Dubai becomes educational tourism hub
As the summer months sink in, Dubai sees an influx of young tourists pursuing their growing interest in Arabic language and culture.
Students from other parts of the world have been flocking to the region for a variety of reasons. For many, Dubai proves to be the ideal destination for language immersion.
Learning Arabic allows students to pursue careers in international relations and consular diplomacy in the Middle East. Knowledge of the language also offers a peek into the region’s rich history, steeped in art and culture.
“Dubai is the perfect mix of the modern and the traditional. Staying here has allowed me access into regional cultural artefacts, from Syrian art to Omani folklore, without having to travel to these places,” Jannike Thiesen, a 22-year-old Art History student from Norway, told Khaleej Times. She spent the last three weeks in Dubai as part of research for her thesis on Islamic Art in modern cities, and has also enrolled herself in a two-week summer Arabic language programme.
Then there are students, such as Leslie Malouf, who opt for an extended stop-over in Dubai to learn the language of their forefathers. “Two of my friends (of Arab ancestry) came with me on this trip. We decided on Dubai because it’s largely bilingual which is a safety net for us, knowing that even if our spoken Arabic is weak, people can understand us,” the third generation Lebanese American student said.
“I decided to take up Arabic in my first year of college. I’ve always felt detached from my culture and heritage because I grew up speaking only English.” After two years of learning Arabic, Leslie decided to sign up for a language immersion programme in which students live in a town where the main language of communication is in the language they are learning. “It improves fluency and is the best way to practice the language,” she added. Leslie dreams of going to Beirut and reconnecting with her many distant relatives her grandparents remember fondly. Supplementing the influx of students eager to learn Arabic are students wanting to improve their English with summer classes in the UAE. Mehmet Uygur came to Dubai in early May for a 12-week language course before starting his first term at University of Nottingham in September. “In Turkey, even those who attend the best English-medium schools have a mental block against speaking English. Most of us look for any reason to practice the language, but it’s not easy to speak fluently for us since everything in Ankara is written in Turkish. It’s very hard to compete with native speakers,” he said. For Mehmet, Dubai offers the perfect summer opportunity to work on his English while brushing up on his second language, Arabic.
More than 150 students have enrolled in English language classes at various institutions across the city this summer — from Eton Institute that offers intensive short-term language courses, to the International House, Dubai with its accredited English programme. According to Eton Institute’s Marketing Manager, Moaz Khan, the educational tourism sector in Dubai is mushrooming due to the cost-effectiveness of courses, as well as a higher level of training standards.
Most students enrolled in English classes hail from countries in the region, particularly from Saudi Arabia. “English is a very important language for business. If you want to make a name for yourself in the world, you need to think globally, and in English,” Saeed Al Qasim, a 37-year-old entrepreneur based in Riyadh, said. “The UAE has so many opportunities the rest of the Gulf can learn from. I want to be able to be good enough in English to start spoken English courses in Saudi someday. I think education is one sector our region should invest in, and language education is a growing aspect we should encourage,” he said.
With the popularity of the established hospitality sector and the burgeoning fashion industry, short-term summer courses in these fields by accredited Universities could further?boost the city’s capacity as an educational tourist hub.
Institute: International House, Dubai (Language)Course: Two-week ‘semi-intensive’ courses in English and Arabic. They also offer Business English and Conversational English as separate modules. The syllabus involves practical activities such as drama, computer work, blogging, arts and crafts, and music as a way of better grasping the languages.Total hours: 30 hours over two weeksCost: Dh 1,200 – Dh 1,600
Institute: Eton Institute (Language)Course: Arabic, English, Spanish, French, German and Italian summer intensive classes. Four hours of practical learning daily, from Sunday to Thursday.Total Hours: 60 hours over three weeksCost: Dh2,250 for 2 levels
Institute: Esmod Dubai (Fashion)Course: Summer Fashion, New Couture Masterclass, Perfume Discovery, Fashion Journalism, Textile workshop, Photoshop and Illustrator, Professional Fashion Make Up, Corset and Bustier MasterclassTotal hours: Courses vary from two week intensives to month-long programmesCost: Varies depending on course and intensity.
Institute: Preston University Ajman (Interior Design)Course: Three-month long Interior Design courses covering modules like digital design, sketching, fabric painting, and a nine-month certification programmeTotal Hours: Three hours per week per classCost: Dh1,500 to Dh2,300 per month.