Arabic Linguist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 27, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an Arabic linguist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and necessary skills to find out if this is the career for you.

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A career as an Arabic linguist requires a bachelor's degree and fluency in Arabic and English. Linguists often work as translators and interpreters, and may be responsible for translating speech or text from English to Arabic and Arabic to English. Demand for Arabic translators is high.

Essential Information

Linguists can be found in both industry and academia. Academic linguists research and teach in university settings, while industry linguists work primarily in speech and language recognition. Arabic linguists might work in both the United States and abroad to analyze, translate, transcribe and report on manuscripts and documents written in the Arabic language. Many employers require a bachelor's degree along with fluency in Arabic.

Required Education Bachelor's degree standard requirement
Other Requirements Native or near-native fluency in Arabic, strong analytical and interpretation skills; employers may require physical and psychological evaluation as well as a background check
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 19% for all interpreters and translators
Median Salary (2018)* $49,930 for all interpreters and translators

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for an Arabic Linguist

An Arabic linguist collects and analyzes data, translates or interprets data as needed and reports on Arabic materials. Arabic linguists are most needed in companies or agencies involved heavily in foreign and international affairs. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and U.S. Army regularly seek the knowledge and expertise of qualified Arabic linguists to aid in counterterrorism and diplomacy efforts in the Middle East.

Arabic Linguist Duties

Arabic linguists should be prepared to perform a variety of translations, including document-to-document and audio-to-document translation of the Arabic language to standard English. On occasion, Arabic linguists also may be required to perform English-to-Arabic translation. Translation requires linguists not only to convert one language to another word by word, but also to relay concepts and ideas accurately and coherently. This requires both advanced language fluency and critical thinking skills.

Linguists working in the field might be expected to act as interpreters and perform both simultaneous and consecutive interpretation. Simultaneous interpretation requires the linguist to listen to the individual speaking in Arabic and translate the speech simultaneously. It requires exceptional language skills and a high degree of concentration. Consecutive interpretation allows the interpreter to break the dialogue into smaller chunks and take shorthand notes as the speaker is speaking. Interpretation work is crucial to military and diplomacy work abroad.

Requirements for Arabic Linguists

Requirements vary greatly by hiring agency. Overall, Arabic linguists must possess exceptional language and critical thinking skills. Although the U.S. Army is willing to provide Arabic language training, the majority of employers will require linguists to possess native or near-native fluency in Arabic. Most employers, including the CIA, require prospective students to have graduated with a degree from a 4-year college or university. The CIA also requires successful completion of language, physical and psychological evaluations, a strong interest in international affairs, a polygraph and a thorough background check.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In 2018, interpreters and translators in general earned an annual median salary of $49,930, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Much faster than average employment growth of 19% was predicted by the BLS for these professionals, from 2018-2028. Those in highest demand were expected to be translators of Middle Eastern languages, including Arabic, and East Asian languages.

Arabic linguists may work for the government, law enforcement, military, or private companies. They may be responsible for instant translation of verbal speech, or for analyzing speeches and texts. There is a high demand for Arabic linguists in the field of counterterrorism, and a bachelor's degree is a standard requirement.

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