The official language of Jordan is Arabic, but English is widely used, both commercially and socially. Both languages are compulsory subjects in schools, ensuring that many people are bilingual. Other languages which are also used frequently include French and Russian. Radio Jordan broadcasts programmes in Arabic, English and French, while some government and commercial business is carried out in English, making it much easier for expats to get by.
An English speaking expat would be able to get by without learning any Arabic, but learning some of the official language will offer more opportunities for socialising and working. Learning Arabic is not easy, particularly for a westerner, as the characters used are so different to the alphabet in use in European languages. It is a good idea to become accustomed to the sound of the language first, perhaps by using a ‘Teach Yourself’ style CD to pick up a few useful phrases. These CDs will also be able to demonstrate the complexity of the language and help you to work out which method of learning is best for you.
Learners will also find that there are several different dialects of Arabic as well as the standard language. For beginners it is probably better to learn what is known as Modern Standard Arabic. Learning this will also give you the skills to communicate if you visit other Arabic countries. Learning the Arabic characters will give you the ability to read road signs and learn place names, which is a useful skill when travelling around Arabic states. It is also good for helping you to integrate into the local community, as most locals are happy to help those who make the effort to communicate in the local language.
Another option for learning Arabic is to take an online course. There are several which offer some lessons free of charge while you decide if this particular method is for you. Ensure that you choose a course which teaches grammar rules as well as words and phrases as the rules will be invaluable as you progress.
There is no substitute for practising the language with others and after learning a little at home it is a good idea to join a class where you can meet other students and practise your new skills. There are many colleges both in Europe and in Jordan which offer evening classes. It is advisable to find a course where class numbers are relatively small, this ensures that you receive the correct amount of focus from the teacher and get a reasonable amount of practice time.