Govt employees learning foreign languages to perform better


Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — Saudi employees in various government agencies have been learning foreign languages with the aim of serving better by effectively responding to queries they receive from the public, particularly pilgrims and domestic workers in distress.

The call center at the Ministry of Labor and Social Development has been receiving calls from domestic workers airing their grievance. The workers who come different countries are often not fluent in Arabic or English. In order to fill this communication gap, the ministry has asked its employees at the call center to learn various languages.

The government agencies involved in Haj and Umrah pilgrimage services are also learning foreign languages.

About 90 employees of the Passport Department at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, which is the gateway for pilgrims, speak nine different languages, according to officials.

Apart from government employees, traders in Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah have shown interest to learn different languages.

Aiming to bridge the gap in serving large ethnic groups of pilgrims, foreign languages such as Urdu, Turkish, English, French and Persian are being taught to Saudi officials and other stakeholders.

Taibah University and Islamic University of Madinah have been conducting regular foreign language courses for the benefit of concerned people involved in pilgrimage operations.

After Arabic, Urdu remains the most used language in Haj operations because it is spoken by a huge number of pilgrims arriving from the south Asian countries.

Beginning with Urdu, the interest in mastering foreign tongues later expanded to many other languages.

Saudi officials through Haj research institute considering the use of Urdu as an important medium for crowd control. Currently 25 people are learning Urdu at the Islamic University alone.

Special training in Urdu besides English is being provided to employees including women in the Prophet’s Mosque to help them effectively communicate with the pilgrims as well as to raise their religious awareness through lessons in the mosque.

Also, there is overwhelming response from different people including shoppers in learning to Bahasa, the prime language spoken in Indonesia.

The Indonesian Consulate General in Jeddah has been conducting regular language classes for officials and the merchant community. Several officials from the Passport Department are also attending the language classes at the consulate.

About 100,000 Indonesians visit the Kingdom every month for the Umrah pilgrimage. Understanding the language they speak will go a long way in attracting business, said an official at the Indonesian consulate.