In today’s interconnected world, the need to learn and master foreign languages is more urgent than ever, especially in light of the technological revolution that is radically changing how we work and the type of new jobs being created.
English remains the world’s most influential language in the labour market, academia and research. It is also widely used on the Internet, so mastering it is vital for widening your opportunities for learning any other language online. Al-Fanar has previously written about free resources for learning English online.
But Arab students and graduates who want to enhance their educational and employment opportunities may find other foreign languages useful, too. In this article, we focus on four of them: German, French, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. Following is a short guide to online learning resources for each of them.
Around 130 million people speak German as their mother tongue or as a second language. It is the most widely spoken language in the European Union and is an official language in seven countries.
Germany is also the largest economy in Europe and the fourth-largest in the world, after the United States, China, and Japan. In addition, some scholarships for international students in Germany require a level of proficiency in German, even if the course is taught in English.
Some scholarships for international students in Germany require a level of proficiency in German, even if the course is taught in English.
All of these considerations make German a useful language for Arab students and graduates to master.
German language ability is divided into six levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2. Most jobs requiring German proficiency ask applicants to have at least achieved B2 level.
Some of the most important sources for learning German online include the German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), which offers lessons for both English speakers and Arabic speakers. The BBC also has a programme for English speakers who wish to learn German.
There are also several YouTube channels, including Easy German. Some of its videos are available with Arabic subtitles.
Duolingo allows German-language learners to choose Arabic as their base language. The website German for Arabic Speakers lists a number of other free resources for Arabic speakers who want to learn German.
While about 80 million people speak French as a mother tongue, another 190 million speak it as a second language, making it the only language, apart from English, that has spread across all continents.
French is considered a crucial language in international relations and diplomacy, and it is widely spoken in several Arab countries, including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Lebanon.
The free online learning application Bonjour de France divides French language ability levels into A1, A2, B1, B2, and C1. Bonjour de France is one of the best online resources available for learning French with English as your base language.
The French Experiment uses another way to learn French. It relies on listening to acquire basic language skills through lessons and audio stories.
The French television network TV5Monde also offers online courses at four levels for learning French through watching short news videos and completing exercises based on them. Many of the videos are from French-speaking countries in Africa.
With its spread in South and Central America, Spanish is the mother tongue of about 500 million people and the second most widely spoken language in the world, after Chinese.
It is also an important language in the United States, which has the second-largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, after Mexico. Spanish-language proficiency is valued by many U.S. employers, so being able to communicate with Spanish speakers gives you greater possibilities of working there too, both inside the country and online.
Being able to communicate with Spanish speakers will improve your employment prospects in the United States, which has the second-largest Spanish-speaking population in the world.
There are many resources for learning Spanish, including online courses at Busuu, where learners can start with a few free lessons before switching to a subscription plan. Memrise also offers Spanish courses for Arabic speakers.
The University of Texas website offers a large number of free exercises for building proficiency in Spanish. Learners listen to video clips of native Spanish speakers who talk about various topics, demonstrating grammar, vocabulary, and sentence formation.
Another source, Spanishdict, has discussion forums for those learning Spanish with free dictionaries and conjugation tables for Spanish verbs.
There are many languages within the Chinese macrolanguage group, but Mandarin is the national language and the one that nearly all foreigners choose to learn.
Learning Chinese is constantly growing in popularity, because foreigners believe that mastering it will provide a good entry into the job market.
A number of Arab nations have been expanding their cultural and economic ties with China in recent years, which has led to a growing interest in teaching Chinese in Arab schools and universities.
Students and graduates can start learning Mandarin through the YellowBridge website. It has a number of free tools, such as flashcards and engaging Chinese games.
You can also learn colloquial Mandarin on the Chinese-Tools website through listening and studying various audio clips. Chinese-Tools includes articles about China and studying there.
Languages Open Opportunities
If you are thinking about which language could help you in the labour market, the following observations may help.
Translation and transliteration. Translation jobs include translating written texts, simultaneous interpretation, and translating audio and video clips. Interpretation jobs of all kinds are among those most required in Arab countries. The work can generate a good income if you have mastered a language and have the necessary experience.
Writing content in foreign languages. With the spread of social media platforms, content creators want to reach audiences in other languages, through both written and multimedia posts. These tasks require writers who are proficient in the target language. Digital marketing companies in the Arab world, especially those operating in the Gulf countries, are often keen to hire content creators in languages other than Arabic to boost their number of foreign clients.
Digital marketing companies, hotel operators and other companies in the hospitality sector are keen to hire workers fluent in languages other than Arabic.
Tourism and hospitability. Arab countries are also working to attract more tourists, which increases the need for guides and other workers in the hospitality sector who are multilingual.
Customer service and technical support. As foreign investment has grown in Arab countries, there has been a greater need for companies that provide technical support and customer services in multiple languages, by phone, e-mail, or on social media.
Teaching Arabic to non-native speakers. Just as many Arab citizens want to learn foreign languages, many foreigners want to learn Arabic. If you have mastered a foreign language, you can register on various websites as a tutor for speakers of that language who want to learn Arabic. One such site is Preply, where various tutors offer Arabic lessons for foreigners at rates ranging from $10 to $40 for a 50-minute session.
It’s common when studying a new language to reach a “plateau” where you aren’t learning as rapidly as before and further progress seems impossible. Learning English with Oxford, the Oxford University Press’s blog for English language learners, suggests 10 steps for overcoming barriers that hold you back from reaching your desired level of proficiency.
To start with, the site suggests you group the materials you need into categories, such as grammar, vocabulary, and other language elements, so you can quickly find the material you need to practice a particular skill.
Other tips include trying to talk to native speakers of the language you are learning, and asking them to correct your mistakes. The site also recommends watching and listening to content in the target language every day, on YouTube or other audio-visual content platforms and websites.
Another suggestion is reading in your target language. The site recommends choosing a book you already know in your native language and finding a translation of it in the language you are learning.
It can also help to memorise short texts, such as poems or songs, and recite them to your family and friends to improve your pronunciation.
Mastering a new language may seem a discouragingly distant goal, but remember that learning a language is a journey, and try to enjoy every step of the way.
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