Cairo - Post Report Question and Answers

How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It helps immensely to learn some Arabic including numbers and letters to help identify Ubers. The embassy has a post language program and there are various local options that are generally affordable. - Mar 2023

You can get by without Arabic, but will be happy knowing some very basics as you navigate the city. - Aug 2022

It is helpful to have some Arabic, but it's not impossible to get around without it. Uber is everywhere and the ability to input your current location and destination in the app means you don't need Arabic to navigate cabs, for example. A typical Uber ride is under 5 dollars. There are many Arabic tutors available, however, as well as local schools. Egypt has long been a destination for students interested in Arabic so there are plenty of opportunities for those who want to learn it once here. - Aug 2022

English is widely spoken in Cairo, however it is very helpful to have enough Egyptian Arabic to navigate taxis / ubers and market sellers. The post language program is excellent and private lessons and tutors are affordable. - Mar 2022

You should learn the basic welcome and if you use Uber learn the words for directions like left, right, straight, stop and here. Egyptians love that you try to learn their language and will help you. The embassy provides classes and you can find a tutor on the local economy just negotiate the price. - Dec 2021

Not much, but it would be really helpful to know a few pleasantries, taxi language, numbers. Embassy offers free classes and you can go to local Arabic classes as well, decent prices for those classes. - Feb 2021

My arabic is pretty terrible, but it's not something that I've found I've needed to rely on too much in the local area. A little bit goes a long way though. So, it's helpful to have. - Nov 2020

Everyone seems to know some really basic English, but using this for anything will break down quickly if there's a real language barrier. Having a little language will help out considerably, and there are classes offered by the embassy to pick up the slack. I can't imagine tutors being expensive or hard to find. - Jan 2020

You can get by with mostly English in Zamalek and Maadi, but for venturing farther afield you'll need at least a rudimentary understanding of Egyptian Arabic. - Jun 2018

You need a little bit for taxis and the market but I don't use it as much as I thought I would. The embassy offers language classes both in Modern Standard and in the local dialect. There are also local tutors that are affordable (about $10/hr for private) - Jan 2018

The embassy has a language program open to staff and family members, which many people take advantage of, many have had positive experiences with the program and the instructors offer classes during the work day and after hours. Many Egyptians speak some English, given the previous prevalence of tourists. Of course, knowing some Arabic will enrich your experience. You can survive in Cairo without Arabic. - Sep 2017

Arabic is helpful for getting around and negotiating at markets. Most people in the expat areas and at tourist sites speak *some* English, however. - May 2017

Very little, but many classes available. - May 2017

It helps to know basic directional words and numbers for taxis and shopping. That's about all I learned and I was fine. Most educated, wealthy Egyptians speak English. Where I missed out not speaking Arabic was in interactions with people other than these. Like anywhere, you get more out of it if you speak the language. However, I still was able to have a fulfilling time without it. - Jan 2016

Some for taxis, grocery shopping. Most educated Egyptians speak at least some English. - Jan 2016

It's nice to know common greetings but so many people speak English here. - Oct 2014

It's definitely a strong advantage, but a lot of people speak English well enough and we can get by. - Aug 2014

Some,but English is widely understood in the expat areas. - Aug 2014

Arabic helps a lot - for taxis, green grocer, etc. - May 2014

It's useful to know enough to ask for directions and give directions to taxi drivers. - Apr 2014

It's very helpful to have some Arabic. - Mar 2014

Not a bunch. People appreciate you speaking it, but you don't really need more than 5 or 6 phrases to get by. - Jul 2013

Some taxi Arabic is extremely useful (left, straight, right, stop, and numbers). The American commiunity is quite large and it is possible to not really interact with Egyptians over the course of a given day. On the flip side, if you don't want to go overseas just to talk with other Americans, some Arabic (especially Egyptian dialect Arabic) is a must. - Jul 2013

The more the better. Those who don't speak arabic seem to have a harder time adjusting. - Jun 2013

Knowing Arabic has definitely enriched my experience here and made me feel more comfortable. However, many do not speak any Arabic and they are doing just fine. - Jun 2013

Not much. It is helpful to know your numbers and directions for cabs. Also grocery store stuff, such as weights and names of foods. Time is also another good one. Many Egyptians in the expat and tourist areas speak a little English. - May 2013

I recommend speaking Arabic (Egyptian-dialect Arabic) if you are going to live here. - May 2013

It is not really needed, but it is always helpful. Shopkeepers have basic English. Arabic for taxis is helpful. - May 2013

Far less than you would expect. Egyptians are very welcoming of any effort to try to speak Arabic (most realize that it isn't an easy language), and I have found that many people speak at least the basics of English. It helps to have basic "taxi Arabic" - things like left, right, straight ahead - and to know your address. It also helps to learn the basic bits of politeness! I know many expats who have been here for years, never leave the expat bubble, and have gotten by with almost no Arabic to speak of. Despite my efforts, my Arabic is very weak, but a few after-work classes have given me enough to get by with the basics. - Feb 2013

If all you ever do is interact with expats, and if you have a driver who speaks Arabic, then you can get by with little. You'll also feel very restricted and claustrophobic. English is not as widely spoke here as one might expect. Not having any Arabic is a handicap and will impact morale. - Feb 2013

Basic Arabic is useful. - Mar 2013

It would be unsafe to come here without Arabic. - Mar 2013

A lot more than people tell you. You will feel pretty isolated if you don't have some level of conversatinal ability, and everything will cost three times as much. - Feb 2013

You need some basic Arabic -- some Egyptians will try and speak English to you, but then it's usually some type of scam. - Jan 2013

It is a bit helpful to know numbers and directional words (left, right, straight). Pleasantries are appreciated. :) In Maadi, at least, many know English. - Nov 2012

Very little. However, many signs aren't in English. - Sep 2011

Depends on the neighborhood. Generally, Cairenes speak better English than I do Arabic. - Aug 2011

It makes all the difference. - Aug 2011

None. Most shopkeepers, cab drivers, and offices will be staffed with at least a few people who can speak enough English to complete whatever transaction you need. However, you will have a much richer experience if you try to learn some spoken Arabic. It makes people happy if you try. - Jul 2011

A bit. English is prevalent. But in a taxi or most stores you need basic Arabic. - Jun 2011

You can get by without learning Arabic, but you'll have a much richer and rewarding experience if you obtain at least a basic understanding. - Sep 2010

I speak no Arabic and have had no issues except at the airport. - Jun 2010

Most people speak at least a little English, but knowing some Arabic goes a long way towards building relationships with Egyptians - they are thrilled beyond belief when foreigners can speak Arabic. - Dec 2009

A little bit for giving directions and getting prices - basic shopping. - May 2008

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