Advantages of language courses in the United Arab Emirates

  • Easy visa process. Citizens of some countries do not need to apply for a visa in advance — it will be issued directly at the airport. If the study period exceeds 30 days, language schools in the UAE fully accompany students in obtaining a student visa.
  • English-speaking environment. Locals speak excellent English in Dubai, where language schools are located. This provides many opportunities for foreign students to practice their language skills.
  • Western teaching standards. Native speakers from the US, UK, Australia, and other English-speaking countries teach in the UAE. They conduct classes in accordance with Western standards and authentic materials.
  • Affordable education. Language courses in Dubai cost relatively little. The average cost at a private school is 210 USD per week. At American schools, analogous courses will cost around 430 USD per week.
  • High standard of living. The UAE ranks 22nd in terms of the quality of life index (a combination of the population’s purchasing power, average living expenses, health care, safety, climate friendliness, and others), sharing a place with the UK[1].
  • Opportunity to combine learning with relaxation. Language schools organize entertainment programs for students: diving on the UAE’s east coast, fishing and crabbing, desert safaris, excursions to ancient temples and mosques, and much more.

Disadvantages of language courses in the United Arab Emirates

  • Limited course choice. Arabic is the official language in the UAE, with English coming in second place in terms of popularity. Moreover, despite all of the advantages, the United Arab Emirates is not such an obvious destination for learning English compared to the United States, Great Britain, or Canada. Granted, the choice of language schools and courses in the UAE is small.
  • High prices. The average cost of living in Dubai is 940 USD per month. This is cheaper than in the most popular cities for learning English — London (1,124 USD per month) and New York (1,136 USD per month), but not as budget-friendly as, for example, in Turkey. The average cost of living in Istanbul is 383 USD per month. Moreover, language schools in Dubai are located in a popular tourist area. This is reflected in the cost of food, travel, and entertainment. When planning to study here, calculate the budget by considering the high prices of the tourist area.
  • Strict customs. The UAE is an Islamic country whose laws and customs differ from European norms. You cannot drink alcohol in public places, women should cover their shoulders and knees, and you can wear a swimsuit only on the beach or at a hotel pool. Of course, observance of Islamic laws is more lenient in the central regions of Dubai, and these requirements do not actually apply to tourists. However, it is better to familiarize yourself with possible behavioral patterns before the trip in order to avoid problems with the law or misunderstandings with locals.
  • Hot climate. In the Emirates, the bright sun shines all year round. Even in the winter, the temperature does not fall below 20°C, and in the summer it sometimes reaches 50°C. If you are not accustomed to such temperatures, you will find it difficult to study in the summer and spring.

Cost of language courses in the UAE

SchoolProgramNumber of weeksTuition / weekCitiesHotelsLiving in a residence

ES Dubai

General 15*


180-265 USD


35-85 USD

140-225 USD

Intensive 30*280-445 USD
IELTS Preparation 15*180-265 USD
English for Business 15*180-265 USD
English Speaking 15*180-265 USD
English Pronunciation 15*180-265 USD

Headway Institute

Regular 5*4-6377-1,029 USD/ courseDubai--
Intensive 5*
IELTS/TOEFL Preparation 5*
English for Specific Purposes 5*
Private English CourseIndividual1,029 USD/course

* number of lessons per week

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Types of language courses in the UAE

Type of programIntensityGroupMin. language levelCost per week
General English10-2010Beginner200 USD+
General English Evening course4-64-8Pre-Intermediate132 USD+
Intensive English20-308-10Beginner390 USD+
Business English4-308-10Pre-Intermediate80 USD+
IELTS/TOEFL Preparation4-156-10Beginner130 USD+
Speaking course15-3010-18Beginner390 USD+
English for Specific Purposes61-10Pre-Intermediate150 USD+
Private lessons5-201Beginner88 USD+
  • General English. General English courses aim to teach the language from scratch or improve your knowledge. Classes are held in groups of 8-10 people, and all teachers are native speakers. Students parse grammatical constructions, study vocabulary, and practice speaking skills by discussing given topics. General English courses are available for all language levels.
    • For those who are not ready to devote 10-20 hours a week to learning English, there are General English Evening courses of a lower intensity. Classes are held from 7 to 9 pm for 4-6 hours a week. The minimum required language level is Intermediate (B1).
  • Intensive English. An intensive course for those who want to quickly master the language. The workload is 20-30 hours a week. Sometimes the program includes electives: Business English, conversation classes, or preparation for international exams — suitable for those who plan to study at an English-speaking university or look for a job. These courses are available for students with any language level.
  • English for Specific Purposes. Some language schools offer English courses with a specific focus. For example, Business English, where the classes focus on the practice of speaking and understanding oral speech, along with the principles of business communication and vocabulary depending on the field of activity — law, finance, or tourism.
  • IELTS/TOEFL Preparation. Intensive classes aimed to prepare students for international language exams. Courses are of varying intensity — up to 30 hours per week. They are divided into two modules — classes for 8-20 hours a week and mock lessons, in which students analyze and practice solving tasks from a real exam.
  • Speaking courses. Language schools and universities offer conversational lessons and clubs for those who want to practice with native speakers and other learners. They can be taken on their own or as electives in addition to an intensive course. Some schools allow you to go to a conversation club for free.
    • There are also special Pronunciation courses created to improve your pronunciation. Interactive activities include games, videos, and conversational activities that help develop a proper accent and fluency. As a rule, such classes complement an intensive English course.
  • Private lessons. Individual lessons with a teacher. Suitable for those who know their weaknesses and want to concentrate on them in class. Such courses are very flexible and allow you to independently create a schedule and vary the workload from 5 to 20 hours a week. You can also take private lessons online.

Pathway Programs

Some private language schools, such as ES Dubai, have partnerships with affiliates of US and UK universities in Dubai. The school helps its students with admission to well-known foreign universities, whose branches are located in Dubai. For students in language courses, grants and scholarships are available that cover tuition fees and accommodation on campuses.

ES Dubai also offers a Pre-session English program. These courses help raise the language level if it does not meet the requirements for a chosen academic program. ES Dubai students have access to a university campus — they can attend seminars and various clubs.

University courses in the UAE

Taking language courses at public universities in the United Arab Emirates is available only to citizens of the country. Foreigners can take courses at private universities or at branches of European and American universities.

University language centers, in addition to standard language courses, offer an English for Academic Purposes class, which aims to prepare students for admission to English-speaking universities and employment. These courses are available to those with at least an Intermediate (B1) language level. Classes are held by experienced native teachers — they use interactive teaching methods, monitor the progress of each student, and give detailed feedback. Upon completion of the course, students have all of the necessary knowledge and skills to feel comfortable in an English-speaking environment. Academic writing and critical thinking are also practiced.

The American University in Dubai offers preparatory English courses that prepare undergraduate applicants for university studies and international language exams. The minimum required level of English is Pre-Intermediate. To enroll in courses, you need to provide IELTS/TOEFL results or take a test at the university to determine your language level. Based on these results, you will be assigned to an appropriate group.

Features of admission to language schools in the UAE

Foreign students can study English at language schools or private universities. English courses at public universities are available only to citizens of the country. The main destination for learning English in the UAE is Dubai.

To enroll in a language course, you must:

  • Write a test to determine your language level (for some schools, this can be done online)
  • Apply to the selected school
  • Pay the registration fee
  • Pay partial or full tuition costs along with other necessary payments (for example, a fee for study materials or accommodation at a student residence)

Some schools also require a deposit — approximately 550 USD, which will be returned after successful completion of the course. If you refuse to study, the school will withhold the deposit.

At private schools, unlike universities, classes are held all year round. You can start studying every Monday or Sunday (in Arab countries, the working week starts on Sunday) after obtaining a visa. Tuition and visa fees must be paid in full 4 weeks before the start of the course. Private schools allow you to postpone the start of the course if necessary. However, if you have already been issued a visa, the duration cannot be changed and may not coincide with the start and end dates of the course.

Taking language courses in the UAE

The curriculum of a language course largely depends on the school. University language centers aim to prepare students for entering universities or passing international exams.

Private language schools in the UAE offer more varied types of courses — from basic programs and individual lessons via Skype to conversation clubs and special courses for representatives of different professions. Classes at schools are conducted all year round. The student can choose the time of the lessons (in the morning or evening), the course duration, and which elective classes to take. Once every two weeks, students take tests to track their progress. At the end of the course, you need to pass a final exam, which consists of a written test and oral examination. Based on these results and your work in the classroom, teachers create detailed progress reports and make recommendations.

In addition, private language schools organize an entertainment program for their students: joint walks, excursions, and activities. As they are fully in English, students further practice the language during these activities.

Customs and Traditions in the UAE

The UAE is an Islamic country. If the teaching methods at language schools correspond to Western standards, then the rules of conduct and customs of the country differ from Western norms. In the Emirates, it is considered indecent to look at praying people, stand next to them, or take photographs. It is also undesirable to photograph Muslim women, as the locals perceive this as an insult. Restrictions further apply to clothing: women should cover their shoulders and knees, and it is forbidden to appear in the city center wearing a swimsuit or other revealing clothing.

The severity of laws and customs depends on the area where you are located. In the central regions of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where most language schools are located, the observance of customs is more lenient due to the large number of tourists from Western countries. However, foreign students should still familiarize themselves with the customs and restrictions in order to avoid conflictive situations or problems with the law.

Muslims fast during Ramadan, which takes place from April to May. Until sunset, they cannot eat food, drink water, or smoke. Restrictions do not apply to foreigners, but shops and establishments may be closed during fasting and classes may be shortened. After Ramadan ends, schools hold extra classes to make up for the gaps.

Accommodation options while studying in the UAE

Accommodation optionsMealsNumber of people per roomMin. costAvg. cost
Student residenceOptional1-2140 USD/week225 USD/week
HotelOptional1-235 USD/day327 USD/day
HostelOptional1-835 USD/day46 USD/day
ApartmentNone1-3680 USD/month1,000 USD/month

Additional expenses

ExpenseMin. costAvg. cost
Visa fee340 USD1,060 USD
Medical insurance32 USD/month45 USD/month
Registration fee81 USD90 USD
Study materials55 USD70 USD
Accommodation reservation fee90 USD90 USD
Airport transfer75 USD110 USD
Security deposit544 USD550 USD
Bank transaction fee50 USD3%

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Visa for language courses in the United Arab Emirates

For trips of 30 days, citizens of some countries do not need to apply for a visa in advance to visit the United Arab Emirates. It is issued free of charge upon arrival at the airport. To do this, you will need a passport valid for at least 6 months after the travel dates. Then, it can be extended twice for 30 days without leaving the country. The application must be submitted to the UAE Immigration Service through the website.

For longer programs (more than 30 days), you will need to apply for a student visa. This is done directly at a university or language school. The visa is issued for 3, 6, or 12 months. You must also refer to the school for an extension. The term for issuing a student visa is 12 working days from the date of the application. Please note that the language school cannot guarantee a student visa. At the same time, the rejection rate for student visas in the UAE is extremely low — 1%[2].

Citizens of other countries need to apply for a visa in advance at the Embassy of the Emirates to take short-term courses. A long-term student visa for this category of students is also issued at a language school or university.

Work while taking a language course in the UAE

Under the laws of the UAE, work on a student visa is prohibited. But do not take this restriction too painfully — it is an opportunity to fully focus on learning English and not waste time looking for part-time jobs.
However, some language schools, such as ES Dubai, offer part-time jobs at partner companies. That being said, you should still be careful, because illegal work on a student visa can lead to a fine, deportation, and a ban on visiting the Emirates in the future. Check with the specific school for more details.

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Popular language schools in the UAE

ES Dubai

ES Dubai is a private language school located in Jumeirah Lake Towers — the heart of the new Dubai. A variety of English language programs, qualified native teachers, and a rich entertainment program attract more than 2000 students from 68 countries around the world. The school is accredited by Cambridge Assessment English and IELTS.

ES Dubai cooperates with international universities in Dubai. For example, Middlesex University offers grants and scholarships to language school students that cover tuition and living costs. ES Dubai also offers Pathway programs for students who wish to continue their studies in Dubai after completing a language course. For those who have already entered a university, but do not have a sufficient level of English, the school offers a Pre-sessional English course in parallel university studies

The average cost of a standard course is 200 USD per week, while an intensive program is 350 USD. The duration of the courses is from 1 to 44 weeks. 15 is the minimum age for admission. On the territory of the school, there are modern classrooms, recreation rooms, a gym, and a swimming pool. ES Dubai offers accommodation options in a student residence — a forty-minute drive from the school — and free transportation from the residence.

The school organizes extracurricular activities for students: sightseeing tours in Dubai, desert safaris, cinema trips, visits to an aquarium and water park, helicopter flights, and yacht parties. The language learning experience at ES Dubai will definitely not be boring.

Headway Institute

Headway Institute in Dubai offers courses in Arabic, English, Russian, French, Italian, and other languages. The school is proud of its highly qualified teachers — they must have a master's degree, 5 to 15 years of teaching experience, and TESOL or DELTA/CELTA teaching certificates. The Institute itself is licensed by the Dubai Technology and Information Free Zone and the Department of Science and Human Development.

The educational program at the Headway Institute is extensive — from courses for 6 year old children to corporate programs of professional English for workers in the oil industry. In addition, you can take standard and intensive English courses, prepare for the international IELTS and TOEFL exams, and hone your pronunciation and communication skills in conversation clubs.

Courses last 4-6 weeks. The cost for 24 academic hours is 377 USD. Classes are held in groups of 4-8 people. Individual and semi-individual (2-3 students per group) courses are also available. The cost of such courses for 24 academic hours is 1,029 USD and 755 USD, respectively.

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