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 better in their own language. Whatever the reason, when I ask this question of 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 in most countries, and with the supply of Arabic speakers being much lower than the demand for those who learn to speak Arabic, 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 to learn the language, here is a list of careers you might consider and put your Arabic language skills to use.
Be an Arabic Translator
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, since translation is about the written word. 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 a formidable career for you if you learn Arabic language skills.
Be an Arabic Interpreter
“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 when you learn to speak Arabic to be an excellent interpreter.
You may also want to learn Egyptian Arabic, Levantine Arabic, or other Arabic dialects as well because you’ll have to communicate with people who are speaking spontaneously and colloquially, and you’ll have to be just equally spontaneous and accurate. Remember that Arabic interpreters often work in high profile jobs in government and business sectors and one misinterpreted word can become disastrous for peace talks or business deals, meaning 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?
Be a G-Man (or a G-Woman)
Have you always imagined yourself in one of the Arabic speaking countries, lurking alone in the shadows of a dark café while listening to the henchmen of Dr. AlShari (Doctor Evil) hatching their latest plan to take over the world, using code names like “001” (because who doesn’t want to be first) and introducing yourself as “McGillicutty – Cornelius McGillicutty” to beautiful women around the world?
Well, keep imagining because working in an intelligence agency is nothing like what you see in the movies.
In fact, instead of hiding alone in the dark, you’ll find that working in an intelligence agency requires you to be a people person. They do have positions for linguist positions, but much like the criteria for interpreters, you have to be at the top of your Arabic language game; one false word and somebody could get hurt. However, if you have impeccable Arabic language skills and the people skills and personal charisma to go along with it, then a typical intelligence officer role is worth giving a try.
Be an Arabic Teacher
While it’s true that most people believe it’s best to have a native speaker teach the language, that doesn’t always have to be the case. Non-native Arabic teachers can sometimes articulate or explain Arabic to their fellow native speakers better, since they’ve also faced some of the problems and have overcome obstacles in learning Arabic. For example, once while I was teaching English in Jordan, I was explaining some grammar rules to one of one of my students who 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 in English, passing the class with flying colors.
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, being a teacher can be not only be great for your Arabic, but also for your career.
Be a Customer Service Representative
One thing that has always bothered me about living in Jordan is lack of English language knowledge in customer service. When I first got my mobile service from a very popular mobile service provider, I always was loath to call 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 while I waited and they would direct me to another again and again in one endless circle 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 or Dearborn, places 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 and help somebody out along the way. Plus, it looks awesome on your C.V.
Be the Change
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.
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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