Time flies in Morocco which clashes with the idea that Moroccan people take things easy………….

Four and a half weeks ago I travelled to Rabat, Morocco for my third time in the last two years. It does feel as if I have just stepped off the plane and I can not believe four and a half weeks have already past. It does feel as if I never left Morocco and I am not sure if that is due to Morocco being so close to the Canary Islands, where I am from, my passion for the Arabic language or a little bit of everything, but I feel so at home here. 

I guess it is normal to feel as if time flies by when you are enjoying every minute of what you are doing: learning a language.

We all know the best way to learn a language is in the country where it is spoken. That is why we encourage language students to take their courses abroad. The pace at which you learn is incomparable and what you experience – the direct contact with the local people and language – is priceless.

To increase my Arabic vocabulary and improve my grammar in Fusha (or al-fuṣḥā الفصحى), also known as Modern Standard Arabic, I have two hours a day of language tuition. My classes do not end there, they continue with everything I do. If I go shopping, I have to practise Arabic, if I take a taxi, I have to practise Arabic, if I go for a walk, I hear Arabic, if I turn on the radio, then I hear Arabic. The Arabic language I learnt in England and the Arabic I learn here in the classroom is very different to the Arabic I hear on the streets of Rabat. What I hear on the streets is called Darija and it´s the dialect spoken in Morocco, an amazing combination of languages (Fusha, French, Spanish, Berber).

A friend described Darija (الدارجة‎) as the Arabic for everyday tasks here in Morocco, but if you need to become more serious you will need to speak in either French or Fusha which is the modern standard Arabic, “like the BBC’s English”. So that’s what I’m trying to do, learn words and phrases to communicate with people in everyday life situations.

So it is like I am learning another language, Darija (الدارجة‎), from the beginning while continuing to learn Fusha in the classroom.

I can already greet people in Darija, introduce myself and go to the souq to buy fruit and vegetables which I think is not too bad…

Every time I speak with the local people or exchange conversation in either Darija or Fusha it brings me great joy and motivates me to continue learning the fascinating language of Arabic.

Another thing that really makes me want to continue with my learning adventure is the look of fascination on the local people’s faces when they hear me speaking Arabic. Many Moroccans can’t believe that I want to learn their language and I am interested in their culture!

Many Moroccan people speak at least 2 or 3 languages (Fusha, Darija, French, Berber) and they learn other languages impressively quickly. You just need to go for a walk to Jamaa el Fna Square (ساحة جامع الفناء) in Marrakech, to get a taste for how many languages are spoken in Morocco.

I am really looking forward to learning more about Morocco, the culture, the customs and the Arabic language so I can communicate more with the local people.

No rush though, I have plenty of time………………

Cactus Language Training offers a variety of Arabic language courses in the UK, US, Rabat and Morocco.

Language opens door to new markets – the increase in Arabic, Russian and Mandarin

At a time of global economic downturn, tapping into new markets has never been so relevant to the success, indeed survival, of businesses worldwide.

As recession deals its harsh blows to flailing western economies, drawn deeper into a spiral of unemployment, inflation, negative home equity and soaring energy and fuel prices, it is becoming clear that we need to look further afield, on a global scale, to maximise our earning potential.

With a market in recession, as is now the case with the US and many countries in Western Europe, one of the best things a business can do is diversify – not necessarily product, but clientele. Forming strategic partnerships with emerging markets such as Russia, China and the Arabic world is one such critical step. These developing markets are less affected by the crises currently deflating confidence in western economies and, perhaps more importantly, are still doing well despite the economic decline that surrounds them. They have up to now received investment from developed countries, they have built financial reserves from recent growth, and they harbour newly affluent locals who, although not as brazen in their spending as their western counterparts, have money to spend and investments to sniff out. They are keen to be at the forefront of the global economy and this may be their time.

So, how best to get in on the act with the developing powerhouses of China, Russia and the like? One key factor that cannot be overlooked when it comes to gaining access to foreign markets is the importance of language. Long-term partnerships with any new market depend on relationship building; these relationships in turn are formed through linguistic and cultural awareness. English may be the accepted tongue when it comes to international communication, but there can be no underestimating the importance – if not supremacy – of other languages on a regional scale. Often the quickest way to open doors is to speak to someone in their own language and, in a world where English rules, where it’s the easy option, the effort to speak your target market’s language and understand its culture will not go unnoticed.

Let’s look at Russia. This is a country whose economy is thriving off oil exports and military manufacturing, fast emerging as the energy-producing superpower of Europe. Culturally and in business, Russian as a language is spoken by some 270 million native and non-native speakers, and it is used extensively across Eastern Europe, along with German and Polish.

Further east, China’s official language, Mandarin, is now spoken by a billion people worldwide. Although English is increasingly taught and spoken in this booming economy, anyone aspiring to do business in China will be at huge advantage with native knowledge or even proficiency in Mandarin – especially away from the big cities. Being able to communicate on a ‘personal’ level is valued no more than in Asian countries.

And finally, Arabic. Spoken by more than 250 million Arabs, this ancient language of the Qu’ran spans North Africa, from Morocco in the west as far east as Iraq. Finance, oil and intelligence depend on it, while, as with many foreign cultures, businesses with knowledge of the language have the edge when it comes to understanding nuances, customs and beliefs that often go unnoticed in English.

Any business aspiring to infiltrate these emerging markets would therefore do well to adopt a strategic approach to multi-lingual communication. Updating a website so it is accessible in multiple languages, recruiting native speakers and outsourcing translators are useful steps. Yet utilising the workforce that you already have is arguably the most effective way to embrace the new multi-lingual environment that lies ahead.

Linguistic and cross-cultural training will provide employees and businesses with language skills attuned to their particular markets and an appreciation of the cultures within which they want to work – an investment that will reap long-term rewards. Cultural awareness in particular may be easy to overlook, but it is key in building successful relationships, preventing costly misunderstandings, managing multi-cultural teams and reducing culture shock if employees are relocating.

Language in this sense really does help to open doors, and investing in an emerging market equipped with the appropriate knowledge is a step that could potentially both rescue and future-proof your business.