What Language Is Spoken in Dubai?

With a booming metropolitan population of almost 3.5 million, Dubai is a hub of languages and cultures. On any given day, you can hear multiple languages being spoken. However, there are a couple of languages that are more common than the rest.

The top two languages spoken in Dubai are English and Arabic, with English being number one. Some locals also speak Urdu, Gulf Arabic, Hindi, and Farsi, especially in the more traditional areas of the city.

In this article, I’ll discuss the many languages that are spoken in Dubai. I’ll also explain how widely spoken English is and share three different ways to say hello in Dubai. 

What Languages Is Spoken in Dubai?

Arabic is the official language of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, English is spoken even more widely than Arabic. It’s rare to hear other languages spoken, but you’ll often hear people mixing English and Arabic together.

Most natives also speak a dialect of Gulf Arabic, which neighboring countries also speak. This dialect is often hard to understand by other people who speak standard Arabic or come from a different area of the Middle East.

In some neighborhoods, Urdu, Hindi, and Farsi are frequently spoken by locals. These are often neighborhoods where only (or mostly) Emirates live. (An Emirate is a native of the UAE.) 

However, only 11% of the UAE population are Emirates, so you won’t hear other languages besides Arabic or English nearly as often.

Is English Widely Spoken in Dubai?

English is widely spoken in Dubai. It’s spoken in schools, work offices, and public places throughout the country. Many locals naturally transition from speaking Arabic, the official language of the United Arab Emirates, to English.

In fact, English is so commonly spoken in Dubai that many locals transition between speaking Arabic and English. For example, while shopping at one of Dubai’s many malls, you might ask where a certain “clothing store” is (if you don’t know its name). A shopkeeper might reply: “Oh, it’s right over there.” 

English has become so integrated into everyday life in Dubai largely because the UAE has a large expatriate, or expat, population (expats are people who live permanently outside their country of origin). 

Many of these expats speak English as their native language, and their presence means millions of people in Dubai speak English quite fluently.

Expats include citizens from countries like Canada, India, the United States, Pakistan, Brazil, and Bangladesh. These people are often employed by companies based in Dubai, such as airlines or oil companies, or are workers from western countries who live there for work purposes, like construction workers. 

How Do You Say Hello in Dubai?

You say hello in Dubai using common Arabic greetings, including Marhaba, Salam, and As-salamu alaykum. You can also use common English greetings such as hello or hi.

  • Marhaba. Marhaba (pronounced mar-haba) is a good phrase to use for informal situations, like greeting someone on the street, saying hello to your waiter at a restaurant, or meeting friends for breakfast.
  • Salam. Salam (pronounced say-lim) is a casual phrase taken from the more formal “as-salamu alaykum.” It’s like saying “hey” or “hi” instead of something like “pleased to meet you” or “good afternoon.”
  • As-Salamu Alaykum. This is the most complex (yet still very common) way to say hello in Dubai. It’s an important phrase to know if you want to properly greet people in the UAE, especially if you’re traveling there for business or pleasure. If you’re traveling, read this article on whether airports are open 24/7. If you don’t know this phrase, it can make you look like an outsider.

When learning to pronounce “as-salamu alaykum,” begin speaking as if you’re singing a song with an emphasis on each word, like this: “ah-sah-LAH-moo ah-LAY-KUM.” It may seem strange at first, but once you’ve heard it a few times, it’ll be easy to repeat it when greeting others in Dubai.

Watch this video to learn and hear ten ways to say “hello” in Arabic so that you can be as prepared as possible:

What Are the Top 3 Languages Spoken in the UAE?

The top 3 languages spoken in UAE are English, Arabic, and Urdu. The UAE has a population of almost 10 million people, and a large portion of those people speak at least two languages.

  • English. English is the number one language spoken in the UAE. This makes it easy for people whose first language is English to travel and communicate throughout Dubai, as almost all citizens can understand basic, and often fluent, English. 
  • Arabic. Around 20% to 30% of people living in Dubai speak Arabic as their first language. It’s also used as a second language by many other nationalities who live there. Even though you’ll hear more English than Arabic, if you’re planning to visit or relocate to the UAE, it’ll be easier to communicate if you know some basic Arabic phrases.
  • Urdu. The third most common language spoken in Dubai is Urdu. Urdu is an Indic language that’s somewhat of a mixture between Persian and Arabic. It’s also closely related to Hindi (the fifth most common language spoken in Dubai). 

You won’t need to worry too much about learning how to speak or understand Urdu. Although it’s the third most spoken language, you won’t hear it very often. However, if you know someone already living in Dubai who speaks Urdu, it can be courteous to learn basic Urdu phrases so you can communicate in their preferred language. 

How Many Languages Are Spoken in Dubai?

There are dozens of languages that are spoken in Dubai. There are also hundreds, if not thousands, of dialects spoken in Dubai. Unfortunately, there is no official documentation on exactly how many languages are spoken in Dubai.

The languages spoken include: 

  • English
  • Arabic
  • Tagalog
  • Gulf Arabic
  • Malayalam
  • Urdu
  • Pashto
  • Tamil
  • Hindi
  • Persian
  • Bengali
  • Spanish 
  • French

Plus, any other language a group of expats may speak. With 89% of the population being expats, there’s a huge range of languages you’ll hear in Dubai. 

Final Thoughts

English and Arabic are the two most common languages spoken in Dubai. In fact, even though Arabic is the official language of the UAE, English is more commonly spoken. Other than an English “hello,” there are a few common Arabic greetings that are helpful to know.