Arabic in Manchester


Speakers of Arabic are one of Manchester’s rapidly growing language communities. While in the 2011 Census around 7,000 people declared Arabic to be their ‘main language’, currently (2015-2016) Arabic is the second-largest minority language after Urdu that is recorded as the first language of Manchester schoolchildren. In 2015 Arabic also ranked highest on the list of demand for interpreter services at Manchester’s GP surgeries, reflecting especially the recent arrival of refugees from the Middle East.

Arabic has a strong presence on the city’s language landscapes, with the number of Arabic signs on local businesses (and public spaces) closely following that of signs in Chinese and Urdu. This shows the strong relevance of Arabic in the city’s local commercial sector. Most Arabic-speaking businesses are found in Rusholme, Cheetham Hill, and Longsight.

The Arabic speaking community makes an effort to maintain its language heritage, and operates a number of supplementary schools that teach Arabic. A recent survey of Arabic-speaking school pupils showed that 58% of them attend such highest supplementary schools — the largest proportion for any of Manchester’s minority languages.

Large numbers of Arabic speakers in Manchester originate from Libya, Iraq, Kuwait, and Syria, but there are communities from most other Arab countries too as well as Arabic speakers from Iran. Arabic is also the second spoken and written language of many Manchester residents of Kurdish and Somali background, and it is studied as a language of religious liturgy in Manchester’s sizeable Muslim community of South Asian background.