Language and entertainment

The language in which entertainment is consumed varies considerably by nationality and medium. Almost all Arabs – more than nine in ten – consume most forms of media (film, television, music, print and online videos) in Arabic. Fewer than one in ten non-Arabs consume entertainment media in Arabic. There is some variation in Qatar, though, where slightly fewer Arabs (nationals and expats) watch films and online videos in Arabic (about eight in ten for each).

The picture is more complex with regard to consuming media in English. Almost all Western expats consume all media in English, and the majority of Asian expats do as well. The use of English among country nationals varies widely by medium. Very few country nationals read print material or watch TV programs in English (14% and 18%, respectively). Comparatively, a third listen to English music (32%) and even more – about four in ten – watch films and online videos in English (46% and 40%, respectively). Arab expats are more likely than nationals to consume media in English, but still far behind their consumption in Arabic. Notably, three-fourths of Arab expats watch films in English and half listen to English music.

There is also wide variation in consumption of English content among citizens from the six countries. Almost no Egyptians consume content in English, except for 30% of gamers who play English video games. Nationals in the Gulf states and Lebanon are the most likely to consume English content overall. A strong majority of nationals in the Gulf states and Lebanon watch English-language films and the majority of Qatari and Lebanese nationals also watch online videos in English. 

Video games are an outlier with regard to language. Overall, gamers are more likely to play in English than Arabic (67% vs. 56%). As with other media, Western and Asian expats play video games almost exclusively in English. More than half of nationals play in English compared with three-fourths who play in Arabic (57% vs. 73%). The gap is narrower for Arab expats, who are almost as equally likely to play in English as in Arabic (67% vs. 73%). Most Qatari nationals (85%) and Lebanese nationals (76%) play video games in English.

Younger respondents (under 25), who listen to music more often overall, are more likely than those older to listen to music in both Arabic and English. The oldest age group (45 and older) is generally less likely to consume any entertainment media in English.

While Arabic and English are the two main languages of entertainment in the MENA region, there are some demographics within the six countries – reflecting either history or expatriation – which consume media in other languages. Television programs in Hindi, for example, are popular among Asian expatriates in Qatar and the UAE, as are Hindi music and films, and French is popular in Tunisia for all entertainment media.