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Even though English has long been the de facto lingua franca in Qatar, the sheer diversity of the population means that proficiency in the language varies widely.

That may be why some 40 percent of Qatar companies questioned in a recent survey said that language differences in the workplace have had a negative impact on their bottom line.

According to the survey, which was conducted by Peden Consulting, a group that specializes in language development, only 2 percent of respondents identified one common native language among staff members in their companies.

Nearly half said five or more different native languages were spoken in the workplace. And some 52 percent affirmed that communication problems impact the ability of employees to get work done.

Improving communication

A number of training courses in English proficiency have cropped up in Qatar to deal with these language issues, but Ryan Peden, managing consultant, said not all are created equal.

In an interview with The Edge magazine, he said:

“With so much of business relying on written communication like e-mails and reports, writing skills can lead to misunderstandings that impact workplace performance.

This is a common problem for most non-native speakers of English regardless of where they come from, and training options to overcome this need to focus on practice and feedback over a period of time and not just a single workshop or other quick-fix solutions.”

The second annual survey also found that while the English proficiency of Qataris was improving, not enough attention was placed on the development of other staff members, especially non-management.

“Training for lower levels of staff is also important for some organisations, particularly those who have a large number of lower level staff in client-facing positions, for example in service-based industries,” Peden said.

Do you experience workplace difficulties due to language issues in Qatar Thoughts?

Credit: Photo by Spot Us

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Residents of Qatar have a better grasp of English than most people living in the MENA region, but still have a low overall proficiency in the language, a new report has found.

Qatar ranks 37th out of 54 nations, ahead of Kuwait (45th), the UAE (49th), Saudi Arabia (52nd) and Libya, the lowest-ranking country, according to the 2012 EF English Proficiency Index.

But the highest-ranking country in the MENA region, Iran at 28th, is still considered to be at a “low proficiency” level. This is worrisome, the index states, because:

English language ability is a key skill for driving innovation, encouraging entrepreneurship, and attracting foreign investment. Leaders in MENA countries would do well to take stock of the relatively weak English skills in their populations and commit to lasting education.

The region’s youth population and strong female showing present a significant opportunity, adds the index, which polled some 1.7 million test-takers to come up with its results.

More than 60 percent of those living in MENA countries are under 30 years old, and studies show English language education can have a faster impact on the adult workforce than in countries with aging populations, the report said.

Additionally, women in the MENA region outscore men in English proficiency by the world’s widest margin. The language could prove to be a “pathway” to female empowerment in a region that the UN says fares poorly in terms of women’s health, workforce participation and general equality, the index concludes.

Read the full report here:

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo by Julie

Arab students in Qatar struggle to learn Arabic