Why are you learning Arabic? Is it because you love to learn languages? Maybe you’ve always dreamed of visiting the pyramids in Cairo. Maybe you’ve met someone you’re interested in and want to be able to communicate with them in their own language. Whatever the reason, when I ask this question to most Arabic language learners, I’ve found that there are pretty much two main reasons why they study Arabic: they want to advance or change their careers, or they’ve started learning the language for personal reasons and decided that they can use what they’ve learned to advance their careers further.
With the job market being competitive globally, the supply of Arabic speakers is much lower than the demand for those who learn. It’s understandable that anyone would want to learn Arabic to stand above their competition and be more marketable. So, for those who might be either be thinking about learning Arabic for their careers, or those who’ve learned the language and want to use those skills, here is a list of careers you might consider and put your Arabic language skills to use.
Being a translator means you have to possess three critical Arabic language skills. First, it’s a given that you have to possess top-notch ability in using the language, and especially in Arabic writing. Second, translators, as some people assume, don’t translate everything in the language; rather, they translate certain areas of expertise such as tourism, law, and diplomacy, among others. This means you’ll have to have some experience or education in the field you want to translate. Finally, to be a translator, you have to have excellent communication skills in your own language, as well. If you meet the above criteria, then a career as a translator might be formidable for you if you learn Arabic language skills.
“Wait,” you may be thinking, “aren’t being a translator and an interpreter pretty much the same thing?”
The answer is no. They’re two totally different things. As mentioned before, translation is about switching text – or the written word – from Arabic to English and vice versa. Interpretation, on the other hand, is about the spoken word, which means you’ll have to focus extra hard on Arabic pronunciation.
You may also want to learn Egyptian Arabic, Levantine Arabic, or other Arabic dialects as well. You’ll have to communicate with people who are speaking spontaneously and colloquially. So, you’ll have to be just equally spontaneous and accurate. Remember that Arabic interpreters often work in high profile jobs in Middle East and not only. They are mostly required in government and business sectors and one misinterpreted word can become disastrous for peace talks or business deals. This means that you have to be superlative in your Arabic speaking skills. However, if you’re up for the challenge, the career can be very rewarding both personally and financially. If you think you can meet that challenge, then why not go for it?
If you aspire for a job in an intelligence agency, you will notice that it is quite an interesting.
You’ll find that working in an intelligence agency requires you to be a people person. They do have positions for linguist positions, but as the criteria for interpreters, you have to master your Arabic language. One false word and somebody could get hurt. However, if you have impeccable Arabic language skills, the people skills and personal charisma to go along with it, then a typical intelligence officer role is worth a try.
Most people believe it’s best to have a native speaker as a teacher. However, it doesn’t always have to be so. Non-native Arabic teachers can sometimes articulate or explain Arabic to their fellow native speakers better. They’ve also faced some of the problems and have overcome obstacles in learning Arabic. For example, once, while I was teaching English, I was explaining some grammar rules to one of my students. He just wasn’t getting it. So, I asked my Jordanian assistant if she could explain the idea better in Arabic. Once she explained it to the student in his mother tongue, he got the idea and became better.
Phil Collins, legendary drummer and lead singer of the rock band Genesis once sang, “… in teaching you will learn”, and I realized this is true because when I was first started teaching English in Jordan and simultaneously learning Arabic for beginners, I learned a lot of basic Arabic words from my students.
So, if you have a passion for teaching, it can be be great for your Arabic and for your career.
One thing that has always bothered me about living in Jordan is lack of English language knowledge in customer service. When getting my first mobile service from a very popular provider, I always loathed calling them because of my limited Arabic. Whenever I had a problem and tried to explain it in English, they always asked me to wait while they found somebody who spoke English. They would direct me to another customer service representative again and again until one of us hung up the phone. I’m sure Arabs who go to America to live, work or study have the same problem sometimes, so if you live in places like Chicago, with a high population of native Arab immigrants, then being a customer service rep for local companies there could be a perfect way for you to practice your Arabic. Plus, it looks awesome on your C.V.
Of course, for some, a career isn’t about how much money you can make or how far you can climb the corporate ladder, but how rewarding it might be in other ways, like a career with a humanitarian or non-profit organization. Though these jobs normally don’t pay big, and some, in fact, only cover your food and lodging while you work with them, the chance for travel and helping to change the world might appeal to you and many are in dire need of Arabic language users. So if you want, as Gandhi, put it to “be the change you want to see in the world”, then maybe this is the perfect career path for you. And who knows, you might land one of the many humanitarian jobs in Middle East and enjoy your time there.
Of course, these are only a handful of the career opportunities you might have by learning Arabic. You can use the popular search engine to find more. Good luck!
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