Although the official language of Dubai is Arabic, for all intents and purposes this is a bilingual city. All road signs, maps, forms, advertisements and official sources of information are available in both English and Arabic. The large expatriate community in Dubai has led to English being used as a lingua franca. It is English, and not Arabic, that you will need in shops, restaurants and taxis. The prevalence of English is more noticeable in Dubai than it is in any of the other Emirates. This is because it is a center of business, commerce and tourism. You will find that most local people, as well as the vast majority of expatriates, speak enough English to communicate the basics.
In 2008, the government launched a campaign to promote the use of Arabic. They see this an important part of preserving their culture. Local people will welcome any attempts you make to learn their language. You should be aware, however, that the local spoken Arabic is quite different from modern standard Arabic. If you choose to study Arabic, you should decide which variety you want to learn. All Emirates understand standard Arabic, but Arabic speakers in other countries may find Gulf Arabic difficult to understand.
There are several schools offering Arabic classes for expatriates. You should be able to find a course which suits your location, timings, budget and requirements.
Arabic Language Center
World Trade Center
Public 30-hour courses for beginners to advanced learners are from AED 1,950 per course
Specialist courses are from AED 450 per hour per group
Private tuition is from AED 200 per hour
Tel: 04 308 6036
University of Wollongong in Dubai – Arabic Language Program
Part time six week courses for beginners to intermediate learners are AED 1,500 per course.
Dar El Ilm
Next to the World Trade Center
Group classes are available
Private tuition is from AED 140 per hour
Tel: 04 331 0221
Dubai International Art Center
Near Town Center, Jumeirah
Details of courses are available by contacting the center
Tel: 04 344 4398
Eton School of Languages
Knowledge Village, behind the University of Wollongong
Courses are available for adults and children
Tel: 04 360 2955/6