Saleswomen demand English-speaking lessons

Updated 05 February 2014

Saleswomen demand English-speaking lessons

Many Saudi female sales representatives working in shops across the Kingdom are demanding English-speaking courses, saying that they are facing communication difficulties when dealing with foreign customers.
Generally, companies operating in the Kingdom hire Saudis who can understand and speak English, particularly in jobs that involve interaction with expatriates. However, with the recent Saudization laws a large number of Saudi women were hired in an effort to comply with the new labor laws, without taking into consideration their qualifications and without providing them with prior training.
Najwa Janzier, a sales representative at Paris Gallery, said that many foreign women shop in the store. However, the sales women are reluctant to assist them since they cannot communicate with them.
She added that a saleswoman with English skills is at an advantage and more capable of selling products to foreigners.
“There is less misunderstanding if we are able to converse in English. We don’t want to be embarrassed in front of our customers,” she said.
Janzier’s colleague Nadia Al-Zaid has taken a different approach to the matter, deciding to communicate with foreign customers, even in sign language if necessary.
“I’m not fluent in English, but I can manage with the basics and the rest of the conversation I usually conduct in sign language and hand gestures,” laughed Al-Zaid. “It’s difficult, but shying away from customers leaves a worse impression, as it might be interpreted as bad attitude or ignorance, and that reflects negatively on our work performance.”
Janzier and Al-Zaid urged managers to provide Saudi sales women with free English-speaking courses within their job training process.
Eman Ashwami, a Saudi female working at a lingerie store pointed out that in many circumstances she was unable to assist expatriate customers because she could not communicate with them in English.
“Ultimately, I had to show them around the shop and let them help themselves with what they needed,” she said.
Ashwami added that it is vital for people working in the field of sales to be bilingual, especially in a country like Saudi Arabia, which hosts one of the highest rates of foreigners.
“We deal with people from different countries, educational levels and backgrounds. We cannot expect them all to speak Arabic, but we should always be ready to serve on our part. Since English is an international language, I don’t see why we shouldn’t be given training to improve our English language skills,” she noted.
But Kholoud Al-Asiri, a Saudi head saleswoman at a leading cosmetic brand store in Jeddah, expressed a different opinion. She asserted that even though local sales representatives should possess a basic knowledge of the English language, it is also important for foreigners to be able to speak some Arabic words.
“Living in an Arab country where on most occasions conversations are held in Arabic, I believe it is important that foreigners adapt to our style and speak our language,” argued Al-Asiri. “Sure, I agree we as sales people have to be able to communicate with our customers and make them feel comfortable. But it is just as much important that they are able to converse in Arabic as it is the language they must communicate in wherever they go in the Kingdom.”
Statistics from a recent survey revealed that the majority of Saudi managers asserted that they do not prefer hiring women to work in sales, stating that the job required sales people who are experienced enough to deal with customers of different nationalities.
In a related development, Prince Abdullah bin Saud bin Mohamed Al-Kabeer, chairman of the Institute of Creative Routes, and Shaf Hussain, director of Central College of Nottingham signed a memorandum of understanding, which provides 200 young Saudi women with English language courses. The agreement comes within the framework of a private partnership agreement between the Kingdom and the United Kingdom, inked earlier this year.
The main objective of the program according to Prince Abdullah, is to empower Saudi women to be qualified in various vocations, in line with the Kingdom’s labor laws.

Saudi films soar at Golden Falcon film awards

Updated 19 April 2018

Saudi films soar at Golden Falcon film awards

  • Winners of first Golden Falcon award will travel to the Netherlands to study filmmaking techniques
  • Film screenings have been revived in KSA as part of wide-ranging social and economic reforms encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 

RIYADH: Saudi films have won awards at an international film festival organized by the Netherlands to coincide with the return of cinema to the Kingdom.

The first Golden Falcon Film Festival awards drew Saudi actors, filmmakers and cinema-lovers to the Netherlands embassy in Riyadh on Wednesday.

More than 30 shortlisted Saudi films were shown at the maiden festival on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nine films were nominated, with three each in the best film, best script and best director categories. Overall winners were chosen by an international jury headed by Dutch filmmaker Hans Treffers.

Best movie award went to “Mazban.” The other two films nominated in the category were “Tongue” and “Building 20.”

“The Poetess,” “Matour” and “Atoor” were nominated in the best director category with “Atoor” bagging the award.

“Departures,” “Atoor” and “The Remaining” were nominated in the best script category with “Departures” winning the award.

Besides the Golden Falcon trophy, the winners will travel to the Netherlands to study filmmaking techniques.

Joost Reintjes, the Netherlands ambassador in Riyadh, told Arab News: “We are proud to organize the first Golden Falcon Film Festival here to promote filmmaking in the Kingdom and provide a platform for young Saudi filmmakers to show what they have to offer.”

Film screenings — banned in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s following religious changes in the Kingdom — have been revived as part of wide-ranging social and economic reforms encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

The return of cinema was heralded with a film screening on Wednesday at a newly built theater at the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) in Riyadh. 

Commenting on the lifting of the 35-year ban, Reintjes told Arab News: “That’s Vision 2030 — it is good sign to diversify and develop.

“Although the cinemas in the Kingdom have only been restarted now, Saudi filmmaking has already made a name for itself on the world stage.

“The Saudi film industry will grow very fast. The level of talent is high,” he said.

Mohammed Al-Qass, lead actor from “Departure,” said: “We have been working for this day for years. 

“Saudis with a thirst for cinema were traveling outside the country — now they can enjoy and share the experience in their homeland.” 

Mohammed Khawajah, a Saudi filmmaker and adviser for the film festival, told Arab News: “The idea for this festival came last year when the lifting of the cinema ban was being discussed.

“The Netherlands embassy had this idea about nine months ago; we sat together and planned the whole festival, which was carried out successfully, with hundreds of people enjoying Saudi films.

“We will improve with our next festival, which will have more fun and entertainment,” he said.