Translation in the GCC: a recipe for success

05 July 2021

Translation in the GCC isn’t an option. It’s a necessity. 

The 6 Arab states that make up the GCC (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain) are in a “prime geographical location” for trade with both the East and the West, and their developed economies make them an attractive location to set up shop and expand internationally. 

As a hot spot for all-things-growth, there’s never been a more exciting time to bask (and work) in the wall-to-wall sunshine offered by the Gulf. If you’re a business operating out of the GCC with your eyes on the business opportunities at the Expo 2021 in Dubai, then our first piece of advice for you? Make sure you’ve translated all of your content so you can make those global connections easy.

Read on for all the most important facts you need to know about the GCC and why the gulf states are the perfect locale to roll out your global translation strategy.

Eight major languages and counting 

The official language of the GCC is Arabic. Still, with a huge expatriate population calling the GCC nations home, the unofficial (and widely used) languages also include Bengali, Punjabi, Tagalog, Hindi, Malayalam, Farsi and English.

A huge expat population 

According to statistics from the Gulf Labour Markets and Migration (GLMM) Programme, most of the GCC population is non-nationals. The most recent statistics available aren’t as fresh as we like them (2015), but the trend is clear. Across 4 of the 6 states, the non-national population exceeds 50%. 

For context, the most recent figures for the UK (2019) show the foreign national population at a mere 14%. The GCC is a truly global village and a talent magnet for workers from all over the world. 

A major partner in world imports and exports 

The history of the Arabian trade is ancient, and Arabs have always been skilled merchants. Today, nothing has changed, and the Arabian GCC connects, provides and receives trade from all over the world overland, in the air and via the sea. 

Knoema reports GCC trade partners as far away as Singapore and Japan, and while China makes up 15% of all imports and exports, there’s a whole host of global players at the table.

Check out these charts for multilingual business at its finest:


Destination Middle East 

The GCC is a thriving hub for tourism, and the crown jewel is the shining playground of the desert, The United Arab Emirates (UAE). With 6 of the world’s tallest hotels in residence, and the world’s largest indoor theme and amusement park on its doorstep, the UAE is 15th on the list of leading countries visited by UK residents.

As early as 2017, the UAE’s travel and tourism sector alone was predicted to contribute $44.6 billion to the country’s GDP account. With numbers like this to back the popular holiday destination, it’s another stellar reason why translation is so vital to the GCC marketplace. 

Workforce Localization 

The importance of translation for the GCC isn’t only a social or entertainment consideration for living in or visiting GCC countries. With so many expats relocating to countries like the UAE for work, it’s the international companies’ responsibility to ensure that staff experience socialization, which is a fundamental part of creating a happy workforce. 

On the flip side, a report by Marie-France Waxin, Savita Kumra and Fang Zhao on Workforce Localization in the Arab Gulf Countries outlines how even national citizens of the UAE working alongside expats need support. Activities like orientation, training, networking, social events, and team-building help nationals integrate with their expat peers. 

The road to cultural awareness runs both ways. To help create a successful multinational workplace, international companies in the GCC emphasize creating work environments that honor the people of the Khaleej and the large expat communities that live work alongside them. 

Connecting people from everywhere

The GCC’s rich potential is undeniable. With an economic growth that doesn’t seem to be slowing down, it’s easy to understand why foreign languages are vital to multinational residents and international tourists. 

Without translation in the GCC, there wouldn’t be such a strong attraction for people to immigrate and holiday. Places like the UAE are light-years ahead of Europe because they are young and have learned early that happy people are citizens who feel heard, understood and spoken to. It’s no wonder that in the UAE, the government even has a Minister of Happiness and a National Programme of Happiness!

If you’re in business in the GCC looking for a partner in Khaleeji Arabic, drop us a message and let’s talk about how we can connect you with your neighbors from the Gulf.