Saudi Gazette runs an op-ed by Dr Khalid Al-Seghayer, a Saudi academic, noting how widely the English language has spread in Saudi Arabia. He writes that while it is not officially the second language of the country, it is in all but formal name. He provides a fairly comprehensive listing of all the areas of Saudi life in which English-language competence has become critical. About the only thing he seems to have missed is the role of English as the language of international air traffic, both for pilots and air traffic controllers.
Status and functions of English in Saudi Arabia
Dr. Khalid Al-Seghayer
ARTICLE 50 of the Educational Policy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia states that students should learn at least one foreign language so that they may interact with people of other cultures for the purpose of contributing to the message of Islam and serving humanity. This sets forth the rationale for English teaching in Saudi schools, where the learners’ ability to communicate with international language users ranks as a priority. Hence, it would seem that policy-makers, stakeholders, and other decision-making bodies in Saudi Arabia are well aware that English can serve as a very important tool for the development of the country in terms of both international relations and scientific-technological advancement.
Consequently, the official status of English in Saudi Arabia is that of a primary foreign language and the country continues to show considerable interest in the English language. However, the country’s political stance, if it could be termed so, does not recognize English as the second official language in Saudi Arabia due to the fact that it does not fulfill certain functions that are necessary for intranational communication and it does not have any special administrative status in the country’s society.