Expatriate Experiences with Language Policy in the UAE: Challenges, Contradictions, and Opportunities

William Cook

This policy paper offers a preliminary discussion of an ethnographic language policy project based in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The project focused primarily on the language choices and experiences of the expatriate communities that make up the majority of the population of the city and considered the relationship between those choices and the larger policy goals targeted by the government. The paper draws on narrative data from participants and offers several points of entry for further research and debate, including: the degree to which expatriates are interested in learning Arabic or other languages; the economic and social incentive structures that may impact language decisions; and the connections between work and social life language networks and decisions. The paper argues that these issues are of fundamental importance for policymakers to investigate more closely if they are to move forward with large-scale Arabic language policy initiatives such as Vision 2021 and The Arabic Language Charter, both effectively and ethically.

Recommended citation: Cook, W. (2019). Expatriate experiences with language policy in the UAE: Challenges, contradictions, and opportunities (Policy Paper No. 31). Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research.



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