If Arabic language programs aren’t at the top of your list of summer plans, then sit yourself down and consider this your stern talking to. With over 290 million native speakers in more than 20 countries, Arabic should be on your radar as one of the most useful and fascinating languages to learn. Not only does learning Arabic introduce you to a kaleidoscope of cultures that comprise the Arab world, but an Arabic summer immersion program is the first step to a summer spent devouring sticky orange pastries on the terrace of a Moroccan riad or hearing the calls of adhan issuing from the silver-domed Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
Before you jump in and decide where to learn Arabic abroad, it’s worth considering the various dialects of Arabic available to study, and the fact that just because you speak one, won’t mean you’ll be instantly understood throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East. Egyptian Arabic, disseminated throughout the Arab-speaking world thanks to the media and movies, is the most widely understood dialect. However, a summer learning Modern Standard Arabic (official Arabic) gives you both a solid foundation for picking up other dialects in the future and is an easier way of immersing yourself in Arabic literature and printed texts, as most are written in this form.
BUT, if attending Arabic immersion programs that combine language with lessons on culture and traditions of its speakers is top priority, it’s best to follow your wanderlust and pick the country that most inspires you.
Although learning Arabic will be nothing short of a challenge, remember that the language you choose to learn says a ton about you as a person. So, if you want to be known as that ambitious linguist for whom writing backwards came so naturally and who never even batted an eyelid at getting their tongue around the tricky, but musical tones of a new alphabet, then look no further: arabic summer immersion programs are definitely for you. Now it is time to find the best place to learn Arabic abroad...
Capital of both the United Arab Emirates as a whole and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi is best known for its dramatic metamorphosis from fishing village to sprawling, contemporary city. An Aladdin’s cave of architectural masterpieces make up this opulent city; lavish hotels rub shoulders with vertigo-inducing apartment blocks and the world’s uber wealthy dine on moonlit terraces. But, the handful of majestic, historic buildings and mosques that retain some of the character of the Middle East prove that Abu Dhabi deserves more than its reputation as a playground for the filthy rich.
You might find it a touch more difficult to learn Arabic in Abu Dhabi, since the lingua franca here, and in fact in most of the United Arab Emirates, is English. If Abu Dhabi draws you like a magpie to a shiny dirham, instead view this as a challenge to find additional opportunities to learn Arabic outside of the classroom. If you’re wondering where to learn Arabic in Abu Dhabi, the Live and Learn program is popular, particularly because it pairs you up with an instructor, who acts as both a homestay and teacher, and provides students with unrivalled opportunities to practice Arabic in a real world context.
Additionally, the exquisite Sheikh Zayed Mosque presents even more chances to exercise your new language. Able to house up to 41,000 worshippers, it is one of only two mosques in the whole of the UAE that permits non-Muslims to enter and Arabic language learners can visit and listen discreetly to prayers as they’re delivered to Allah in the language of Islam: Arabic.
Nicknamed “the City of Gold,” Dubai has similarly seen an extraordinary transition from sleepy Gulfport to glamorous metropolis. Visitors are struck not only by its magnificent, futuristic buildings that forever push the boundaries of architecture, but by its capacity to break obscure world records, such as the record for the largest human sentence (#wordgoals).
It’s also an excellent choice for Arabic summer immersion programs. Barter with traders in the chaotic warren of souks at the city’s heart and explore the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Palm Jumeirah (aka the world’s largest man-made island). Dubai might feel a little thin on traditional far-eastern culture, but for many, that’s part of its appeal. Instead, it’s inhabited by a tapestry of over 200 nationalities, so you’re guaranteed to meet a whole host of people to instantly make you feel at home.
One of the most popular Arabic language programs in Dubai is the immersion course offered in the Dubai Knowledge Village, where students can study for just a summer or extend their stay longer. Be aware that the price of living in Dubai isn’t cheap, so good budgeting skills can keep your end date at bay.
Although it’s a mere six miles up the coast, Arabic language courses in Sharjah feel a whole world away. Foreign visitors, struck by the golden lights of nearby Dubai, rarely make it to this city— but they’re really missing out; as a place that has clung more strongly to its Islamic traditions and roots, it’s a fascinating alternative location to learn Arabic abroad in the United Arab Emirates.
The city’s extensive selection of museums charting all aspects of Islamic culture and Emirati life are enough to keep anyone busy for a summer, and that’s before they discover Sharjah’s most impressive building, the Blue Souk or Souk al-Markazi (Central Market). Its vaulted ceilings and pretty patterned blue tiles house over 600 shops, making it one of the largest markets in all of the UAE.
Learning Arabic in Sharjah means you’ll be able to complete study modules at the American University of Sharjah in art, architecture, design, engineering, and business, while providing ample time to learn and practice chatting in Arabic.
4. Cairo, Egypt
It’s fair to say that Egypt is peerless when it comes to ancient cultural and enigmatic historic monuments. Considered by anthropologists to be one of the cradles of civilization, choosing to learn Arabic in Egypt is about more than just language; it’s a chance to learn more about the human race itself.
We get why you’d want to learn Arabic in Cairo. Considered one of Islam’s greatest cities, Umm ad-Dunya (the Mother of the World) is the most popular location in Egypt to study Arabic. A dramatic city of over twenty million inhabitants, its resplendent mixture of mosques, wide avenues, and huge 19th century palaces seem to have sprung from the desert. Those looking to learn Arabic abroad will be hard pressed to find a more unique location.
Classes in Egyptian Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic are an excellent excuse to spend a summer in Cairo. You could even pick up the basics or cement your understanding with a course in Arabic for journalism. Morning classes in linguistics can be supplemented with an afternoon spent uncovering the captivating mysteries and legends of the Pyramids of Giza – the undisputed centerpiece of all ancient Egyptian monuments.
If you want to learn more about the role of Arabic in religion, look no further than one of the oldest cities in the world and one which is considered holy in three different faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is believed by Muslims to be the location of Prophet Mohammed’s Night of Ascension and learning Arabic in one of Islam’s most spiritual cities can help students to better understand this often misunderstood religion.
Although a greater proportion of the population here speaks Modern Hebrew as their native language, Arabic is an official language and one which helps you get around the city as you explore even just a handful of the 73 mosques, 1204 synagogues, and 158 churches built here.
To learn Arabic in Jerusalem is an experience that appeals to your senses. Each day is set to a soundtrack of church bells and the calls to worship from the muezzin; returning to your home country at the end of the summer, you’ll likely be struck by how much you miss this comforting babble of noise.
Drawn to Arabic language programs in one of the globe’s spiritual hubs? The Hebrew University of Jerusalem offers an immersive program of study for undergraduates, graduates and professionals keen to learn Modern Standard Arabic, while using their study to explore the indelible impact of religion and culture Arabic, particularly as this is the language of the Qu’ran. Formal classes of study and interaction with native speakers complete challenging yet rewarding summer Arabic programs.
Morocco is the ideal spot for a double whammy of language learning; polish both your French and Arabic in this multi-lingual nation. The boundaries between European and Arab cultures have long been muddied here, where its long history of Spanish and French colonial rule have left an indelible mark on its culture and traditions, making it yet another radically different place to learn Arabic abroad.
The most popular way to learn Moroccan Arabic is to attend Arabic immersions programs in the “Versailles of Morocco,” aka Meknès. A blend of Arab, Berber, and French cultures have given birth to this quiet, yet lovely, city where its historic medina is still home to the impressive Dar El Makhzen palace and a system of gates and fortified walls that once protected its inhabitants.
Some Arabic summer immersion programs in Meknès combine language study with courses in politics, religion, and international relations, or even working with local NGOs to promote social and economic development. Many choose to live with a local family in the sumptuous architecture of a traditional Moroccan riad and for students looking for a calmer study abroad experience than in the busy hub of Marrakesh, Meknès is the perfect fit.
Ready to Ace Arabic Summer Immersion Programs?
Picking a place to learn Arabic in the Middle East might seem as complicated as getting the 28 letters of the alphabet to stay put in your brain, but with MyGoAbroad you can easily compare different Arabic language programs side-by-side. Reviews from previous participants give an indication of what scintillating adventures your summer abroad promises, as well as showing how learning an unusual language, like Arabic, will open up a whole new perspective on the world and be a guaranteed investment in your future.