelligences assessments, homework, English and Arabic classes used to be dealt with in Emirati schools. 91 alumni attended public schools. 53 were female and 47 were male.

100 students from High Schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, aged 17 and 18, from now on high-schoolers, were chosen randomly to complete a twenty-two-question questionnaire whose objective was to find out how Multiple Intelligences, assessments, homework, English, and Arabic classes are dealt with in these institutions. 78 students attended private schools, these schools were British, American, or koranic. 22 participants belonged to public schools. 43 were female and 57 were male students.

Regarding the interference of English in Emirati Arabic, a total of 150 participants aged 18 to 64. Some participants were the same from alumni and high-school groups above. Their occupations are teachers, students, book publisher, bank tellers, one restaurant owner, policemen and one governmental worker. 50 participants comprised the younger group, aged 18 to 20, all of whom when to private schools (British, American and Arabic private schools). Other 50 participants were aged from 38 to 41 years old, comprised the middle-aged group, all of whom went to public school. And finally, 50 participants aged from 64 to 66, comprised the eldest group.

4. Results and Discussion

The following figures present key findings of the questionnaires for high-school students and alumni (see Appendix A and B).

a. Instructions in English and book-centered classes (questions 1 to 3)

Figure 1.

AS evidenced by Figure 1., twenty years ago no schools had subjects in English. We should keep in mind that the idea of CLIL, originated from the Content-based instruction in 1989 and is relatively new. Therefore, classes in Emirati high schools had instructions exclusively in Arabic. There was a changeover from Arabic to English instruction in high schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as only 23% of the students in the high-school group still have all content subjects in Arabic. Emirati students of British and American schools have all their school subjects taught in English, for instance chemistry, geography, maths, history, PE; except for Arabic Language and Culture, these classes were solely in Arabic and ranged from 5 (British school) to a maximum of 6 hours per week.

With regard to the types of activities in the classroom, all male participants from the alumni group answered that the classes were solely book centered. When it came to the female students, however, we found out that 13 women (24,5% of the female alumni) had songs in their classrooms, and one mentioned performing in a play that the students themselves made. In the high-school group, however, we found an increase in creative activities: 30 boys (52,6% of all male high-school participants) had some sort of non-book-centered tasks: 12 boys had songs in their classrooms to learn English, 24 watched videos related to the themes they were studying, 11 boys also mentioned games either just for fun or to learn content. When it came to the female students, 100% of them had some time of non-book-centered activities: 15 had songs, 13 had games and 29 watched videos in the classroom related to the content being studying.

Concerning question number three “If your teacher tried to help you with the use of dance, songs, drama, games, creative writings, and workshops, did you like it?”, all the participants said to enjoy learning through these means as they were more fun, they were able to interact with the classmates and they could do something that was not in the books.

b. Participants’ hobbies and their usage in the classroom to stimulate learning (questions 4 and 5)

Figure 2.

As we can observe in Figure 2, which deals with students hobbies, sports, and instruments or participants interest in dance; we found out the women in the alumni group are more active than men: 26 ladies (49% of them) either go to the gym, have belly dance classes or while only 17 men (36% of male alumni) play the guitar, go to the gym, play soccer and two of them play the piano (when asked how proficient they were, the two alumni said that they could play simple songs like “happy birthday to you”). High schoolers are more engaged into sports and hobbies and besides, these activities are more varied than in the alumni group. We have now 40 girls who play the guitar, go to the gym, have belly dance classes, go skiing (in the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai), have piano lessons. While 43 boys are into horse-riding, playing soccer, playing the guitar and into car racing in the desert.

c. Employment of students’ hobby to stimulate the class and students’ views toward this practice (questions 5 and 6)

Figure 3.

As the graphic in Figure 3. shows 100% of the alumni did not have their hobbies used in the classroom as a stimulus for the different types of intelligences proposed by the MI theory, while in the high-school group only two male students and three females said they had their hobbies were present in the classroom, which were allusions to the songs used in the classroom by the teachers. We found out that 90% of the alumni wouldn’t like to learn through their hobbies and even they even made some remark: school is a place to learn, not to play; it would be distractive to learn through a hobby; it is not a good idea. In the high-school group there was a bit more of acceptance to MI-like activities and 35% of the participants said that they would like to go through the experience of learning content through their hobbies.

Regarding the evaluation system, all high-school students from private schools were assessed on a daily basis, had to present projects and many participants also mentioned behavior played a role in their final grade. However, behavior and presence in class were the factors which influenced the grade apart from the exams among high-school students from the public schools. One very peculiar finding is that all interviewees from both groups were satisfied with the evaluation system, regardless of their age or sex.

Figure 4.

With regard to the location of the classes in Figure 4., all alumni reported having classes exclusively in the classroom and 98% of them would have enjoyed classes outside the classroom. On the other hand, over 90% high-school students reported having classes outside the classroom, in places such has museums, chemistry labs, theater. They enjoy these activities as they interact more with other students and teachers and / or they are not stuck in a rut.

Figure 5.

Homework has also changed in the last twenty years in the UAE as we can observe in figure 5. All the alumni answered that their homework was always boring and done individually compared to the high-school students who said that the assigned homework was sometimes boring; some pieces, however, were described as interesting - when they had to work in projects, for instance - and it was not always done individually. The sources used to do the homework have also changed, it went from using only books in the case of the alumni to the addition of Internet and interviews. Both groups reported having their homework checked by the teachers. As shown in Figure 5.5., all alumni said that not doing the homework affected their grades as it was part of their good behavior whereas more than 80% of the high schoolers said that it did not affect their grades at all.

Figure 6.

With reference to Arabic proficiency of non-Arab students shown in Figure 6., all high-schoolers report their level as not being sufficient to keep up a conversation in Arabic, therefore they always communicate with expats students in English, whereas more than 85% of the alumni did not have expats in their classrooms, that is, the communication was fully in Arabic. Nevertheless, the remaining 25% of alumni who had expat classmates agreed that they did not have the level to keep up a conversation in Arabic. Both alumni and high-schoolers agreed that expats need to have more hours of Arabic at school.

Concerning English teachers, all alumni report having Arab instructors of English, mostly from Egypt but also from Palestine and Jordan; whereas high-schoolers had a 56% of non-natives English instructors from the aforementioned countries and as well as instructors from the Emirates and a 44% of English native speakers. Apart from the English lessons some high schoolers also had some or all subjects in English, except for Arabic language.

G. Pronunciation in the classroom

Figure 7. Pronunciation in the classroom

Figure 7. regards how pronunciation was delt with in the classroom. Although 4% of the alumni, all of whom female, said that their pronunciation was always corrected, they confess their Arabic teacher having a “strong Arabic accent” and that nowadays they even realize some words were mispronounced by the teachers. The remaining alumni said that the focus was on learning grammar and vocabulary, not on pronunciation. Let us not forget that all these teachers were Arabs.

Regarding highschoolers, 68% of them were always corrected, 17% sometimes corrected and only 15% were never corrected. What is also interesting is that not only did teachers corrected their pronunciation orally, but also using fingers to show the stressed syllable or writing the transliteration of the word on the board. Fours students from the same classroom reported that their teacher also gave them dictations with words students had difficulty identifying.

H. Number of hours of Modern standard Arabic at High School

Figure 8. The number of hours of MSA teaching sufficed

As figure 8 shows, all highschoolers agree that the number of hours taught nowadays are not enough for them to communicate with confidence. There are around 2 hours and a half of MSA instruction in American and British schools (usually daily sessions of 30 minutes) or 3 hours and twenty minutes in private koranic schools (40 minutes every day). Alumni, however had around five hours of MSA instruction and all the subjects were taught in Arabic, therefore, 64% of the alumni considered it enough for them to communicate in MSA. Furthermore, Alumni used to start English classes at the age of 8 and nowadays Emiratis start between the ages of 4 and 6. Regarding the highschoolers in our study, 22% started as early as 4 but most of them 57% at the age of 6; and 21% at the age of 7.

Regarding the remaining questions, they were exclusively for the alumni in an attempt to shed light through their perceptions and experience on how was schooling back then compared to the present and which aspects have changed positively or not.

As regards the type of schools available in the past, public (free of charge) or private, and the educational level they provided, one participant aged 50 reported that at that time primary education was already compulsory for her, she finished primary school almost 40 years ago; boys and girls went to single-sex public schools, which were a minority at that time and to mixed private schools (but classrooms were separated according to sex), she explained that it was not true for her parents: “My father says that he mostly read the Quran in class, classes started at 6 am and finished at 12, apart from the Quran he was taught some words in English and a little maths; they had only one teacher, usually from Jordan, Palestine, or Egypt. They learnt in small groups and students sometimes did not know their full names. Regarding participants that are 38 years old, the reality of single-sex school did not change; they had 5 hours of English classes per week. There were only 2 semesters, and at the end of the second semester students were examined to the whole year. it was harder to pass. Nowadays they have 3 terms, once they pass the term, they don’t repeat those subjects anymore. One complaint was that there was only one break for the entire day. Nowadays learners have 2 or 3. Alumni had only sandwiches and juices available which they had to buy during the single break . Alumni also pointed out that students have more content nowadays. In the secondary nowadays they can select the area they want to study, alumni had only two options. Also, alumni had classes 6 days a week. At present they have classes 5 days per week. Also, all the subjects were in Arabic plus 3 hours of Fusha per week.

In terms of the issues that most graduates encountered at the time, alumni indicate that transportation was not an issue because there were enough schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and buses to bring children to school, with 30 students per class. There were only two semesters, and students were assessed for the entire year at the end of the second semester. It was more difficult to pass. They now have three terms, after which they do not have to repeat those courses. The fact that there was just one break for the entire day was one of the complaints. Nowadays, students have two or three options. Only sandwiches and juices were provided to alumni, which they had to purchase during the solitary break. They also mentioned that nowadays students have more content. In secondary school, students may now choose the field they wish to study, while previously had just two possibilities. Alumni also had courses six days a week, with all topics taught in Arabic and three hours of Fusha.

Several male alumni said that bullying existed at the time, but that after students complained, the school management took strong action. "They attempted to beat you, scare you to buy them food, but the school would issue them warnings, and sometimes parents would hit their kids when they found out they were bullying," said one student who had failed the school year. Bullies nowadays are given a warning and a grade reduction if they are discovered to be bullies."

5.1. Interference of English Words in Emirati Arabic

Participants were asked to answer questionnaire C (see Appendix) which contains thirty four English words (four of them were pictures without the written word) that are usually found in Emirati Arabic. In order to better visualize the results, we divided the data into two graphs. Let us analyze first Figure 1. which deals with many words that have been used for decades in the UAE:

Figure 9. Words in English that are always or almost always used in Emirati Arabic

In Figure 9 we can identify words that are used by the three groups. The word light, for instance, is a word that has been in the UAE since 1957 [41] . When our eldest participants were 1 year old. Fourteen years prior to the foundation of the country the word light was already in vogue, Emirati Arabic never adopted the word Dauu’, its equivalent in MSA. Another word that has been for decades in the UAE is the word same, which is used almost 100% of the times by participants of the three generations. However, while the youngest group use “same” 80% and 20% almost always, in the group aged 38 to 41 only three girls (6%) reported always using the word same, 84% almost always use it and 4% never use it. In the eldest group, 16% always use it and 84% almost always. Regarding the words milk shake, and Wi-Fi, most participants in the 3 groups do not know their equivalent in Arabic.

10% of the youngest participants (all of them girls) reported always using the word good luck, 80% said that they almost always employ it. 10% (mostly boys) rarely use it and prefer the Arabic form bi talfiq. The word “good luck” in the group aged 38 to 41 is rarely used by most participants (80%), while 12% always use it, and 8% never use it (all of them over 38). The word good luck is not used at all in the eldest group.

96% of the youngest participants as well as participants aged from 38 to 41 use the word coat abyad (white coat) to refer to the doctor’s white coat. The exceptions were two male participants: a 38-year-old man who works for the government and reported that he uses this word purely in MSA; he lives in Sharjah (which has fewer English-speaking immigrants comparted to Dubai and Abu Dhabi) and works in Dubai. The other participant, a 41-year-old man, lives in Abu Dhabi, but grew up in Al-Ain, where more than 35% of the population consists of Emiratis. 3% of the participants confessed not knowing how to call it in MSA. Regarding the eldest participants 82% also make use of the English word coat, which shows that English words have been part of Emirati Arabic for decades.

As regards the word glass, it is interesting because 100% of the youngest and the eldest group use it all the time in English, while two male participants from the group aged 38-41 only rarely use it, alternating glass with the word in MSA.

The word charger, which is relative modern concept as mobiles were introduced in the Emirates in autumn 1987 [42], the word is always used in English by the three groups. However, the only group that does not always use it is the group aged 38 to 41, in which 2 participants sometimes mix it with the MSA word shaa7in.

Figure 10. Words in English that are always or almost always used in Emirati Arabic

As we can see in Figure 10, with regard to the participants aged 18 to 20, totalizing 50 young Emiratis, all of them also always use the English words to cancel, to download, password, gym, check, when talking in Emirati Arabic, and 98% use the word “already”, only one teenager from Abu Dhabi reported that he rarely uses this word. This participant belongs to a high social class. When asked to make a sentence with already, participants came up with the following sentences: Already sharabt mai. (Literally: already drank water), Mohamed already kilt. (Literally: Mohamed already ate).

94% of the youngest group always use the word business and the remaining 6% (all boys) employ indistinctly “business” and the Arabic word tijara. 92% always say the word class, and 8% alternate it with the Arabic word dars. The word has less prestige among participants aged 38 to 41 and it is not used at all by the eldest participants. We can infer that class is a word that has been inserted in Emirati Arabic in the second linguistic phase [6] and it did not affect the eldest group.

82% of the young participants always use the word free and 18% use it sometimes, alternating free with the Gulf equivalent word bi balash ببلاش (free), none of them said to use the Modern Standard word “majana”.

The word “lift” is popular among this group: 82% use it all the time and 18% sometimes use it, alternating it with the Modern Standard Arabic word miS3ad. As regards the word “yes” 62% almost always and 26% always employ it, totalizing 88%; the remaining participants use both yes and heeh, the Emirati word for “yes”.

This group came out with the following extra English words when they speak Arabic, the number in parenthesis indicates the number of participants who mentioned the word: telephone (14), so (10), coffee كوفي (10) (for both the drink and the café), GPS جي بي اس (4), location لوكيشن (5), hi هاي (4 girls and 1 boy), playstation (4 boys); thanks ثانكس (4 girls and 1 boy), businessman (3),mobile (3 girls), tour تور (2 girls), thank you (2 girls), cheesecake (2), chocolate (2) laptop اللابتوب (2), cartoon كارتون (1 boy) my mobile (moubaili) (1 girl); one female interviewee mentioned the following make-up vocabulary: base, lipstick, glitter, highlighter, make-up.

Concerning participants from 38 to 41 years old. The word “already” is almost always used among 52% of the participants and always used by 4 participants totalizing 60% of this group. 10% sometimes use it and 30% (15 participants over 38) rarely or never use it.

The word “yes” has less prestige in this group only 2 female participants said to always use it. 70% confessed to almost always using it , but also using the word hee and 26% reported sometimes or rarely using the English word. The verbs cancel and check are also less used in this group: two fifths always use them (all of them under 38), 58% sometimes. The participant who lives in Sharjah and works for the government was the only one who reported not employing the verb cancel when speaking Arabic. The verb download loses its omnipresence compared to the younger participants, in this age group only 60% always employ it, 30% sometimes use this verb in English and 10% (5 men over 36) always use it in Arabic (nazala). The word “business” is also very much used among this age range 78% always employ it, 18% sometimes make use of it and only 4% (2 males over 30) never use it. The word “class” is still very much used in this group, 68% confessed always making use of it, 24% sometimes use it and 8% (mostly males) never use it.

80% always make use of the word “free” while 10% sometimes use it and 5 men confessed never employing it. The word “password” is always employed by 92% of the participants in this age group. Only one interviewee said that she sometimes uses it, and 3 men reported never using the English word. Although the word “gym” is also in vogue among this age group, it lost its unanimity and it represents 80% of participants who always employ this word, 12% sometimes make use of it and 4 men always use the Arabic word Sala or Sala riaDia (literally room or sports room respectively).

Finally, the word lift is always employed by 82% of participants, 8% sometimes alterne it with the Arabic word or the French word ascenseur and 4 men and 1 woman reported always using the Arabic word MiS3ad.

These participants also reported using the following English words when speaking Arabic: phone (7), cycle (for bicycle) (2), lab (2); the following words were mentioned only once: so, scan, smart phone, application, hard disc, wire, dress (the army uniform), brake, bonnet, project, bus, spray, cafeteria, canteen, freezer (pronounced /freizer/ and projector. One female participant reported often using the words and phrases: you know, I think, sometimes and novel.

We can infer that “already”, “yes”, “cancel”, “check” and “nice”, for instance, were more recently inserted into Emirati Arabic, as no participants in the eldest group uses it. In addition, the youngest group uses these words more frequently than the middle aged one, which shows a tendency of adding more and more English words to Emirati Arabic.

The eldest participants were born between 1956 and 1958, that is, over a quinquennial before the second linguistic phase or ‘exonormative stabilization’ (1966-2004) when English started being the bureaucratic and schooling language. These participants do not use words such as already, business, gym, password, lift, class nor the verbs, cancel and check. We can infer that the change from a pure Arabic curriculum to a mixed one was gradual and did not affect the eldest participants as much as the participants aged from 38 to 41 who were born between 1981 and 1983 and who graduated at the end of the second phase and developed a new lexicon full of anglicisms. Let us not forget that English spread outside the school as expats communicate in English and the population of expat workers in 1995 was fifteen times larger than in 1965 [1].

One participant in the eldest group said that she also uses the English words tank and condition (for air conditioning) when she is conversing in Emirati Arabic.

Let us not forget that the graph represents exclusively the words that are always or almost always used in Emirati Arabic. Many participants aged 38 to 41, however, answered that they sometimes use the words download, cancel, check, sorry, nice and enjoy. This means that these words are becoming more and more fashionable.


Our study tried to shed light on the linguistic influence of English on Emirati Arabic and how differently elder Emiratis and teenagers speak Emirati Arabic. We will also conjecture if such influence is detrimental to the endurance of Arabic in the UAE. Let us start by summarizing the role of MI in the UAE.

Our research looked at high school students and alumni and discovered that multiple intelligences are still in their early stages in the Emirates. Despite the fact that just 27% of lessons presently are book-centered, MI activities do not extend beyond studying music for enjoyment or practicing English.

In terms of interest, 90% of alumni are dubious of or opposed to learning content through their hobbies (dance, poetry, playing an instrument) or through a sport they do, and they even expressed negative remarks “it would be distractive to learn through a hobby”, “school is a place to learn, not to play”. As regards highschoolers, just 35% like this idea. Another important finding was that 0% of highschoolers had their hobbies or sports used in the classroom or outside the classroom as a stimulus for the different types of intelligences proposed by MI, this shows that teachers in the UAE may not fully aware of MI. High schoolers now have classes at museums, chemical labs, and theaters, as opposed to alumni, who had 100% of their classes in classroom.

In Dubai and Abu Dhabi, there has been a shift from Arabic to English education in high schools in the last 20 years. Only 23% of high school students have all content topics in Arabic, whereas 20 years ago, all instructions were in Arabic. Homework has evolved from individual written activities to include project planning and online research. One thing that hasn't changed is that both alumni and highschoolers agree that expats do not speak enough Arabic to keep up a conversation. In the case of alumni, only a quarter had contact with expats; therefore, they could talk more in Arabic, whereas 100% of highschoolers only speak to expats in English. It may also reflect all highschoolers' dissatisfaction with the amount of MSA instruction they receive at school: they have less subjects in Arabic, therefore they have to speak more in English. 64% of alumni, however, were satisfied with the amount of MSA instruction they given.

When Emiratis were asked whether they preferred to text their friends in Arabic script, Arabizy or the English language (see, Appendix C), 100% of participants aged over 38 said that they use Arabic script and many mentions that they text using Emirati, in lieu of Modern standard Arabic. Only two male participants said that they sometimes text some foreign words in English, for instance ‘already’, as they do not have this exact word in Arabic. Two female Emiratis also use the word already, but when they text it, they use Arabic characters. More than 90% young participants aged 17 and 18 also said they prefer to text in Emirati and that sometimes they use slang or fashionable words in English. We believe that the fact that Emiratis use Arabic instead of Latin alphabet to text has several advantages, mainly the preservation of the written Arabic and the constant contact with their native language, such phenomenon does not happen in some other Arab countries where mainly teenagers and young adults prefer to text using the Latin alphabet [43]. Our study is partially not in keeping with al-Hussien & Belhiah [19], who report that more than 80% of 8th and 9th grade students in Abu Dhabi prefer to read and write in English, according to recent research in Abu Dhabi involving 8th and 9th grade students. What do students prefer to write in English? School essays, maybe yes, as they have this input mainly in English and they are dissatisfied with their level of MSA. This difference may be due to the fact that the few books that they read in Arabic are written in MSA and not in Emirati Arabic. If books were written in Emirati Arabic instead, or if students were allowed to write in Emirati Arabic, al-Hussien & Belhiah’s results might change, as we could observe in a previous study [44] in which children preferred to read the Little Prince in Emirati Arabic rather than in MSA.

We could observe that many English words are shared among Emiratis due to historical reasons. For instance: light, same, bye, cycle, cafeteria, charger, glass, milkshake, same, and coat abyad (white coat). However, loanwords and verbs have been on the rise in the last four decades as the youngest group and the group aged 38 to 41 use many loanwords that the eldest Emiratis do not. Words such as: sorry, project, phone, nice, the lift, password, gym, already, business, class and yes; and the verbs enjoy and download. However, the youngest group almost always use these words more than the other group. And there are English expressions that are almost exclusively used by the youngsters; for instance: good luck; and the verbs to cancel and check. In other words, the younger the Emirati, the more loanwords he/she uses. We could not observe the opposite, the use of English words used by the eldest group and not by the other two groups.

Such trend of adding more English words to the lexicon of Emirati Arabic reflects five main factors: firstly, the implementation of English teaching by the Emirati government. At first it was introduced in Grade 7 and since the 1990s from Grade 1 [25]. Secondly, the massive immigration that accounts for 90% of the population communicates in English. Thirdly, English-language education was integrated into other subjects, such as math and science. [32] Fourth, Emiratis need to master English in order to have access to university, which is predominantly in English, therefore, many parents prefer to enroll their kids in international schools [27, 44]. And finally, the generation gap factor. This phenomenon was described by Prasad [45], as new generations attempt to distinguish themselves from past generations, they develop new language and slang, allowing one generation to distinguish itself from the preceding ones. This is a clear generation gap that we see every day in the Emirates. Man's most significant symbol is his language, and he defines his world via it.

We have proposed in this article that the interference that English has on Emirati Arabic is not only for historic factors but also for reasons of modernization that the UAE have been carrying out mainly since 2014. Teen students have indicated a strong preference for the use of English in their daily activities. The increase exposure to English rather than Arabic at school, through media and internet, are making students become more competent in the former and less fluent in the latter. Besides, the English curriculum provides a wide range of programs of international certificates, which facilitate students’ access to higher education in universities abroad. We could see that every decade Emirati Arabic borrows more words from English, which makes Emirati Arabic each time more distant from MSA. Therefore, the Emirati government have to be careful so that their project of modernization does not backfire and lead to a generation of Emiratis who will be unwilling / unable to use MSA.

This study presents a few of limitations as well as suggestions to be improved in further research. The first restriction regards the age of Emirati participants, having participants older than 64, for instance, by adding a fourth group aged 75 to 80 would undoubtedly increase the strength of the results. In future studies an increase in the number of English words used by Emiratis – in this study, participants listed many of them as well as other words mentioned in the Historical and Theoretical Overview – would enable to generalize the findings of the study more accurately.

There is no denial that the Gulf countries’ endeavor to achieve global standards of development and to adapt to modernization and globalization makes it adopt English, though not exclusively, as a means of instruction. However, in order to reinforce Arabic language and identity, it is crucial that the students remain attached to their indigenous language by the implementation of a real bilingual system in which English is taught without detriment to Arabic.


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Appendix A. Questionnaire for high-school students

Type of high school:

private school

public (state) school (free of charge)

Grade: _______________________

gender: male female

occupation: __________________

Do you prefer to answer this questionnaire in English or in Emirati Arabic? ____________

1. Do you attend any subjects in English? (for example: Geography, science, Physical Education)

Yes No

1.b. If yes, which subjects do you attend in English? If not, go to question number 2.


1.c. Is it more difficult to understand the subject because it is taught in English?


1.d. How much do you understand the classes in English?

___ 80 – 100% ___ 40 – 60%

___ 60 – 80% ___ less than 40%

2. Does your teacher try to help you by the use of dance, songs, drama, games, creative writings, and workshops or is it just book-centered (the teacher only uses the textbook)?


3. If your teacher tries to help you by the use of dance, songs drama, games, workshops, do you like it?


Explain why you like it or not.


4. Do you do any sports? Do you like to dance? Do you play any instruments?


5. If so, have your teachers ever used your sport, dance, music or hobbies to stimulate you in class?


6. In case you have a hobby (sports, dance, poetry, playing an instrument), would you like to learn difficult subjects through these hobbies?


7. Do you think that your grades (marks) are mostly reflected on your exams or do your teachers evaluate you daily?


8. Are you satisfied with the assessment (evaluation) system?


9. Are all your classes in the classroom or do you sometimes have classes outside the classroom, in a science fair or in the computer lab, for example?


10. Would you like to have (more) classes outside the classroom? (in museums, parks, zoo)




11. Is your homework interesting?


12. Do you usually do your homework in groups or individually?


13. What sources do you use to do your homework? (The Internet, books, magazines, textbooks, television, interviews)


14. Do your teachers check your homework?


15. Does your homework affect your grade?


16. Do you think the non-Arabic speakers from other schools learn enough Arabic to keep a conversation in Arabic?


17. Would you like the schools for the expats should have more hours of Arabic in order to be able to better integrate in the Arab culture?


18. Do you have native teachers in your English classes?


19. Did you learn phonetics in the classroom (how to pronounce the words)?

__ yes, the teacher taught us how to pronounce words, how to articulate each different sound.

___ yes, the teacher corrected our pronunciation if we mispronounced a word.

___ our pronunciation was sometimes corrected.

__ our pronunciation was never corrected.

Other exercises regarding pronunciation___________________________________________

20. How many hours per week do you have of Modern Standard Arabic ? _________

20.a. Do you think they are enough? ________

21. How many hours do you have of English per week? _________

21. a. Do you think they are enough? ________

22. How old were you when you started having English classes?

Appendix _B. Questionnaire for participants from 38 to 50 years old.

Type of school graduated from (when you were about 18 years old):

private high school

public /state high school (free of charge)

gender: male female

occupation: ________________

Do you prefer to answer this questionnaire in English or in Emirati Arabic? ____________

1. Did you use to attend any subjects in English? (for example: Geography, science, Physical Education)

Yes No

1.b.If yes, which subjects did you attend in English? If not, go to question number 2.


1.c. Was it more difficult to understand the subject because it is taught in English?


1.d. How much did you use to understand the classes in English?

___ 80 – 100% ___ 40 – 60%

___ 60 – 80% ___ less than 40%

2. Did your teacher try to help you by the use of dance, songs, drama, games, creative writings, and workshops or is it just book-centered (the teacher only uses the textbook)?


3. If your teacher tried to help you by the use of dance, songs drama, games, workshops, do you like it?


Explain why you liked it or not.


4. Do you do any sports? Do you like to dance? Do you play any instruments?


5. If so, have your teachers ever used your sport, dance, music or hobbies to stimulate you in class?


6. In case you have a hobby (sports, dance, poetry, playing an instrument), would you like to have learnt difficult subjects through these hobbies?


7. Do you think that your grades (marks) were mostly reflected on your exams or did your teachers evaluate you daily?


8. Were you satisfied with the assessment (evaluation) system?


9. Were all your classes in the classroom or did you sometimes have classes outside the classroom, in a science fair or in the computer lab, for example?


10. Would you like to have had(more) classes outside the classroom? (In museums, parks, zoo)




11. Was your homework interesting?


12. Did you usually do your homework in groups or individually?


13. What sources did you use to do your homework? (The Internet, books, magazines, textbooks, television, interviews)


14. Did your teachers check your homework?


15. Did your homework affect your grade?


16. Do you think the non-Arabic speakers from other schools learn enough Arabic to keep a conversation in Arabic?


17. Would you like the schools for the expats to have more hours of Arabic in order to better integrate in the Arab culture?


18. Did you have native English teachers in your English classes?


19. Did you learn phonetics in the classroom (how to pronounce the words)?

__ yes, the teacher taught us how to pronounce words, how to articulate each different sound.

___ yes, the teacher corrected our pronunciation if we mispronounced a word.

___ our pronunciation was sometimes corrected.

__ our pronunciation was never corrected.

Other exercises regarding pronunciation___________________________________________

20. How many hours per week did you have of Modern Standard Arabic?

20. a. Do you think they were enough?

21. How many hours per week did you have of English?

21. a. Do you think they were enough?

22. How old were you when you started having English classes?

(Segment 2, the following questions were asked exclusively for the alumni)

23. What kind of schools were common back then? Were they public or private? What educational level did they provide?


24. How was the level of illiteracy during your school years?


25. Was education encouraged among girls? Why (not)?


26. What problems did most students face back then?


27.What disciplinary approaches did the teachers back then adopt?


28. According to your observation and experience, what has substantially changed in the educational system in the UAE?


Appendix C. Words in English when speaking Emirati Arabic

1. Do you use the following words in English when you are speaking Arabic with other Emiratis or Arabic speakers? If so, how often do you use them?

Always almost always sometimes rarely never

1. glass قلاص

2. good luck

3. USB (pen drive بن درايف )

4. charger جارج

5. already

6. Online أونلاين

7. yes

8. Same سيم

9. to cancel

10. to check

11. download داونلود

12. business بزنس

13. Milk shake ميلك شيك

14. Coat bayd كوت أبيض

15. Class كأس

16. Free فري

17. Password باسورد

18. Wi-Fi واي فاي

19. Gym جيم

20. Lift ليفت

21. project

22. bus

23. cafeteria

24. cycle

25. enjoy

26. phone فون

27. bye باي

28. nice

29. sorry سوري

30. light

2. Other words you can think of: ________________________________________________

3. Is there any word from the list above that you do not know how to say in Standard Arabic?


  1. When you text your friends in Arabic, do you prefer to use Arabic script, Arabizy or English language?


  1. How do you call the following objects in Arabic?

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  1. United Arab Emirates Geography & History. Retrieved from↩︎

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User avatar
Jean Pierre Ribeiro Daquila
Thank you, Roberto Rabasco. Dr. Bilal Orfali expresses similar concerns regarding the Arabic language. The change from Arabic to English started in the tertiary education; my research focuses on the secondary school which has been anglicized. If the government don't do anything, in some decades there might be no Arabic instruction at school, but in the Arabic Language and Islamic Studies subjects.
User avatar
Roberto Rabasco
This article by Dr. Bilal Orfali might interest you. It is focused on the scientific content and Arabic studies and the dangerous English colonization of Arabic academia, and its impact on scientific and linguistic production in the Arab world. Hope you like it
Submitted by18 Oct 2022
User Avatar
Jean Pierre Ribeiro Daquila
Eserp Business & Law School
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