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Nailing the Arabic Introduction: “Hi” in Arabic and More

Why are you learning Arabic in the first place?

To talk with people, right?

The thing is, people want to get to know the people they meet. It’s only natural, really.

Interestingly enough, if you spend enough time introducing yourself to new people, you’ll realize that you’re answering the same questions over and over.

Whether you’ve just started learning Arabic or you’ve already got the basics down, it never hurts to go over a list of common situations to make sure you’re linguistically prepared for what’s coming.

So, let’s learn “hi” in Arabic, and go over how to introduce yourself in Arabic language, as well as how to write self introduction in Arabic.

Table of Contents

  1. It Started with Hello
  2. Name
  3. Where are You From?
  4. Why are You Learning Arabic?
  5. Are You Here on Vacation?
  6. What Do You Do?
  7. What Do You Like to Do?
  8. How is Your Family?
  9. Conclusion

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1. It Started with Hello

When you’re making an introduction in Arabic, you’ve got to start with the very basics of how to introduce yourself in correct Arabic grammar. Slipping up here on the simplest of words isn’t the end of the world, but it’s certainly a tough crash to come back from.

When introducing yourself in Arabic language, there are two great ways to say hello to somebody else, and a third way to say hello to a group of people. Let’s dive in.

  • أهلا وسهلا
    ‘ahlan wa-sahlan
    Welcome / How do you do?
  • مرحبا

There are several different ways to say hello, depending on where you are, how formal the conversation is, and other factors. These two will get the job done every time, though, when making a self-introduction in Arabic.

  • السلام عليكم
    as-salāmu ʿalaykum
    Peace be upon you!

Assalam alaykum is a particularly formal greeting, and it’s often used to greet a whole group of people at the same time. Imagine a student giving a speech—he’ll definitely start with as-salāmu ʿalaykum.

When you hear this, the proper (and, in fact, obligatory) response is to say:

  • وعليكم السلام
    waʿalaykum as-salām
    And peace be upon you.

2. Name

Why not exchange names right here at the beginning of the conversation? Talking about your name in Arabic, or any language, is an important step in forming a relationship.

Getting someone’s name correct makes an excellent impression. One excellent way to remember names is to make an excuse to use it again almost immediately after hearing it.

That could be during a lull in the conversation, for instance. Your attention is drawn away for a moment, and then coming back, you say “So, Fu’ad, I heard they’re building a new…”

So how do you exchange names in Arabic?

As you should know already, Arabic strongly differentiates between masculine and feminine in its grammar.

Therefore, there are two ways to say most of the questions in this article. In order to save on space, we’ll just stick to the masculine form in the future, as it’s what you’re likely to encounter in other learning materials and even dictionaries. Here’s how to introduce yourself in Egyptian Arabic:

  • ما اِسْمُك؟
    mā ismuk?
    What’s your name? [To a man]
  • ما اِسْمُكِ؟
    ma ismuki?
    What’s your name? [To a woman]

And now to answer:

  • اِسمي
    My name is…

Note that the word “name” is simply ism, and the different suffixes add the meanings of “my/your/his/hers.”

3. Where are You From?

When you introduce yourself in Arabic phrases, definitely expect to hear this question.

Did you know that around ninety percent of Dubai residents are expats? When you think “expat,” you might think of Westerners moving abroad. But actually, the majority of foreigners living in Dubai are from other nearby Arab countries.

The same is true for most other Arabic-speaking countries. Most people not from there are from somewhere nearby. That means that in cosmopolitan areas, you’ll frequently ask and hear the question: “Where are you from?”

  • من أي بلد أنت؟
    min ayyi baladin ‘ant?
    Where are you from?

Here’s a sample answer.

  • أنا من كندا
    ‘ana min kanada.
    I’m from Canada.

In English, most countries aren’t written or said with the definite article. A few examples off the top of my head are: “The Netherlands,” “The Ivory Coast,” and “The Philippines.”

In Arabic, though, close to half of all countries get the definite article: اليابان (al-yābān) meaning “The Japan,” اليونان (al-yūnān) meaning “The Greece,” and so on.

  • منذ متى وأنت تعيش هنا؟
    munḏu matā wa ʾanta taʿīšu hunā?
    How long have you been living here?

There’s a useful little phrase hidden here; منذ متى (munḏu matā) means “since when” and it’s a great building block to drop onto other related questions.

You’ll probably get this question if you happen to speak Arabic particularly well. People are always curious about the motivations of others learning different languages.

  • عشت هنا لمدة أربع سنوات
    ʿištu hunā limuddaẗi ʾarbaʿi sanawat
    I’ve lived here for four years.

No matter how long you say you’ve lived in an Arabic-speaking country, prepare for a compliment on your language skills!

4. Why are You Learning Arabic?

Woman Writing Notes

This is a common question that language learners get asked, particularly those learning Arabic—a language that many people consider to be impossible. If you’re wondering, “How do I talk about myself in Arabic words?” answering this question is a good place to start.

What would possess you to learn it?

You might hear this question phrased literally, like so:

  • ما سبب دراستك للغة العربية؟
    mā sababu dirāsatika lilluġaẗi al-ʿarabiyyah?
    What is your reason for learning the Arabic language?

The word سبب (sabab) means “reason.” Asking “what is your reason for ___” is a typical way to ask why someone is doing something. Here’s an example answer you can give:

  • أتعلم العربية لكي أتكلم بها مع أولاد عمي
    ʾataʿallam al-ʿarabiyyah likay ʾatakallama bihā maʿ ʾawlād ʿammī
    I’m learning Arabic so I can speak it with my cousins.

Sometimes, though, people will want more of a personal answer. This question especially gets asked in overseas Arab communities:

  • من يعلمك العربية؟
    man yuʿallimuka al-ʿarabiyyah?
    Who teaches you Arabic?

Perhaps they know your tutor? Perhaps they can do a better job? There are a few different answers, of course.

  • أتعلم العربية مع أمين
    ʾataʿallamu al-ʿarabiyyah maʿ ʾamīn
    I’m learning Arabic with Amin.
  • أتعلم العربية من المنزل
    ʾataʿallam al-ʿarabiyyah min al-manzil
    I learn Arabic from home.

That’ll catch them off guard! All around the world, even though more and more people are learning other languages, very few have the nerve to teach themselves. Someone who has taught themselves well enough that they can have a conversation with a native speaker is rare, indeed.

  • هل اللغة العربية صعبة؟
    hal al-luġaẗu al-ʿarabiyyaẗu ṣaʿbah?
    Is Arabic difficult?

That question is up to you to answer! If you’re in a place like Algeria or Morocco where French is widely spoken, you can reply this way for a guaranteed laugh:

  • العربية أسهل من الفرنسية
    al-ʿarabiyyaẗu ʾashal min al-firinsiyyah
    Arabic is easier than French!

You can see here that the words for different languages, like the words for different countries, all take the definite article as well. Thus, اليونانية (al-yūnāniyyah) means “the Greek language,” and الصينية (as-ṣīniyyah) means “the Chinese language.”

5. Are You Here on Vacation?

Tourism is absolutely huge in many Arabic-speaking countries, and in others, it’s still a respectable portion of the economy.

A foreign face in an area without too many expats is still something of a curiosity in many parts of the Arab world.

For the Arabic learner, that’s an amazing opportunity. Lots of people are friendly and curious, and every interaction or transaction has the potential to become a real conversation—assuming your language level is up to the challenge!

You might get a simple question like this as an opener:

  • ما غرض زيارتك؟
    mā ġaraḍu ziyaratik?
    Why are you visiting?

After which,the conversation may go:

  • أنا سائح
    ʾanā sāʾiḥ
    I’m a tourist.
  • هل هذه زيارتك الأولى لـ … ؟
    hal haḏihi ziyaratuk al-ʾūlā li … ?
    Is this your first visit to…?

Answering in the negative will almost invariably prompt a quick recounting of places that you’ve been. Make sure that you’re familiar with the names in Arabic of whatever places you’ve been to—this is a step that slips past a lot of learners!

6. What Do You Do?

Here’s an interesting thought. If you’re studying or working abroad in an Arabic-speaking country, it’s possible that you may not get this question very much.

Why? Well, a lot of people who move abroad end up not going out to socialize as much with locals as they imagined—their social lives end up revolving around work.

And although Arabs are famously hospitable, there’s an element of conservatism in some places that might present an obstacle to small talk, particularly across gender lines.

But let’s go ahead and assume that these are non-issues. After all, you can speak Arabic with all kinds of different people from all kinds of different backgrounds. The question is: What do you do?

  • ماذا تعمل؟
    māḏā taʿmal?
    What do you do for work?
  • أعمل في مكتبة
    ʾaʿmalu fī maktabah
    I work at a library.

Good for you! In addition to giving your job title, it’s also a good idea to mention where you actually work if there’s a chance your interlocutor might know it. You never know when you can make a new connection!

  • …أنا أعمل في
    ana ʾaʿmalu fi…
    I work at…
  • …عملت هناك لـ
    ʿamiltu hunāka li…
    I’ve worked there for…

Both of these sentences are pretty “plug and play.” You simply add the appropriate company name or length of time, and you immediately have a correct—and pretty idiomatic—sentence.

This, incidentally, is how I like to approach language learning. By learning a couple of key sentence patterns to cover the different communicative scenarios I expect to find myself in, I can use whatever new vocabulary comes my way with the knowledge that I’m saying the right thing.

7. What Do You Like to Do?

This is a different question for a lot of people than the one above! Finding someone who answers, “I really wish I spent more time at the office,” is probably not going to happen.

Here, we’re going to chat a tiny bit about different hobbies, and using them to introduce yourself in Arabic words.

If you’ve never visited any of them, the big cities of the Arab world have the same— or, in some cases, much crazier—kinds of things to do as big cities everywhere else.

People go to concerts, read fiction, and scroll past memes in Arabic just like anybody else. Whatever you’re interested in already, you’re almost certain to find groups of enthusiasts in the Arab world, too.

From here, I can’t quite see what you’re interested in, but let’s say you like travel, music, and reading. Those are safe options for pretty much everybody.

  • أنا أسافر كثيرا
    ʾanā ʾusāfiru kaṯīran
    I travel a lot.
  • أنا أحب الغناء
    ʾanā ʾuḥibbu al-ġināʾ
    I like singing.

Don’t just say this without meaning it. Arab music is complex and expressive, and if you haven’t already, take the time to check out some artists who sing in Arabic. You’ll have more to talk about with locals, and you can improve your language skills, too!

  • من مؤلفك المفضل؟
    man muʾuallifuka al-mufaḍḍal?
    Who’s your favorite author?
  • …كتابي المفضل هو
    kitābī al-mufaḍḍal huwa…
    My favorite book is…

8. How is Your Family?

Talking about your family in Arabic can be a good topic for forming deeper connections, but be careful. Asking about family is a phrase with some cultural baggage attached, if there ever was one.

This is what you absolutely want to say instead of something like: “How is your wife?”

Really, that’s only a natural question for many people in the West. You’re hanging out with a friend from work, and you remember that your wife wanted to ask something about his wife.

Unless you’ve practically grown up together, this question is simply considered too forward to ask in Arabic-speaking countries.

That element of social conservatism mentioned earlier absolutely carries through, even if two men or two women are talking privately.

  • كيف حال عائلتك؟
    kayfa ḥalu ʿāʾilatik?
    How is your family?
  • بخير، الحمد لله
    biḫayr, al-ḥamdu lillah
    Very well, thank you.

Family is important in Arab culture. Even businesses make a real effort to become the second families of their employees.

Therefore, when somebody asks this, it’s more than just a polite courtesy. This is your chance to mention anything interesting—particularly something positive—that’s happened recently to your family members.

9. Conclusion

We hope that helped you learn Arabic and introduce yourself in this complex language! To test your knowledge and practice you Arabic skills, why not write an “introduce yourself” essay in Arabic? Just a couple of paragraphs where you tell about yourself in Arabic. We really want to hear from you!

Plenty of people who are experts at learning languages in classrooms rate natural conversation as the most challenging aspect of learning.

The frustrating thing about reading articles like this is that they give you a great snapshot of how to start a conversation, but out of necessity, they simply can’t walk you through the whole thing.

What helps with that, then?

You already know the answer: More Arabic in your life, even if you’re already traveling or living in an Arabic-speaking country.

You simply have to make the choice to watch, read, or listen to Arabic more and more frequently. The more you put it off, the longer it takes for it to become natural, and the harder it is to make that choice every time.

Remember, the more you get around and the more people you chat with, the more you get asked the same questions! Eventually, there will come a time when you can have conversations entirely in Arabic without even noticing—and that’s a feeling truly like no other.

Author: Yassir Sahnoun is a HubSpot certified content strategist, copywriter and polyglot who works with language learning companies. He helps companies attract sales using content strategy, copywriting, blogging, email marketing & more.

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