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Role of the English Language in Sports Broadcasting in the United Arab Emirates

Role of the English Language in Sports Broadcasting in the United Arab Emirates


Status of the English language as a lingua franca for global business is uncontestable. In particular, in the United Arab Emirates, English has become widely used as a working language in larger corporations and a medium of instruction in education. Instead of coining new terms in Arabic and waiting for professionals to adopt them, authorities in many cases just decide to keep English as a main working language for conducting business, teaching at universities, publishing scientific articles and many more other purposes that are dependent on international cooperation. However, English is not common for use in leisure and sports, especially for broadcasting sports competitions such as World Football Cup in 2014. The aim of this paper is to discover why English is not used for broadcasting sports on the national TV in the United Arab Emirates as well as to present the possible solutions to this problem.

Needs and Benefits

Since the United Arab Emirates is a dynamically developing country, the need for use of English in all spheres of the country’s life is indisputable. The number of emigrant workers, both skilled and unqualified, is striking. Football is the most popular type of sports in the area; therefore, it would be logical if sports broadcasting was available in English alongside with Arabic. This report has an objective of providing recommendations for the UAE broadcasting agencies in order to popularize English in sports and facilitate understanding for those people who do not seak Arabic.


The focus of this paper is on the reactions of the natives from the UAE to English considering the fact that this language occupies not only the domain of business, but also leisure. The information analyzed has been extracted from a study conducted by Sarah Hopkyns who interviewed 35 Emirati female students as well as female primary school teachers (Hopkyns, 2014, pp. 5-9). A recommendation concerning using English in the leisure sphere, particularly sports, will be presented at the end of the paper.


A qualitative analysis method has been implemented to investigate the question. The participants of the study had to answer some questions regarding the impact of English language on the Emirati culture as well as identity of each participant. All study participants were at a certain point of studying English for their career due to, for example, new government’s implementations that prompted the instructors of primary schools to teach only in English. Some of them were pleased with this innovation while others found it hard to study English and did not understand its necessity.

Findings of the Analysis

English was acknowledged as very important subject by all but one participant of the study, who was an undergraduate student. Obviously, the significance of English was due to the career opportunities the knowledge of this language provided. However, one of the most crucial points was also the ability to enjoy broadcasting of English TV. This prroves the point that was argued earlier: people of the UAE desire to not only use English for business and study communication, but also in the domain of leisure. It was mentioned as an important thing for both groups of undergraduates and teachers. Some of them, roughly 14%, indicated that such omnipresence of the foreign language in the UAE could be a threat to the native Arabic language. All the information collected through surveys that were completed by each participant in about 20 minutes.

Since Arabic is still primarily used for home communication, it would be indeed improper to cease broadcasting in Arabic language (Crawford & Nickerson, 2013). Nevertheless, the above-mentioned facts show that even Emirati natives believe that entertainment provided in English is important to them. Therefore, broadcasting could be possibly done in both languages.


In order to implement sports broadcasting in English, government and broadcasting agencies should cooperate in shaping new policies. For example, half of the channels should be in Arabic, and another half in English. If a broadcast is only on one channel, subtitles in English could be used to facilitate understanding of the sports event for those who do not speak Arabic. A technique that is used in Kyrgyzstan also practices interchange between Russian and Kyrgyz language when sports commentators substitute each other to make sports broadcasting comprehensible for everyone, as it was described in an article by Tanishk Tatoor (Tharoor, 2014).



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