A short article that will tell you that the language in Qatar is Arabic. You will learn the minimum vocabulary needed for tourists and how the situation with the English language is. There will be tips and recommendations that will make communication with locals easier and make your stay in Qatar even more enjoyable.
It will be difficult for you to plan your dream trip to Qatar without these websites
Table of Contents
Language in Qatar: general information
There are no difficulties here, so here are the main points:
- The official language of Qatar is Arabic.
Interesting fact:It’s interesting to know that the official language is literary Arabic, not any of the spoken dialects, of which there are many in the Arabic language. For those who are not aware, literary Arabic is extremely complex. It is more difficult than Chinese, Russian, and so on. It is said that only a few Europeans can speak and write fluently in Arabic.
- The population of the country is only about 2.8 million people. Of these, only about 12-13% are native Qataris. All the others are labor migrants and expats.
- Read more about the people of Qatar in the article at the link. There you will learn about the locals’ attitude towards tourists, safety, punctuality, and more.
- The majority of these migrants are from India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Iran. They all speak their own Arabic dialects. The most common Arabic dialects in Qatar are:
- Farsi – spoken by migrants from Iran
- Urdu – dialect spoken by Pakistanis
- Sinhalese – spoken by migrants from Sri Lanka and partially India. But if we want to be precise, Sinhalese is not really an Arabic dialect, but its basis is the Arabic alphabet.
I want to note that the writing system in these dialects is also different from each other. But without special knowledge, we cannot distinguish this visually or audibly. Therefore, let’s consider that the language in Qatar is Arabic and everyone around us speaks it, although this is not entirely true.
- Let’s not forget that in Arabic, we read all text from right to left and numbers from left to right! And for those who can write, we write the same way 🙂
What about the English language in Qatar?
In addition to labor migrants from poor Asian countries, Qatar is home to many highly skilled professionals, ranging from the oil and gas industry to medicine. These are highly paid engineers, doctors, top managers, and many of them are Europeans. They are expats who live and work on labor contracts, and none of them knows Arabic. They all speak only English.
Interesting fact:Local laws require all signs, announcements, price tags, and informational indicators to be written in Arabic. And until 2022, it was quite difficult for tourists to even orient themselves in basic things, as nothing was understood.
But a titanic job was done in the country for the 2022 World Cup. Absolutely every sign was translated into English. Today, it is probably impossible to find a sign only in Arabic, without a translation next to it in English. The check in the store, the road sign, a simple announcement on the door – there is a translation in English everywhere. This has greatly simplified life for tourists.
- The only thing is that in small shops and markets, they may write Arabic numbers. Not the Arabic numbers we know, like 0, 1, 2, 3, and so on, but specifically Arabic numbers in their original form 🙂
- Here, you can read everything about Qatari shops and markets: opening hours, assortment, shopping in general, and bargaining.
Important to know:Almost everyone knows English here. Children learn it in schools, and even migrants speak it. Basic English is known by 95% of the population. Therefore, there are no problems with finding out something, placing an order, asking for directions, or generally approaching anyone. If you do not know English, it will be more difficult. Believe me, learning English is 10 times easier than Arabic 🙂
Vocabulary for tourists
It’s convenient that today any sign is translated into English. Basically, you don’t have to worry too much, even in a cheap Pakistani diner, there will be a menu in two languages, Arabic and English. Everything about cafes in Doha: where to eat cheaply, how to deal with tips, what the peculiarities are.
What I recommend all tourists to know about the Qatari language, if you are planning to come here. Or rather, what is the minimum vocabulary you need to know:
- You must at least know how all digits from 0 to 9 are written. Know that “V” is 7, not 5, like in Roman numerals. Be able to distinguish 2 from 3, and the digit 3 turned 180 degrees is actually 4. This knowledge can help you, especially in the market. Arabic numerals were in the photo a little earlier, so save it to your phone.
Important:Locals know that the Arabic language is overwhelmingly difficult for Europeans. And they know that you don’t know it. In the market, some deliberately write prices only in Arabic numerals so that locals know what the price is, and tourists have to ask. No matter how safe Qatar is, overcharging tourists by a couple of dollars is a sacred act in any country in the world.
I also recommend learning 3-4 words in Arabic, specifically the pronunciation. You don’t need to memorize how they are written. They will immediately help you connect with the locals. Qataris will appreciate that you are trying to speak a few words in Arabic:
- Hello – Salam alaykum. But this greeting is more appropriate when Muslims meet. I recommend everyone say “Ahlan” – this means hello. If the person is much older than you, then say “Ahlan wa sahlan,” a more formal version.
- Welcome – “Marhaba”. You will hear this everywhere, in the hotel, in the restaurant, and so on. Respond with a simple thank you.
- Thank you – “Shukran”
- Excuse me – “Asif” or “Afon”
- Yes – “Naam”
- No – “La”
- Hotel – “Funduq”. Say the name of the hotel and add “funduq” :).
About public transport in Doha: where to buy tickets, how to order a taxi, prices.
Be sure to read the article about religion in Qatar. The country is Muslim, and there are many customs and traditions that will affect you during your travels in the country.
In conclusion: the language in Qatar is Arabic. It is a very complex language, but I recommend that every tourist learn 10 numbers in Arabic, as they are written, and 5-6 basic words, as they are pronounced. This will make your stay in Qatar much more comfortable. However, everyone here speaks English, and all signs are duplicated in English. If you don’t know any Arabic, don’t worry, there won’t be any language barrier.
Resources to help you plan your dream trip to Qatar
- Flights at the best prices with discounts
- Car rental: Discovery Cars (cheaper – only by bus)
- Hotels and apartments in Doha: Booking
- Tours, excursions and activities (including extreme ones):
- Comprehensive travel insurance: EKTA
- eSIM virtual sim card with internet in Montenegro