RIYADH: The French language has always captivated people around the world with its sophisticated phonology, eloquent phrases and beautiful literature – and Saudis are no exception.
The bridge between cultures starts with a word, or perhaps a sentence, and more and more Saudis are keen to learn French, be it to broaden their horizons, for job opportunities, out of love of its culture and history or to communicate better with their Francophone counterparts.
Elham Al-Bahouth, a Saudi diplomat, got her bachelor’s degree in French at King Saud University, Riyadh. “I knew that the workforce wasn’t in need of French speakers, but I love to stand out and French was my passageway. English is easy to attain, but I strived to learn that beautiful language.”
Since her childhood, Al-Bahouth has vacationed in France every year, so it was a natural transition to learn the language. “As Saudi Arabia is opening up, more opportunities are arising for Saudis who speak French,” she added. “A window has opened up for Saudis to shine in, and (it’s) an opportunity to serve our country.”
There are more than 150,000 French speakers in Saudi Arabia today, and there is no shortage of opportunities for people to pick up the language. The Alliance Francaise in Saudi Arabia, part of a worldwide network of French cultural centres, trains thousands of students every year in French, including adults, teenagers and children.