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Understanding and Talking About Family in Arabic

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No matter what culture you visit, you’ll likely learn that the way other people think of family is completely different from how you do.

When you speak in your native language about your own family, you’re drawing on many years of ingrained cultural knowledge that shapes what you’re likely to share and what you’re likely to keep private. This cultural influence may even affect the way you present that knowledge.

But if you use another language to talk about your own family, like if you speak about your family in Arabic, you may sometimes find that it doesn’t quite line up. Certain phrases you expect to use aren’t there, and the person you’re speaking with may have a very different expectation of what you’re going to communicate.

All that to say: In order to take your Arabic studies to the next level, you’d better work on getting your knowledge about families in Arabic up to par.

You’ve come to the right place. In this article, you’ll read up on the following topics about family in Arabic:

  • Members of the family in Arabic
  • Describing your family in Arabic
  • How to talk about your family in Arabic effectively
  • Quotes about family in Arabic

But first, what is the family in Arabic cultures?

Table of Contents

  1. What a Family is in Arabic Culture
  2. The Nuclear Family in Arabic
  3. The Extended Family in Arabic
  4. What Marriage Does to the Words About Family
  5. Expressions About the Family
  6. How ArabicPod101 Can Teach You All You Need to Know About Arabic

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1. What a Family is in Arabic Culture

Family Words

Learning the words you need in a foreign language is one thing. But if you want to use them well, you’ve got to learn a little bit about the culture you’ll be in.

Although the name “Arab countries” covers quite a few very different regions, there are certain family values that tend to hold constant across the lines of culture.

People are loyal to their families in Arabic culture, thus the idea of family above all in Arabic countries. Every year during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, huge extended families unite for a celebration. Beyond just hanging out, though, people are expected to side with their families in disagreements, as well as help out family members in need, at the drop of a hat.

These connections hold strong across generations. Elders are consulted on matters large and small, and children begin imitating their parents at a young age. Children are expected to live with their parents until they start families of their own.

As you can imagine, the classical (and thus the modern standard) language has many unique terms to represent this very different way of looking at the family compared to what we’re used to in the West. Let’s begin with something not too far away.


2. The Nuclear Family in Arabic

Parent Phrases

The word أسرة (usrah) means your closest family, or what we often term the “immediate family” in English.

Here’s some family vocabulary Arabic people use for immediate family in Arabic-speaking countries:

English           Arabic           Pronunciation
Brother           أخ           ʾaḫ
Sister           أخت           ʾuḫt
Mother           أم           ʾum
Father           أب           ʾabb
Son           إبن           ʾibn
Daughter           إبنة           ʾbnah

Remember that you’re most often going to be speaking about your family, so here are a couple of phrases for just that.

My father is a doctor.
أبي طبيب
ʾabī ṭabīb

My sister is married.
أختي متزوجة
ʾuḫtī mutazawwiǧah

Like most languages, including English, there are formal and informal ways to say “father” and “mother” in Arabic. In English, this is like “father” compared to “papa.”

Where’s my mom?
أين أمي؟
ʾayna ʾummī?

My dad is really tall!
أبي طويل جدا!
ʾabī ṭawīlun ǧiddan!

The word for “parent” is والد (walid), which can, of course, be used in the singular, though it’s far more common to see it in the dual form: والدان.

My parents live in Cairo.
والداي يعيشان في القاهرة
walidāy yaʿīšān fī al-qāhirah

Arabic normally doesn’t distinguish between older and younger siblings, unlike some Asian languages which have separate words for “younger sister” and “older sister.” So just like in English, you’d add the specific age words to be more clear.

For “older” use الاكبر, and for “younger” use الاصغر.

My older brother is shorter than me.
أخي الأكبر أقصر مني
ʾaḫī al-ʾakbar ʾaqṣaru minnī

My younger sister is smart.
أختي الصغرى ذكية
ʾuḫtī al-ṣuġrā ḏakyyah


3. The Extended Family in Arabic

Grandparents with Granddaughter Going through Photo Album

So that about covers it for the people you grow up around. How about the عائلة (ʿāʾilah), the “extended family?”

The best way to explain it all is in another chart. Although Arabic doesn’t make that older/younger distinction, there is a difference between maternal and paternal aunts/uncles (though not grandparents). On the whole, though, it’s not too many Family in Arabic words to memorize.

English           Arabic           Pronunciation
Grandfather           جد           ǧad
Grandmother           جدة           ǧadddah
Grandson           حفيد           ḥafīd
Granddaughter           حفيدة           ḥafīdah
Paternal Uncle           عم           ʿamm
Paternal Aunt           عمة           ʿammah
Maternal Uncle           خال           ḫal
Maternal Aunt           خالة           ḫalah
Cousin on Father’s Side           إبن عم / إبن عمة           ibn ʿamm / ibn ʿammah
Cousin on Mother’s Side           إبن خال / إبن خالة           ibn ḫal / ibn ḫalah

As you can see, there are a number of patterns that start to become apparent pretty quickly. To go a little bit deeper, we can distinguish between male and female cousins by adding the word إبن (ibn) for men and بنت (bint) for women. Check it out.

My (female) cousin lives with her parents.
إبنة عمي تعيش مع والديها
ʾibnatu ʿammī taʿīšu maʿ waldayhā

I like to work out with my (male) cousin.
أحب ممارسة الرياضة مع إبن عمي
ʾuḥibbu mumārasatu al-riyāḍah maʿ ʾibn ʿammī


4. What Marriage Does to the Words About Family

Wedding Toast

Have you ever been to an Arab wedding, or at least seen videos? They’re big deals, full of formality and tradition.

It’s no wonder that the Arabic language would not only have many specialized words for the marriage ceremonies, but also that the way people refer to each other before and after marriage might change too.

Leading up to the wedding, we have:

English           Arabic           Pronunciation
Boyfriend           شريك           šarīk
Girlfriend           شريكة           šarīkah
Fiancé           خطيب           ḫṭīb
Fianceé           خطيبة           ḫaṭībah
Groom           عريس           ʿarīs
Bride           عروسة           ʿarusah

In many more conservative families, the relationship tends to progress immediately from “friend” to “fiancé.” However, in others, there’s space for the Western habit of having a relationship first.

After the wedding festivities end?

Well, there’s no neutral word for “spouse” in Arabic. One must either say زوجة (zawǧah) for “wife” or زوج (zawǧ) for “husband.”

Traditionally, a bride will move in with the husband’s family after marriage, and the parents of both the bride and the groom maintain close contact. The families are wed, not just the individuals; essentially, you’ve become a joint family in Arabic culture. Therefore, there’s a whole set of vocabulary in this sphere. Time for another quick chart.

Son-in-law           زوج البنت           zawǧ al-bint
Daughter-in-law           زوجة الإبن           zawǧatu al-ʾibn
Father-in-law           حمى           ḥamā
Mother-in-law           حماة           ḥamāh
Brother-in-law           أخ الزوج(ة)           ʾaḫ al-zawǧ(ah)
Sister-in-law           أخت الزوج(ة)           ʾuḫt al-zawǧ(ah)


5. Expressions About the Family

Family Quotes

And now for something that I think sheds more light on family relations in Arabic than anything else: idioms and sayings related to family life. This is a fun and insightful way of describing family in Arabic.

  • الأقربون أولى بالمعروف
    Your relatives (in need) are more deserving of your generosity.
    (Family before friends.)

The concept of “brotherhood” or الأخوة (al-ʾuḫuwwah) is something that you see over and over in traditional Arabic teachings.

  • I and my brother against my cousin, I and my cousin against a stranger.
    أنا وأخي على إبن عمي وأنا وإبن عمي على الغريب
    ʾnā waʾaḫī ʿalā ʾibn ʿammī waʾanā waʾibnu ʿammī ʿalā al-ġarīb
  • Without a brother, you’re like a person rushing to battle without a weapon.
    إن مَنْ لا أخا له كَساعٍ إلى المعركة بغير سلاح
    ʾinna man lā ʾaḫā lahu kasāʿin ʾilā al-maʿrakah biġayri silāḥ
  • Your brother is who’s honest with you, not who believes you.
    أخوك من صَدَقك لا من صدّقك
    ʾaḫūka man ṣadaqaka lā man ṣaddaqak

And finally, the love between a parent and child is eternal, a concept found in every language. Here’s what people say about that in Arabic:

  • When your son grows up, become his brother.
    إن كبر ابنك آخيه
    ʾin kabura ibnuka ʾāḫīh

And the Egyptian saying:

  • Only your grandchild is dearer to you than your child.
    أعز من الولد ولد الولد
    ʾaʿaz min el-weld weld el-weld

Grandmother Embracing Granddaughter in Field


6. How ArabicPod101 Can Teach You All You Need to Know About Arabic

Really, when it comes to something as important as family in Arabic, you can’t treat it with enough respect.

On the one hand, Arabs are famously welcoming to foreigners and will tend to let even relatively big language slip-ups slide as long as it’s clear that respect was intended.

But on the other hand, as I mentioned, family is such an important part of any culture that if it becomes clear you’re not making any effort to understand its significance, well, woe betide you.

I can’t help you be better at respecting things—but I can give you advice about learning things. And one of the best ways to make these particular vocabulary words stick is to find a nice long Arabic TV series and watch a couple dozen episodes.

There are a number of thirty-episode Ramadan specials filmed in Modern Standard Arabic that have enough family schemes and betrayals to make sure you’ll never forget the words.

When you get to that point, your Arabic family will welcome you with open arms.

But for now, we hope that this article on family in Arabic proved helpful to you. Did you learn anything interesting about the Arab family culture? Let us know in the comments! And while you’re at it, why not practice describing family in Arabic writing by writing us a family paragraph in Arabic? We look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Also visit ArabicPod101.com to learn more about Arab culture and additional vocabulary. You can also take advantage of our MyTeacher program by upgrading to Premium Plus, so that you can learn Arabic with your own personal teacher!

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The Most Essential Arabic Travel Phrases

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Isn’t it exciting to imagine?

The crashing surf of a Moroccan beach or the tall and rugged mountains of Jordan. The streetside bazaars in Cairo or the resorts in Dubai.

And you’re there. Speaking in Arabic.

Or rather, that’s the plan, right?

You’re still working on it. And that’s okay. Arabic is a long, long journey for anybody.

Speaking of journeys, there are a couple of Arabic travel phrases that tourists need to learn in the local language, no matter where they go. In this article, I’ll outline some of the most useful travel phrases in Arabic for any traveler, tourist, or expat in an Arabic-speaking country. Let’s get started.

Table of Contents

  1. Using Modern Standard Arabic vs. Using Dialects
  2. The Most Essential Arabic Vocabulary and Phrases for Your Travel Needs
  3. Conclusion: ArabicPod101 is Your Guide to Arabic Mastery

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1. Using Modern Standard Arabic vs. Using Dialects

World Map

Before you learn Arabic travel phrases, we need to go over the topic of MSA vs. dialects.

When it comes to Arabic words and phrases for travellers, this is a perpetual debate among Arabic learners.

Is it better to start with MSA or with a dialect? What if you’re planning to visit more than one country? What if you’re hanging out in a cafe in Egypt, and suddenly your friend from Iraq and his roommate from Morocco come in? What do you speak?

The position of this article is: Start with MSA. In terms of Arabic travel phrases for beginners, this is the best place to begin.

Most people in the Arab world won’t be able to speak MSA to you. They’ll do their best, but they may end up switching to another international language or just trying to make their local language sound as close to MSA as possible.

But you’ll be understood wherever you go, and when traveling, that’s what matters most. With a basic or intermediate ability in MSA, you can easily express your travel needs—not to mention read what’s written around you everywhere!

Once you’re able to express yourself in MSA, read up on the local language of wherever you’re planning to go, and listen to learning materials or native content as much as you can to get prepared for the answers you hear.


2. The Most Essential Arabic Vocabulary and Phrases for Your Travel Needs

Survival Phrases

Now, without further ado, here are Arabic travel phrases for your trip that you need to know!

1- Basic Expressions

Cartoon Waving Goodbye

What types of things do tourists usually say?

Pretty much the same things over and over, it turns out. Being able to speak a language “at a tourist level,” to me, means that you can handle the situations that are likely to come up, without necessarily being able to hold a real conversation.

That means, for instance, that you can order, pay for, and maybe even compliment a meal pretty smoothly in Arabic, but if the cook asks if you have that kind of food in your own country, you might find yourself grasping for words.

But hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

If you only look at one guide to tourist Arabic, it should be the next three paragraphs. Here, I go over the most important Arabic travel phrases, the one you shouldn’t be traveling without.

2- Greetings and Goodbyes

We’ll start with the first words out of anybody’s mouth: Hello.

  • “Hello!”
    Ahlan!
    أَهلاً

In Arabic, there are appropriate hellos for the morning, evening, and night.

  • “Good morning!”
    ṣabāḥu al-ḫayr
    صَباحُ الخَيْر
  • “Good evening!”
    masāʾu al-ḫayr
    مَساءُ الخَيْر
  • “Good night!”
    laylah saʿīdah
    لَيْلَة سَعيدَة

Now let’s have a look at how to properly address people that you need to talk to. How should you get their attention?

  • “Excuse me. Could you tell me…”
    raǧāʾ, hal yumkinuka ʾiḫbārī…
    رَجاء, هَل يُمكِنُكَ إخباري…

And when you’ve finished what you need to do, it’s time to take your leave.

  • Goodbye!
    ʾilā al-liqāʾ
    إلى اللِقاء

3- Manners

Business Associates Shaking Hands

Although you can point and grunt your way through a language barrier, it’s simply good manners to be able to use a couple of nice words when the time comes.

  • “This one, please.”
    haḏihi min faḍlik.
    .هَذِهِ مِن فَضلِك

Suppose you’re on the bus and an elderly man gets on. The polite thing to do is offer your seat with the phrase:

  • “Go ahead.”
    tafaḍḍal.
    .تَفَضَّل

I personally always like to learn “thank you” in as many languages as I can, just in case. If there’s one phrase you remember after reading this article, make it this one.

  • “Thank you!”
    šukran!
    !شُكراً
  • “Thank you very much!”
    šukran ǧazīlan!
    !شُكراً جَزيلاً

Of course, guests aren’t the only ones doing the thanking. An exchange of “thank you” is likely to occur several times any time that money is exchanged for goods or services.

This means you’ll have to be ready with the “It’s nothing” and “Sure thing!” equivalent in Arabic.

  • “No problem!”
    lā muškilah
    لا مُشكِلَة

4- Compliments

Family Eating Dinner

It’s amazing how far you can get in a foreign language by pointing, smiling, and saying “Good!” People simply love to hear that! And it’s one of the simplest Arabic-language travel phrases.

The word for “good” in Arabic is جَيِّد (ǧayyid). But you can do a little bit better.

  • “I really like this!”
    yuʿǧibunī haḏā kaṯīran!
    يُعجِبُني هَذا كَثيراً!

For referring to food you just had:

  • “It was excellent!”
    kān rāʾiʿan!
    !كان رائِعاً

For looking at a view from a room or complimenting something aesthetic:

  • “This is so beautiful!”
    haḏā ǧamīlun ǧiddan!
    !هَذا جَميلٌ جِدّاً

5- Transportation

Preparing to Travel

One pretty scary challenge in a foreign language is making a phone call. And if your language skills make the difference between arriving at the airport on time or arriving at the bus station two hours late, the pressure starts to get pretty high.

When you order a taxi in a foreign language, it’s a good idea to speak loudly and slowly, and probably repeat yourself a couple of times to make sure they understand.

The thing is, though, taxi companies are used to hearing the same sort of formula said over and over with a variety of different accents, so as long as you’ve got all the right words in there, you’re probably good to go.

  • “I want to order a taxi to the airport for tomorrow morning.”
    ʾurīdu sayyāraẗa ʾuǧrah ʾilā al-maṭār ġadan ṣabāḥan.
    .أُريدُ سَيّارَةَ أُجرَة إلى المَطار غَداً صَباحاً

It never hurts to double-check:

  • “Did you understand all that?”
    hal fahimt?
    هَل فَهِمت؟

Shuttle buses and minibuses are very popular in many Middle Eastern countries. Here are some vital phrases for dealing with those:

  • “Does this bus go to…?”
    hal taḏhabu haḏihi al-ḥāfilah ʾilā…?
    هَل تَذهَبُ هَذِهِ الحافِلَة إلى…؟
  • “Where can I buy a ticket?”
    ʾayn yumkinunī širāʾ taḏkarah?
    أَيْن يُمكِنُني شِراء تَذكَرَة؟
  • “I want two tickets to … please.”
    ʾurīdu taḏkarataīn ʾilā… min faḍlik.
    أُريدُ تَذكَرَتَين إلى… مِن فَضلِك.

6- Shopping

Produce Displayed at Market

When most people imagine shopping in Arabic, the first thing that comes to mind is that stereotypical image of a crowded street market.

You know the one: goats, toothless old men selling rugs, maybe a snake charmer in the corner. Something out of Indiana Jones.

Those definitely still exist (or at least street markets do), but don’t forget that big cities in the Arab world are pretty much like big cities anywhere else.

You’ll find just as many big air-conditioned malls with local and international brands. Need some Nikes or Levi’s? No problem.

And guess what? You’ll need Arabic there, too! Just because a brand is international doesn’t mean all the shop staff will be amazingly multilingual. That’s particularly the case if you go out of the touristed city centers and head to the other malls further out of the way.

  • “Do you have a bigger size? / Do you have a smaller size?”
    hal ladaykum ḥaǧmun ʾakbar? / hal ladaykum ḥaǧm ʾaṣġar?
    هَل لَدَيْكُم حَجمٌ أَكبَر؟ / هَل لَدَيْكُم حَجم أَصغَر؟
  • “I’m looking for jeans size 32/34.”
    ʾabḥaṯ ʿan sarāūīl ǧīnz min maqās ʾiṯnān wa ṯalāṯūn ʿalā ʾarbaʿah wa ṯalāṯūn.
    أَبحَث عَن سَراويل جينز مِن مَقاس إثنان و ثَلاثون عَلى أَربَعَة و ثَلاثون.
  • “Can you make it any cheaper?”
    hal min taḫfīḍ?
    هَل مِن تَخفيض؟
  • “Okay, I’ll take it!”
    ǧayyid, saʾāḫuḏuh
    جَيِّد, سَآخُذُه

Part of bargaining effectively is knowing when to quit, or perhaps when to fake quitting so that you can get a better deal. Whether or not you’re serious about walking away, it’s polite to say something like this as you go:

  • “Maybe next time.”
    rubbamā fī al-marrah al-qādimah.
    رُبَّما في المَرَّة القادِمَة.

7- Restaurants

  • “How do you say this?”
    kayfa yunṭaqu haḏā?
    كَيْفَ يُنطَقُ هَذا؟

It’s very likely that you’ll find things on the menu that you’re not able to pronounce. Depending on your study motivation, you might still have trouble with the Arabic alphabet when you arrive.

So you can ask somebody nearby to read out the name of the food. Maybe you’ve heard of something similar at another restaurant, or maybe it even has a loanword in its name that you’re familiar with.

  • “What exactly is…?”
    mā … bilḍabṭ?
    ما … بِالضَبط؟

You may not understand the answer in its entirety—food words are notoriously specific and vary based on location. But the important thing is to keep your ears tuned for loanwords you may recognize, as well as the body language of the person you’re talking to. If they look like they’re holding back a smile or silently guessing that you won’t like it, better order something else.

Travelers with allergies can have a rough time of it in foreign countries. Many expats don’t speak the language of the country of residency except the words for things they can’t eat. It’s imperative to know those words well.

  • “I’m allergic to …”
    laday ḥasāsiyyah min…
    لَدَيْ حَساسِيَّة مِن…

Here, you simply say the phrase, tacking on the name of the food you can’t eat. For a list of common food names, check out this vocabulary list on ArabicPod101.com. (It includes common allergens like peanuts and soybeans!)

Once you’ve enjoyed your meal and are ready to leave, you’d best know this phrase:

  • “Can I have the bill, please?”
    hal yumkinunī ʾaḫḏ al-fātūrah laū samaḥt?
    هَل يُمكِنُني أَخذ الفاتورَة لَو سَمَحت؟

8- Directions

Directions are relatively complicated, and they’re not made any easier the way they get taught in a lot of coursebooks.

Have you ever noticed how in textbooks, people are always giving each other complicated directions in order to fit in as many vocabulary words as possible?

  • “Where is …?”
    ʾayna…?
    أَيْنَ…؟
  • “I’m looking for the…”
    ʾabḥaṯu ʿan…
    أَبحَث عَن…
  • “It’s over there.”
    ʾinnahā hunāk.
    إنَّها هُناك.
  • “Go straight down this road.”
    iāḏahab mubāšaraẗan ʿalā haḏā al-ṭarīq.
    .ِاذَهَب مُباشَرَةً عَلى هَذا الطَريق
  • “You need to take the number 10 bus.”
    ʿalayka ʾan taʾḫuḏ al-ḥāfilah raqm 10.
    عَلَيْكَ أَن تَأخُذ الحافِلَة رَقم 10.
  • “Is it far?”
    hal hiya baʿīdah?
    هَل هِيَ بَعيدَة؟
  • “Can I walk there?”
    hal yumkinunī al-mašī hunāk?
    هَل يُمكِنُني المَشي هُناك؟

Really, these basic Arabic travel phrases are enough to get you from A to B in most cases. But it’s always good to have more complex direction phrases in your Arabic arsenal, just in case.

9- Emergencies

  • “Do you have a bathroom?”
    hal ladaykum ḥammām?
    هَل لَدَيْكُم حَمّام؟
  • “I lost my passport.”
    faqadtu ǧawaza safarī.
    فَقَدتُ جَوَازَ سَفَري.
  • “I need to go to a hospital.”
    ʾanā biḥāǧah lilḏahāb ʾilā mustašfā.
    أَنا بِحاجَة لِلذَهاب إلى مُستَشفى.
  • “May I please borrow your phone? It’s an emergency.”
    hal yumkinunī istiʿāraẗu hātifik? ladayya ḥal-ah ṭāriʾah
    هَل يُمكِنُني اِستِعارَةُ هاتِفِك؟ لَدَيَّ حالَة طارِئَة
  • “My phone was stolen.”
    laqad tammat sariqaẗu hātifī.
    لَقَد تَمَّت سَرِقَةُ هاتِفي.

If you’ve lost something in a public space, you may be in luck if an honest stranger turned it in to the information desk. In that case, you can ask:

  • “Did anyone find a laptop here?”
    hal waǧad ʾaḥaduhum ḥāsūban hunā?
    هَل وَجَد أَحَدُهُم حاسوباً هُنا؟

10- Language Troubles and Triumphs

Speaking Arabic when you’re out and about isn’t going to be all smooth sailing, no matter how easy it may seem when you’re flipping through a phrasebook.

There’s a helpful set of phrases that can really go a long way toward smoothing things over when your vocabulary or grammar fails you.

  • “How do you say…?”
    kayfa taqūl…?
    كَيْفَ تَقول…؟
  • “Does anyone here speak English? French?”
    hal yatakallamu ʾaḥaduhum al-ʾinǧlīziyyah ʾaw al-firinsiyyah hunā?
    هَل يَتَكَلَّمُ أَحَدُهُم الإنجليزِيَّة أَوْ الفِرِنسِيَّة هُنا؟
  • “I don’t know that word.”
    lā ʾaʿrifu haḏihi al-kalimah.
    لا أَعرِفُ هَذِهِ الكَلِمَة.
  • “Thank you! I’ve been learning for one year.”
    šukran. ʾanā ʾataʿallam min sanah.
    شُكراً. أَنا أَتَعَلَّم مِن سَنَة.
  • “Sorry, my Arabic isn’t very good.”
    ʾāsif, luġatī al-ʿarabiyyah laysat ǧayyidah
    آسِف، لُغَتي العَرَبِيَّة لَيْسَت جَيِّدَة
  • “Sorry, I can’t read Arabic very well.”
    ʾāsif , lā ʾastaṭīʿ qirāʾaẗa al-ʿarabiyyaẗa ǧayyidan
    آسِف ، لا أَستَطيع قِراءَةَ العَرَبِيَّةَ جَيِّداً
  • “You just said ___. What does that mean?”
    laqad qult al-ʾān… māḏā yaʿnī ḏalik?
    لَقَد قُلت الآن… ماذا يَعني ذَلِك؟


3. Conclusion: ArabicPod101 is Your Guide to Arabic Mastery

Basic Questions

Now that you’re packed with the most useful Arabic travel phrases, you’re all set for your next adventure. Want to learn even more Arabic? Check out ArabicPod101.com and get access to more than a thousand Arabic learning audio and video lessons that will take your Arabic to the next level.

Until next time, let us know how comfortable you feel with Arabic travel phrases. Is there anything you’re still struggling with? Drop us a comment and tell us about it!

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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.

Hit the Ground Running with Arabic Numbers

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So, what are Arabic numbers?

Arabic numbers are, perhaps, one of the most challenging things for Arabic learners. Numbers in Arabic language-learning may be difficult, but they’re so vital to language mastery!

Have you ever been listening to a pleasant conversation in a language you understand, then suddenly get hit with something like “…and then, on a date that would live in infamy…”

Poof. There goes your comprehension. You’ll never know when it happened.

It’s really hard to truly internalize the rules for a new number system to the point where you can hear and understand the numbers being spoken to you. And on top of that, if the numbers are relatively complex, it takes even more time to produce numbers on demand.

For that reason, the best thing you can do is to never shy away from practicing the numbers, whenever and wherever you can. When striving to really learn basic Arabic numbers, lessons like this one are a good place to start. The first step is to understand the system as a whole.

Table of Contents

  1. Just How Arabic are these Numerals?
  2. Cardinal Numbers Zero to Ten
  3. A Taste of Numbers in Colloquial Arabic
  4. Ordinal Numbers
  5. Some Very Easy Math
  6. Lemme Get Your Number
  7. Checking the Time
  8. Conclusion: How ArabicPod101 Can Help You Learn More Arabic

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1. Just How Arabic are these Numerals?

Arabic Numbers

In the United States, we call our numbers “Arabic numerals.” In fact, they’re called that pretty much all over the world. Even in China, the word for Arabic digits (as opposed to Chinese digits) is “Arabic numbers.”

Perhaps the only exception is where they speak Arabic.

It turns out that what English-speakers know as “Arabic numbers” are actually Western Arabic numbers. Those get called “Hindu-Arabic numerals” or نظام العد الهندي العربي (niẓām al-ʿad al-hindī al-ʿarabī) in the Arabic language.

So what are Arabic numerals?

Eastern Arabic numerals are still regularly used in Arabic writing, and so that’s what we’ll focus on today. However, it’s important (and perhaps reassuring) to note that Western Arabic digits are universally understood. In fact, in many public displays such as street signs or advertising, they’ve actually displaced the Eastern Arabic ones.

Let’s have a look at these numbers, go over the Arabic number formats, and get started using them in Modern Standard Arabic to help you better understand about counting numbers in Arabic languages.


2. Cardinal Numbers Zero to Ten

The Number Zero

Let’s learn the Arabic numbers 1 to 10 (or rather, 0 to 10). The simplest thing to start with is zero. Without zero, it would be pretty hard to get math off the ground at all.

By the way, we also have a simple Arabic number vocabulary list you can check out first. Here, you can hear each word pronounced and see it accompanied by an image of its English numeral!

Number Eastern Arabic Numeral Pronunciation
Zero ٠ صِفْر (sifr)
One ١ واحد (waḥid)
Two ٢ إثْنان (ʾiṯnān)
Three ٣ ثَلاثة (ṯalāṯah)
Four ٤ أربَعة (ʾarbaʿah)
Five ٥ خَمْسة (ḫamsah)
Six ٦ سِتّة (sittah)
Seven ٧ سَبعة (sabʿah)
Eight ٨ ثَمانية (ṯamāniyah)
Nine ٩ تِسعة (tisʿah)
Ten ١٠ عَشْرة (ʿašrah)

We’re giving the Eastern Arabic numerals here, though on many signs and public notices you’ll see the Western Arabic forms (1, 2, 3) that you’re already used to. This is particularly true for places (such as Pakistan) which use an Arabic-derived alphabet but have a large population of English-speakers.

Now onward to 100!

Number Eastern Arabic Numeral Pronunciation
Eleven ١١ إحدى عشر (ʾiḥdā ʿašar)
Twelve ١٢ إثنا عشر (ʾiṯnā ʿašar)
Thirteen ١٣ ثلاثة عشر (ṯalāṯatu ʿašar)
Fourteen ١٤ أربعة عشر (ʾarbaʿaẗu ʿašar)
Fifteen ١٥ خمسة عشر (ḫamsaẗu ʿašar)
Sixteen ١٦ ستة عشر (sittaẗa ʿašar)
Seventeen ١٧ سبعة عشر (sabʿaẗa ʿašar)
Eighteen ١٨ ثمانية عشر (ṯamāniyaẗa ʿašar)
Nineteen ١٩ تسعة عشر (tisʿaẗa ʿašar)
Twenty ٢٠ عشرون (ʿišrūn)

When it comes to numbers in Arabic, grammar and additional structure rules are important to remember. The numbers eleven through nineteen are similar in structure to their English counterparts.

  • أربعة عشر
    ʾarbaʿaẗu ʿašar
    Four ten (fourteen)

What’s the deal, though, with the order of digits? There’s no mistake here. The Arabic digits are written left to right, opposite from the rest of the script.

As strange as that sounds, it’s actually about to make a little more sense when you see the numbers after twenty.

  • واحد و عشرون
    waḥid wa ʿišrūn
    one and twenty (21)
  • سبعة وعشرون
    sabʿah wa ʿišrūn
    seven and twenty (27)

And we simply follow that pattern up through ninety-nine. Germans and German learners should feel right at home.

So you see, as Arabic speakers read running text right to left, they don’t have to readjust their speech for two-digit numbers, as their eyes run into the ones place first, then the tens.

1- Counting Things Part 1: Counting to Two

Where English has singular and plural, Arabic has singular, dual, and plural forms of words.

Because of this explicit grammar marking, the Arabic singular and dual forms also capture the feeling of having “one” or “two” of something.

  • كتاب
    kitab
    One book
  • كتابان
    kitaban
    Two books

A Book with Flipping Pages

If you really need to emphasize the number, you actually put the number after the item described. Since the number is an adjective, it has to match the noun in its case and gender.

  • كتابٌ واحدٌ
    itābun waḥidun
    One book (one single, solitary book)
  • رسالتان اثْنَتان
    risal-atān iṯnatān
    Two letters (no more and no less)

2- Counting Things Part 2: Universal Reverse Agreement

After two, counting and the Arabic number system in general are more difficult. People say it’s the hardest part of MSA grammar by far, simply because it involves so much memorization.

To keep from overwhelming you, this guide will only touch on counting things from three to ten.

It’s important to note here that lots and lots of people speaking MSA simply don’t bother with these rules. Different colloquial varieties have already reduced, or eliminated entirely, the agreement between number and noun, and most people who speak MSA aren’t going to be pedantic enough to insist on correct number grammar in speech.

Annoyed Woman with Ruler

The next section is going to go into more detail about colloquial numbers, but for now, let’s focus on the rules for MSA.

When counting one and two, you put the number after the noun; when counting from three to ten, you put the number before the noun. This makes a bit of sense, really, for a language with a distinction between singular, dual, and plural. When talking about one or two things, it’s only natural for native speakers to simply use that noun form.

The fact that there is a difference is the part that makes sense. It’s a little bit harder to explain why the difference manifests in the way it does.

What ends up happening is that the noun becomes plural, declines in the genitive case, and the number takes the opposite grammatical gender.

This is called reverse agreement. It works the same way with every single noun (as long as we’re talking about three to ten).

So let’s look at the noun “teacher.” This is a masculine noun in Arabic, so if we want to say “three teachers,” it will look like this:

  • ثلاثة مدرسين
    ṯalāṯaẗu mudarrisīn
    Three of-teachers (three teachers; “teacher” is genitive plural)

There’s a word مُدَرِّسة (madrasa) which refers specifically to a female teacher. What about three madrasas? Genitive plural, male number:

  • ثلاث مدرسات
    ṯalāṯu mudarrisāt
    Three of-female-teachers

It may be a lot to take in at first glance, but it’s entirely rule-governed. And think about which numbers of things you mention in your daily life—two sheets of paper, four bananas, etc. If you learn the rules well, you’ll cover most of the numbers that life throws at you.

Mastering this will also make you feel like a total grammar superhero. If that’s not enough motivation (for whatever reason!), have a quick glance at how numbers get used outside of MSA rule books.


3. A Taste of Numbers in Colloquial Arabic

The simplest shortcut is to always use the masculine form of the number without changing it. This is a marker of efficiency when speaking MSA. Absolutely everybody will understand you, and nobody will blame you for not remembering the artificial rules.

What exactly is the difference between numbers in MSA and numbers in different colloquial varieties of Arabic? Have a look at this table.

Digit MSA Egyptian Arabic Moroccan Arabic
٠ صِفْر (sifr) صِفْر (sifr) صفر (sifr)
١ واحد (waḥid) واحد (waḥid) واحد (waḥed)
٢ إثْنان (ʾiṯnān) إثْنان (ʾiṯnen) جوج (zouj)
٣ ثَلاثة (ṯalāṯah) ثَلاثة (ṯalāṯah) تلاتة (telata)
٤ أربَعة (ʾarbaʿah) أربَعة (ʾarbaʿah) ربعة (reb’a)
٥ خَمْسة (ḫamsah) خَمْسة (ḫamsah) خمسة (ḫemsa)
٦ سِتّة (sittah) سِتّة (sittah) سْتة (setta)
٧ سَبعة (sabʿah) سَبعة (sabʿah) سْبعة (seb’a)
٨ ثَمانية (ṯamāniyah) ثَمانية (ṯamānyah) تْمنية (tmenya)
٩ تِسعة (tisʿah) تِسعة (tisʿah) تْسعود (tes’od)
١٠ عَشْرة (ʿašrah) عَشْرة (ʿašrah) عْشرة (’eshra)

As you can see, with the numbers zero through ten, there aren’t any enormous differences in pronunciation (though short vowels tend to disappear in Moroccan Arabic in particular).

After a little bit of getting used to the way different people say these numbers, you’ll be able to understand all of them with no trouble at all.

The grammar is also significantly simplified. There’s still a dual form and masculine and feminine agreement, but all colloquial varieties of Arabic have lost their cases entirely.


4. Ordinal Numbers

The definite article is attached to all of these, so you should really read the English as “the first, the second,” etc.

The masculine form of the numbers is presented here.

First ألأَوَّلُ al-awwal
Second الثّاني aṯ-ṯani
Third الثّالِثُ aṯ-ṯaleṯ
Fourth الرّابِعُ arrabe’
Fifth الْخامِسُ al-ḫaames
Sixth السّادِسُ assadis
Seventh السابعُ assabe’
Eighth الثّامِنُ aṯṯamen
Ninth التّاسِعُ attase’
Tenth الْعاشِرُ al-ʿašer

One thing to note as the numbers climb higher and higher: Numbers that are multiples of ten form their ordinal with a simple prefix.

So that means we have أربعون (arba’un) or “forty,” which takes the prefix al- to mean “fortieth.” The number seventy is سبعون (sab’un), and its prefix is a- because it doesn’t start with a vowel. Thus asab’un is how you would say “seventieth.”


5. Some Very Easy Math

Numbers are written from left to right, but math isn’t. Have a look at this:

  • ١+٣ =٤
    واحد جمع ثَلاثة يساوي أربَعة
    waḥid ǧamʿ ṯalāṯah yusāūī ʾarbaʿah
    one plus three equals four

You might not think you need to know words for math, but if you live in an Arabic-speaking environment, the words “plus”, “minus”, and “equals” show up relatively often.

  • جمع
    ǧamʿ
    plus
  • طرح
    tarḥ
    minus
  • يساوي
    yusawi
    equals

One other thing to note is the way people say percentages. It’s as easy as pie! You say the number and then use the Arabic word for “percent.”

  • عشرون بالمائة
    ʿišrūn bilmiʾah
    twenty percent


6. Lemme Get Your Number

Man Asking for Woman’s Phone Number

Phone numbers in different Arabic countries vary pretty strongly in length.

In Tunisia, for instance, phone numbers are six digits with a two-digit area code. In Egypt, landlines are seven digits and mobile numbers are eight. And in Iraq, mobile numbers are ten digits, including a separate prefix for each telecom.

Some languages like German, Mandarin, and even English use separate variants of the digits when reciting phone numbers. Imagine the struggles (perhaps you don’t have to imagine) of an English-learner hearing “My number is five oh four, triple two, seventy-eight fourteen.”

There’s quite a bit of mental gymnastics going on to convert that to 504-222-7814.

But for perhaps the first time in this article, Arabic learners can take the easy road. Check out these phrases.

  • ما رقم هاتفك؟
    mā raqmu hātifik?
    What is your telephone number?
  • رقم هاتفي هو.
    raqmu hātifi huwa…
    My telephone number is…

And then? All you do is say each digit individually. tis’a wahid wahid sitta… (9117…).

Now, in colloquial variants of Arabic, people may have their own individual systems. But when speaking MSA, people tend to slow down and speak more clearly anyway. For that reason, they’ll keep phone number recitals as simple as can be.

Oh, and if you’re exchanging phone numbers in Arabic, you may find it helpful to know some vocabulary for talking about the days in Arabic! Also keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming Dates in Arabic article so you can start setting up appointments and dates.


7.Checking the Time

Remember those differences between MSA and colloquial numbers? Here’s a huge one.

Colloquial varieties of Arabic use the cardinal numbers to tell time. So to say that it’s three o’clock in Egyptian Arabic, you would literally just say الساعة ثلاثة (el-sa’ah talaata) or “three o’clock” and leave it at that.

In MSA, though, you need the ordinal numbers.

  • الساعةُ الواحدة
    al-sāʿaẗu al-waḥida
    one o’clock
  • الساعةُ الثامنة
    al-sāʿaẗu al-ṯāminah
    eight o’clock
  • كم الساعةُ؟ الساعةُ الثانية.
    kam al-sāʿaẗu? al-sāʿaẗu al-ṯāniyah.
    What time is it? Two o’clock.

It’s not too hard to start using these as there aren’t any complicated rules about declension or agreement. Just remember that if you really want to stick to the grammar of MSA as much as possible, use the ordinal forms.

Besides, it’s what you’ll hear on the news anyway.


8. Conclusion: How ArabicPod101 Can Help You Learn More Arabic

Woman Napping with Book on Face

Like any aspect of language, the use of numbers in Arabic can seem to get more and more complex the more you look at it.

But your native language is guaranteed to have just as many things that can seem equally maddening to Arabic speakers.

It’s all a matter of exposure. The more you hear and use this number system, the more you get used to it, and then at some point it’ll seem completely crazy that you ever had trouble remembering the cases.

So embrace the challenge. Embrace the complexity of Arabic numbers, and come out knowing that you’ve mastered one of the most difficult challenges in Arabic learning. And that’s saying something!

Know that ArabicPod101.com will be here with you on each step of your language-learning journey with tons of practical and fun learning tools! You can do this!

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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How To Post In Perfect Arabic on Social Media

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You’re learning to speak Arabic, and it’s going well. Your confidence is growing! So much so that you feel ready to share your experiences on social media—in Arabic.

At Learn Arabic, we make this easy for you to get it right the first time. Post like a boss with these phrases and guidelines, and get to practice your Arabic in the process.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic

1. Talking about Your Restaurant Visit in Egyptian Arabic

Eating out is fun, and often an experience you’d like to share. Take a pic, and start a conversation on social media in Arabic. Your friend will be amazed by your language skills…and perhaps your taste in restaurants!

ʾAmīr eats at a restaurant with his friends, posts an image of it, and leaves this comment:

POST

Let’s break down ʾAmīr’s post.

باكل في مطعم جديد في المعادي. (bākul fī maṭʿam ǧedīd fī el-maʿādī.)
“Eating out at a new restaurant in Maadi.”

1- باكل في مطعم جديد (bākul fī maṭʿam ǧedīd)

First is an expression meaning “Eating out at a new restaurant.”
Since there isn’t a definite article at the beginning of the phrase “new restaurant,” it’s implied that it’s an indefinite noun. You can add the definite article “el” for both words to specify a certain restaurant.

2- في المعادي (fī el-maʿādī.)

Then comes the phrase - “in Maadi.”
Maadi is one of the most popular areas amongst young people in Cairo. It has a lot of good restaurants and cafes.

COMMENTS

In response, ʾAmīr’s friends leave some comments.

1- مقلتليش ليه يا خاين! (maʾuletlīš līh yā ḫāyen!)

His college friend, Sīf, uses an expression meaning - “Why didn’t you tell me, you traitor!”
Use this expression to show, in passionate way, that you feel left out.

2- حلو؟ (ḥelū?)

His girlfriend’s high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “Is it good?”
Ask this question if you would like to know more about the poster’s experience, and want to make conversation.

3- أسعارهم عاملة إيه؟ (ʾasʿārhum ʿāmlah ʾeīh?)

His high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “How are the prices over there?”
This is another question about the restaurant that could keep the conversation rolling.

4- إللي ياكل لوحده يزور يا أمير! (ʾellī yākul lewaḥduh yezwar yā ʾamīr!)

His girlfriend’s nephew, Sāmī, uses an expression meaning - “You’ll choke on food if you eat alone, ʾAmīr! (an Egyptian proverb)”
This comment uses a bit of cynicism, together with humour that could indicate that you feel excluded. The proverb means it’s more charitable, and probably more enjoyable to share food.

VOCABULARY

Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • باكل (bākul): “eating”
  • حلو (ḥelū): “good”
  • مقلتليش (maʾultelīš): “you didn’t tell me”
  • خاين (ḫāyen): “traitor”
  • أسعار (ʾasʿār): “prices”
  • عاملة (ʿāmlah): “doing (good or bad)”
  • يزور (yezwar): “to choke”
  • So, let’s practice a bit. If a friend posted something about having dinner with friends, which phrase would you use?

    Now go visit a Arabic restaurant, and wow the staff with your language skills!

    2. Post about Your Mall Visit in Egyptian Arabic

    Another super topic for social media is shopping—everybody does it, most everybody loves it, and your friends on social media are probably curious about your shopping sprees! Share these Arabic phrases in posts when you visit a mall.

    Munā shop with her sister at the mall, posts an image of the two of them in a clothes shop, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down Munā’s post.

    بشتري هدوم مع أحلى صحاب. (bašterī hdūm maʿ ʾaḥlā ṣuḥāb.)
    “Buying clothes with the best friends ever.”

    1- بشتري هدوم (bašterī hdūm)

    First is an expression meaning “Buying clothes.”
    This is a very short expression in the Egyptian dialect meaning that you’re buying clothes.

    2- مع أحلى صحاب (maʿ ʾaḥlā ṣuḥāb.)

    Then comes the phrase - “with the best friends ever.”
    This expression, meaning “the best friends ever,” is usually used by girls on social media, often with heart emoticons after.

    COMMENTS

    In response, Munā’s friends leave some comments.

    1- كفاية خروج و روحي ذاكري! (kefāyah ḫurūǧ wa rūḥī ḏākrī!)

    Her supervisor, Murād , uses an expression meaning - “Enough going out! Go home and study!”
    Use this expression if you’re old fashioned and want to sound like a teacher or a parent.

    2- بقالي كتير منزلتش أجيب هدوم. (baʾālī ketīr manzelteš ʾaǧīb hudūm.)

    Her high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “I haven’t gone shopping in forever.”
    Use this expression to share a personal experience, just to make conversation.

    3- شكله تحفة عليكي. (šakluh tuḥfah ʿalīkī.)

    Her boyfriend’s high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “It looks amazing on you.”
    Use this expression to compliment the poster on the clothes she wears in the photo.

    4- راح المرتب. (rāḥ el-murattab.)

    Her boyfriend, ʾAmīr, uses an expression meaning - “Your salary is gone.”
    This phrase indicates what the boyfriend thinks of his girlfriend’s spending habits. Use it wisely, as it could come across as criticism.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • بشتري (bašterī): “buying”
  • هدوم (hudūm): “clothes”
  • كفاية (kefāyah): “enough”
  • خروج (ḫurūǧ): “going out”
  • شكله (šakluh): “looks”
  • تحفة (tuḥfah): “amazing”
  • المرتب (َālmurattab): “salary”
  • So, if a friend posted something about going shopping, which phrase would you use?

    3. Talking about a Sport Day in Egyptian Arabic

    Sports events, whether you’re the spectator or the participant, offer fantastic opportunity for great social media posts. Learn some handy phrases and vocabulary to start a sport-on-the-beach conversation in Arabic.

    ʾAmīr plays with his friends at the beach, posts an image of the scenery, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down ʾAmīr’s post.

    مافيش أحلى من الشمس و البحر و الهوا. (māfīš ʾaḥlā men el-šams wa el-baḥr wa el-haūā.)
    “There’s nothing better than the sun, the sea, and the fresh air.”

    1- مافيش أحلى من (māfīš ʾaḥlā men )

    First is an expression meaning “Nothing better than.”
    You use this to express how much you like something. It’s a lot like its English translation.

    2- الشمس والبحر و الهوا. (el-šams wa el-baḥr wa el-haūā.)

    Then comes the phrase - “the sun, the sea, and the fresh air..”
    This is a set combination that is used as an expression.

    COMMENTS

    In response, ʾAmīr’s friends leave some comments.

    1- الجو تحفة هنا يا جماعة! (ālǧaw tuḥfah henā yā ǧamāʿah!)

    His girlfriend, who is with ‘Amir, Munā, uses an expression meaning - “The weather is great here, my friends!”
    Use this expression to add to the poster’s comment about the perfection of the scene.

    2- هو ده الكلام! (huwwa dah el-kalām!)

    His college friend, Sīf, uses an expression meaning - “That’s what I’m talking about!”
    Use this expression to show your encouragement and admiration.

    3- اشتغلوا كويس و انبسطوا كويس يا شباب. (eštaġalū kuwayyes wa enbesṭū kwayyes yā šabāb.)

    His supervisor, Murād , uses an expression meaning - “Work hard, play hard, guys!”
    Use this expression to be encouraging.

    4- انبسطوا يا حبايبي. (enbesṭū yā ḥabāybī.)

    His neighbor, Malak, uses an expression meaning - “Have fun, sweeties!”
    Use this expression as a warmhearted way to wish the poster and his friends a good time.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • مافيش (māfīš): “There is no..”
  • الجو (el gaww): “weather”
  • تحفة (tuḥfah): “amazing”
  • يا جماعة (yā ǧamāʿah): “you guys”
  • اشتغلوا (eštaġalū): “work”
  • انبسطوا (enbesṭū): “have fun”
  • كويس (kuwayyes): “good”
  • Which phrase would you use if a friend posted something about sports?

    But sport is not the only thing you can play! Play some music, and share it on social media.

    4. Share a Song on Social Media in Egyptian Arabic

    Music is the language of the soul, they say. So, don’t hold back—share what touches your soul with your friends!

    Munā shares a song she just heard at a party, posts an image of the artist, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down Munā’s post.

    الأغنية دي بتفكرني بالأيام الحلوة. (elʾuġneyyah dī betfakkarnī belʾayyām el-ḥelwah.)
    “This song reminds me of the good old days.”

    1- الأغنية دي بتفكرني (ālʾuġneyyah dī betfakkarnī)

    First is an expression meaning “This song reminds me.”
    Adding the pronoun “di” after a definite noun is like adding “this” before a noun in English.

    2- الأيام الحلوة. (elʾayyām el-ḥelwah.)

    Then comes the phrase - “the good old days..”
    This expression, which literally means “the good old days,” is used as a set expression that can’t be taken apart.

    COMMENTS

    In response, Munā’s friends leave some comments.

    1- دي من حفلة امبارح؟ (dī men ḥaflet embāreḥ?)

    Her boyfriend’s high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “Is it from yesterday’s concert?”
    Use this question to ask for more details about the song in question.

    2- دي أغنية قديمة؟ (dī ʾuġneyyah ʾadīmah?)

    Her supervisor, Murād , uses an expression meaning - “Is this an old song?”
    This is another question about the poster’s song to make conversation and get information.

    3- كئيبة أوي. (kaʾībah ʾawī.)

    Her nephew, Sāmī, uses an expression meaning - “Very depressing.”
    Use this expression to give a personal opinion that differs from the poster’s.

    4- جميلة زيك. (ǧamīlah zayyek.)

    Her boyfriend, ʾAmīr, uses an expression meaning - “Beautiful, just like you.”
    Use this expression if you wish to compliment both the song and your girlfriend.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • أغنية (ʾuġneyyah): “song”
  • الأيام (elʾayyām): “days”
  • بتفكرني (betfakkarnī): “reminds me”
  • امبارح (embāreḥ): “yesterday”
  • كئيبة (kaʾībah): “depressing”
  • جميلة (ǧamīlah): “beautiful”
  • Which song would you share? And what would you say to a friend who posted something about sharing music or videos?

    Now you know how to start a conversation about a song or a video on social media!

    5. Egyptian Arabic Social Media Comments about a Concert

    Still on the theme of music—visiting live concerts and shows just have to be shared with your friends. Here are some handy phrases and vocab to wow your followers in Arabic!

    ʾAmīr goes to a concert, posts an image of it, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down ʾAmīr’s post.

    الباند دي جامدة موت! (el-bānd dī ǧāmdah mūt!)
    “This band is so awesome!”

    1- الباند دي (ālbānd dī)

    First is an expression meaning “This band.”
    The word “band” is the same in Egyptian Arabic: band!

    2- جامدة موت. (ǧāmdah mūt.)

    Then comes the phrase - “is so awesome..”
    This expression is not to be taken literally. Literally, it translates to “dead solid,” but it really means “awesome.”

    COMMENTS

    In response, ʾAmīr’s friends leave some comments.

    1- معرفش بيعجبك إيه فيهم. (maʿrafš byeʿǧebak ʾeīh fīhum.)

    His girlfriend’s nephew, Sāmī, uses an expression meaning - “I have no idea what you like about them.”
    Use this expression to show you are in disagreement with the poster about the band.

    2- المهم إنك مبسوط يا روحي. (el-muhem ʾennak mabsūṭ yā rūḥī.)

    His girlfriend, Munā, uses an expression meaning - “As long as you’re happy, love.”
    Use this expression to show your support for your boyfriend.

    3- ابقى احكيلي عن الحوار ده لما نتقابل. (ebʾā eḥkīlī ʿan el-ḥewār dah lammā netʾābel.)

    His college friend, Sīf, uses an expression meaning - “Tell me about it when we meet up.”
    Use this expression to indicate that you’re interested in the topic and would like to know more.

    4- يالهوي! كل دي ناس! (yālahwī! kul dī nās!)

    His high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “Oh, my God. So many people!”
    Use this expression to make an observation about the crowd at the concert.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • معرفش (maʿrafš): “I don’t know”
  • بيعجبك (byeʿǧebak): “You like it”
  • مهم (muhem): “important”
  • مبسوط (mabsūṭ): “happy”
  • روحي (rūḥī): “sweety/honey (term of endearment)”
  • يالهوي (yālahwī): “oh my God”
  • If a friend posted something about a concert , which phrase would you use?

    6. Talking about an Unfortunate Accident in Egyptian Arabic

    Oh dear. You broke something by accident. Use these Arabic phrases to start a thread on social media. Or maybe just to let your friends know why you are not contacting them!

    Munā accidentally breaks her mobile phone, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down Munā’s post.

    موبايلي العزيز مات. (mūbāylī el-ʿazīz māt.)
    “My beloved phone is dead.”

    1- موبايلي العزيز (mūbāylī el-ʿazīz )

    First is an expression meaning “My beloved phone.”
    This expression personifies the phone as a good friend because phones are dear to young people these days.

    2- مات (māt.)

    Then comes the phrase - “died.”
    This also personifies the phone by saying that it “died” instead of “broke.”

    COMMENTS

    In response, Munā’s friends leave some comments.

    1- أتاريني مش عارفة أوصلك. (ʾatārīnī meš ʿārfah ʾawaṣallek.)

    Her boyfriend’s high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “No wonder I can’t reach you.”
    Use this expression to make a comment for conversation.

    2- البقاء لله. (el-baqāʾ lillah.)

    Her high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “Rest in peace.”
    Use this expression to be funny by also personifying the phone.

    3- المهم إن إنتي كويسة. (elmuhem ʾen ʾentī kwayyesah.)

    Her boyfriend, ʾAmīr, uses an expression meaning - “The important thing is that you’re ok.”
    Use this expression to show your support for your girlfriend.

    4- فداكي يا روحي. (fadākī yā rūḥī.)

    Her neighbor, Malak, uses an expression meaning - “As long as you’re okay, it’s not a problem.”
    This is another expression of warmhearted support.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • موبايل (mūbāyl): “mobile”
  • أتاري (ʾatārī): “No wonder.”
  • أوصل (ʾawṣal): “reach”
  • عزيز (ʿazīz): “dear”
  • مات (māt): “died”
  • البقاء (ālbaʾāʾ): “staying”
  • الله (Allāh): “God”
  • If a friend posted something about having broken something by accident, which phrase would you use?

    So, now you know how to describe an accident in Arabic. Well done!

    7. Chat about Your Boredom on Social Media in Egyptian Arabic

    Sometimes, we’re just bored with how life goes. And to alleviate the boredom, we write about it on social media. Add some excitement to your posts by addressing your friends and followers in Arabic!

    ʾAmīr gets bored at home, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down ʾAmīr’s post.

    قاعد زهقان. حد عايز يخرج؟ (ʾāʿed zahʾān. ḥad ʿāyez yuḫruǧ?)
    “Sitting here (all) bored. Is anyone doing anything today?”

    1- قاعد زهقان. (ʾāʿed zahʾān.)

    First is an expression meaning “Sitting here all bored.”
    The word “sitting” in Egyptian has an implied meaning of “doing something for a long interval of time.” So, Amir may not actually be sitting down.

    2- حد عايز يخرج؟ (ḥad ʿāyez yuḫruǧ?)

    Then comes the phrase - “Is anyone doing anything today?”
    Literally translated, this phrase is a statement. But, in Egyptian, you can use an affirmative sentence to create a question by changing only the intonation. It’s super easy!

    COMMENTS

    In response, ʾAmīr’s friends leave some comments.

    1- تعالى ننزل شوية. (taʿālā nenzel šwayyah.)

    His girlfriend, Munā, uses an expression meaning - “Let’s go out for a while.”
    Use this expression to make a suggestion in order to help the poster.

    2- في ناس معندهاش بيت. احمد ربنا! (fī nās maʿandhāš bīt. eḥmed rabbenā!)

    His girlfriend’s nephew, Sāmī, uses an expression meaning - “Some people don’t even have a house. Be grateful!”
    Use this expression to direct the poster’s attention to the fact that demonstrates their privilege. As long as you have a good relationship with the poster, and they understand that you’re not scolding them, this phrase is safe to use on social media.

    3- تيجي نروح القهوة نشيش؟ (tīǧī nrūḥ el-ʾahwah nešayyeš?)

    His college friend, Sīf, uses an expression meaning - “Why don’t we go to the café and smoke some shisha?”
    This is another suggestion in order to help the poster.

    4- اقعد ارتاح شوية يا حبيبي. (ʾuʾʿud ertāḥ šwayyah yā ḥabībī.)

    His neighbor, Malak, uses an expression meaning - “Sit back and relax for a bit, dear.”
    This is another warmhearted suggestion, also to help the poster feel better.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • زهقان (zahʾān): “bored”
  • عايز (ʿāyez): “I want”
  • معندهاش (maʿandahāš): “don’t have”
  • تيجي (tīǧī): “Let’s”
  • نروح (nrūḥ): “go”
  • القهوة (ālʾahwah): “cafe”
  • نشيش (nešayyeš): “smoke shisha”
  • شوية (šwayyah): “a little bit”
  • If a friend posted something about being bored, which phrase would you use?

    Still bored? Share another feeling and see if you can start a conversation!

    8. Exhausted? Share It on Social Media in Egyptian Arabic

    Sitting in public transport after work, feeling like chatting online? Well, converse in Arabic about how you feel, and let your friends join in!

    Munā feels exhausted after a long day at work, posts an image of herself looking tired, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down Munā’s post.

    آاه مش قادرة بجد! (ʾāh meš ʾādrah bǧad!)
    “Oh, I honestly can’t do this anymore..”

    1- آه مش قادرة (ʾāh meš ʾādrah)

    First is an expression meaning “Oh I can’t do this anymore…”
    This expression literally means “I can’t,” but it’s often used to mean that you’re fed up or very exhausted with something.

    2- بجد! (bǧad!)

    Then comes the phrase - “honestly.”
    Use this expression to show how serious you are about a statement.

    COMMENTS

    In response, Munā’s friends leave some comments.

    1- الواحد محتاج أجازة للأبد. (elwāḥed meḥtāǧ ʾaǧāzah lelʾabad.)

    Her high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “I need an eternal vacation.”
    Use this expression if you want to indicate that you understand how the poster feels.

    2- ربنا معاكي يا بنتي. (rabbenā maʿākī yā bentī.)

    Her neighbor, Malak, uses an expression meaning - “May God be with you, my dear.”
    Use this as a warmhearted blessing to soothe the poster.

    3- الشغل أهم حاجة في الدنيا. (elšuġl ʾaham ḥāǧah fī el-dunyā.)

    Her supervisor, Murād , uses an expression meaning - “Work is the most important thing in the world.”
    This is a comment that indicates you take note of what the poster says, but feel that their plight is just part of life. Work is of the greatest importance in life.

    4- متتعبيش نفسك أوي كده يا روحي. (matetʿebīš nafsek ʾawī kedah yā rūḥī)

    Her boyfriend, ʾAmīr, uses an expression meaning - “Don’t overdo yourself, dear.”
    Use this expression to show your warmhearted support of and concern for your beloved.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • آاه (ʾāh): “oh”
  • قادرة (ʾādrah): “able”
  • محتاج (meḥtāǧ): “needing”
  • للأبد (lelʾabad): “forever”
  • الشغل (elšuġl): “work”
  • حاجة (ḥāǧah): “thing”
  • متتعبيش (matetʿebīš): “do not over do it”
  • كده (kedah): “like that”
  • If a friend posted something about being exhausted, which phrase would you use?

    Now you know how to say you’re exhausted in Arabic! Well done.

    9. Talking about an Injury in Egyptian Arabic

    So life happens, and you manage to hurt yourself during a soccer game. Very Tweet-worthy! Here’s how to do it in Arabic.

    ʾAmīr suffers a painful injury, posts an image of it, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down ʾAmīr’s post.

    لسه طالع من المستشفى. الحمد لله. (lessah ṭāleʿ men el-mustašfā. el-ḥamdu llh.)
    “Just got out of the hospital. Praise be to God.”

    1- لسه طالع من المستشفى. (lessah ṭāleʿ men el-mustašfā. )

    First is an expression meaning “Just got out of the hospital”.
    This expression literally means “going up from the hospital.” But, when “going up” is used with a destination, it means that you’re getting out of that place.

    2- الحمد لله. (el-ḥamdu lillah.)

    Then comes the phrase - “Praise be to God.”
    Muslims generally use this expression after an incident to show that they’re content with what God has given them, even if it was a bad thing.

    COMMENTS

    In response, ʾAmīr’s friends leave some comments.

    1- بطل شقاوة يا واد. (baṭṭal šaʾāwah yā wād.)

    His college friend, Sīf, uses an expression meaning - “Stop playing around, boy!”
    Use this suggestion to show concern for the poster in a rough kind of way, typical to men.

    2- خلي بالك من نفسك يا إبني. (ḫallī bālak men nafsak yā ʾebnī.)

    His supervisor, Murād , uses an expression meaning - “Take care, my son.”
    This is a caring comment to show your concern for the poster.

    3- سلامتك يا أمير! (salāmtak yā ʾamīr!)

    His high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “Get well soon, Amir!”
    This is the traditional wish for someone’s speedy recovery.

    4- قلقتني عليك يا روحي. (ʾalaʾtenī ʿalīk yā rūḥī.)

    His girlfriend, Munā, uses an expression meaning - “I was so worried about you, dear!”
    Use this phrase to express your feelings of worry and concern for your beloved.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • بطل (baṭṭal): “Stop (imperative)”
  • شقاوة (šaʾāwah): “playing around”
  • واد (wād): “(Egyptian slang for) boy”
  • خلي بالك (ḫallī bālak): “Take care”
  • سلامتك (salāmtak): “Get well soon”
  • قلقتني (ʾalaʾtenī): “worried me”
  • If a friend posted something about being injured, which phrase would you use?

    We love to share our fortunes and misfortunes; somehow that makes us feel connected to others.

    10. Starting a Conversation Feeling Disappointed in Egyptian Arabic

    Sometimes things don’t go the way we planned. Share your disappointment about this with your friends!

    Munā feels disappointed about today’s weather, posts an image of it, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down Munā’s post.

    لازم تمطر يوم الأجازة يعني! (lāzem temaṭṭar yūm el-ʾaǧāzah yaʿnī!)
    “Does it have to rain on the weekend?”

    1- لازم تمطر (lāzem temaṭṭar)

    First is an expression meaning “Does it have to rain .”
    This expression is in the affirmative form, but the intonation is that of a question.

    2- يوم الأجازة يعني! (yūm el-ʾaǧāzah yaʿnī!)

    Then comes the phrase - “on the weekend?.”
    Egyptian Arabic doesn’t have a specific word for “weekend”, so we use the word “holiday” instead. Also, weekend in Egypt and most other mid-Eastern countries is Friday through Saturday, not Saturday through Sunday!

    COMMENTS

    In response, Munā’s friends leave some comments.

    1- معلش لسه في بكرة. (maʿleš lessah fī bukrah.)

    Her neighbor, Malak, uses an expression meaning - “It’s ok. We still have tomorrow!”
    Use this expression to try and encourage the poster.

    2- احمدي ربنا إنك لسه عايشة. (eḥmedī rabbenā ʾennek lessah ʿāyšah.)

    Her nephew, Sāmī, uses an expression meaning - “You should thank God you’re still alive!”
    Use this expression to try and point out a positive to a poster.

    3- ممكن نروح حته مقفولة متزعليش. (mumken nrūḥ ḥettah maʾfūlah matezʿalīš.)

    Her high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “We could go somewhere indoors. Don’t be sad.”
    Use these phrases to be helpful to the poster by making a suggestion.

    4- تيجي عندي البيت نتفرج على فيلم؟ (tīǧī ʿandī el-bīt netfarraǧ ʿalā fīlm?)

    Her boyfriend’s high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “Would you like to come over to my place and watch a movie?”
    This is another suggestion so as to be supportive of the poster.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • تمطر (tmaṭṭar): “rains”
  • معلش (maʿleš): “it’s ok”
  • بكرة (bukrah): “tomorrow”
  • حتة (ḥettah): “place”
  • مقفولة (maʾfūlah): “indoors”
  • متزعليش (matezʿalīš): “don’t be sad”
  • نتفرج (netfarraǧ): “(we) watch”
  • How would you comment in Arabic when a friend is disappointed?

    Not all posts need to be about a negative feeling, though!

    11. Talking about Your Relationship Status in Egyptian Arabic

    Don’t just change your relationship status in Settings, talk about it!

    ʾAmīr changes his status to “In a relationship”, posts an image of it, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down ʾAmīr’s post.

    أنا أسعد واحد في الدنيا! (ʾanā ʾasʿad wāḥed fī el-dunyā!)
    “I’m the happiest person in the world!”

    1- أنا أسعد واحد (ʾanā ʾasʿad wāḥed )

    First is an expression meaning “I’m the happiest person.”
    When you see the word for “one” in this context, it usually means “person.”

    2- في الدنيا! (fī el-dunyā!)

    Then comes the phrase - ” in the world!.”
    This expression is just like its English counterpart. You can use it to mean that something, usually a certain adjective, is at its maximum level and can’t be topped.

    COMMENTS

    In response, ʾAmīr’s friends leave some comments.

    1- أيوة بقه! (ʾaywah baʾah!)

    His college friend, Sīf, uses an expression meaning - “Oh yeah!”
    Use this expression to show you are feeling frivolous.

    2- ربنا يسعدكوا. (rabbenā yesʿedkū.)

    His neighbor, Malak, uses an expression meaning - “May God bring you both happiness.”
    This is a traditional blessing on the relationship.

    3- بحبكوا إنتو الإتنين. (baḥebbukū ʾentū el-ʾetnīn.)

    His high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “I love you both.”
    Use this expression to show you are feeling optimistic about the poster’s relationship.

    4- بحبك موت. (baḥebbak mūt.)

    His girlfriend, Munā, uses an expression meaning - “I love you like crazy.”
    This is a more passionate version of the previous expression of optimism.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • أسعد (ʾasʿad): “the happiest”
  • الدنيا (āldunyā): “the world”
  • أيوة (ʾaywah): “Yes”
  • يسعدكوا (yesʿedkūā): “make you happy”
  • موت (mūt): “death”
  • واحد (wāḥed): “a person”
  • What would you say in Arabic when a friend changes their relationship status?

    Being in a good relationship with someone special is good news - don’t be shy to spread it!

    12. Post about Getting Married in Egyptian Arabic

    Wow, so things got serious, and you’re getting married. Congratulations! Or, your friend is getting married, so talk about this in Arabic.

    Munā is getting married today, so she leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down Munā’s post.

    فرحي النهارده و كلكو معزومين! (faraḥī el-nahārdah w kullukū maʿzūmīn!)
    “My wedding is today, and all of you are invited!”

    1- فرحي النهارده (faraḥī el-nahārdah )

    First is an expression meaning “My wedding is today.”
    The word for wedding in Egyptian literally means “happiness.” Context is very important!

    2- و كلكو معزومين! (w kullukū maʿzūmīn!)

    Then comes the phrase - “and all of you are invited!”
    You’re unlikely to invite everyone you know on Facebook to your wedding. People understand that this is just talk and that they aren’t really expected to show up!

    COMMENTS

    In response, Munā’s friends leave some comments.

    1- ألف مبروك! (ʾalf mabrūk!)

    Her husband’s high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “Congratulations!”
    This is a universal expression of congratulations.

    2- أخيراً! (ʾaḫīran!)

    Her nephew, Sāmī, uses an expression meaning - “Finally!”
    Use this expression to show you were expecting the marriage and is happy about it.

    3- مبروك ليكو إنتو الإتنين. (mabrūk līkū ʾentū el-ʾetnīn.)

    Her high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “Congratulations to you both.”
    This is a slightly more extended version of the traditional congratulations.

    4- ما شاء الله ربنا يخليكو لبعض. (mā šāʾ allah rabbenā yeḫallīkū lebaʿḍ.)

    Her neighbor, Malak, uses an expression meaning - “May God protect you both.”
    This is a warm blessing for the couple’s protection.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • النهارده (elnahārdah): “today”
  • كلكو (kullukū): “all of you”
  • معزوم (maʿzūm): “invited”
  • ألف (ʾalf): “one thousand”
  • مبروك (mabrūk): “congratulations”
  • How would you respond in Arabic to a friend’s post about getting married?

    For the next topic, fast forward about a year into the future after the marriage…

    13. Announcing Big News in Egyptian Arabic

    Wow, huge stuff is happening in your life! Announce it in Arabic.

    ʾAmīr finds out he and his wife are going to have a baby, posts an image of the two of them, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down ʾAmīr’s post.

    مراتي حامل! ادعولنا! (mrātī ḥāmel! edʿūlnā!)
    “My wife is pregnant! Pray for us!”

    1- مراتي حامل! (mrātī ḥāmel!)

    First is an expression meaning “My wife is pregnant!.”
    The Egyptian word for “my wife” literally means “my woman”. The word for “pregnant” literally means “carrying”.

    2- ادعولنا! (edʿūlnā!)

    Then comes the phrase - “Pray for us…”
    This expression is in the dual form because he’d like people to pray for both of them as a family.

    COMMENTS

    In response, ʾAmīr’s friends leave some comments.

    1- يا رب ميطلعش زيك! (yā rab mayeṭlaʿš zayyak!)

    His nephew, Sāmī, uses an expression meaning - “Let’s hope he doesn’t look like you!”
    Use this expression to make light fun of the poster.

    2- الحمد لله! (elḥamdu lellah!)

    His wife, Munā, uses an expression meaning - “Thanks be to God!”
    This is a common response to good news in Arabic.

    3- ربنا يقومها بالسلامة يا حبيبي. (rabbenā yeʾawwemhā belsalāmah yā ḥabībī.)

    His neighbor, Malak, uses an expression meaning - “Hope she gets through it safe and healthy.”
    Use this expression to wish the poster’s wife a safe and healthy pregnancy and birth process.

    4- إن شاء الله هيطلع جميل زيكو إنتو الإتنين. (ʾen šāʾ allah hayeṭlaʿ ǧamīl zayyًokū ʾentū el-ʾetnīn.)

    His high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “With the grace of God it will look beautiful like you two.”
    This is a blessing specifically to wish the child beauty.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • مراتي (merātī): “my wife”
  • حامل (ḥāmel): “pregnant”
  • زيك (zayyak): “like you”
  • ربنا (rabbenā): “God”
  • السلامة (ālsalāmah): “safety”
  • حبيبي (ḥabībī): “baby (term of endearment)”
  • Which phrase would you choose when a friend announces their pregnancy on social media?

    So, talking about a pregnancy will get you a lot of traction on social media. But wait till you see the responses to babies!

    14. Posting Egyptian Arabic Comments about Your Baby

    Your bundle of joy is here, and you cannot keep quiet about it! Share your thoughts in Arabic.

    Munā plays with her baby, posts an image of the sweetie, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down Munā’s post.

    تفتكرو هيطلع شبه مين؟ (teftekrū hayeṭlaʿ šabah mīn?)
    “Who do you think he will take after?”

    1- تفتكرو (teftekrū)

    First is an expression meaning “Who do you think .”
    This expression literally means “do you remember,” but in Egyptian Arabic it’s an idiom that means “do you think that….”

    2- هيطلع شبه مين؟ (hayeṭlaʿ šabah mīn?)

    Then comes the phrase - “he will take after?.”
    This expression is also an idiom. This verb+noun combination literally means “will go up like someone,” but it actually means to take after somebody.

    COMMENTS

    In response, Munā’s friends leave some comments.

    1- يتربى بالهنا إن شاء الله. (yetrabbā belhanā ʾen šāʾ Allah.)

    Her supervisor, Murād , uses an expression meaning - “May you raise him felicitously with the will of God.”
    This is an old-fashioned, traditional wish for new parents about their newborn.

    2- هو مش كل الأطفال شبه بعض؟ (huwwa meš kul el-ʾaṭfāl šabah baʿḍ?)

    Her college friend, Sīf, uses an expression meaning - “Don’t all children look alike?”
    Use this expression if you want to be humorous and frivolous.

    3- المهم ميطلعش شبه أمير هههه. (elmuhem mayeṭlaʿš šabah ʾamīr hahahah.)

    Her high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “The important thing is that he doesn’t take after Amir, haha.”
    Use this expression as a joke.

    4- جميل و شبهكو إنتو الإتنين ما شاء الله. (ǧamīl wa šabahkū ʾentū el-ʾetnīn mā šāʾ Allah.)

    Her neighbor, Malak, uses an expression meaning - “He is beautiful and he takes after you two.”
    Use this expression to show you are feeling warmhearted and appreciative of the baby’s looks.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • تفتكرو (teftekrū): “Do you think”
  • يتربى (yetrabbaā): “grow up”
  • بالهنا (beālhanā): “felicitously”
  • مش (meš): “not, don’t, isn’t”
  • هههه (hahahah): “haha (laugh sound)”
  • جميل (ǧamīl): “beautiful”
  • If your friend is the mother or father, which phrase would you use on social media?

    Congratulations, you know the basics of chatting about a baby in Arabic! But we’re not done with families yet…

    15. Egyptian Arabic Comments about a Family Reunion

    Family reunions - some you love, some you hate. Share about it on your feed.

    ʾAmīr goes to a family gathering, posts an image of it, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down ʾAmīr’s post.

    مفيش زي اللمة الحلوة دي. (mafīš zay el-lammah el-ḥelwah dī.)
    “Nothing is as good as this beautiful get-together.”

    1- مفيش زي (mafīš zay )

    First is an expression meaning “Nothing is as good as .”
    This expression is a lot like its English counterpart. Literally, it means “there is nothing like,” and it expresses how great something is.

    2- اللمة الحلوة دي. (el-lammah el-ḥelwah dī.)

    Then comes the phrase - “this beautiful get-together..”
    The phrase “beautiful get-together” is mostly used the way it is in English. In Egyptian, the word “this” comes after the noun.

    COMMENTS

    In response, ʾAmīr’s friends leave some comments.

    1- بجد و لا كلام و خلاص؟ (bǧad wa lā kalām w ḫalāṣ?)

    His wife’s high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “Really? Or is it just talk?”
    Use this expression if you want to make fun of the poster by questioning the honesty of their post.

    2- أكيد طبعاً, أكل تيتا مفيش زيه! (ʾakīd ṭabʿan, ʾakl tītā mafīš zayyuh!)

    His nephew, Sāmī, uses an expression meaning - “Of course, there is nothing like grandmother’s food!”
    Use this phrase to express appreciation for your grandmother’s cooking skills.

    3- ربنا يخليكو لبعض. (rabbenā yeḫallīkū lebaʿḍ.)

    His neighbor, Malak, uses an expression meaning - “May God protect you for each other(’s sake).”
    This is a warmhearted blessing for the poster’s family.

    4- الأكل مع العيلة ليه طعم تاني. (elʾakl maʿ el-ʿīlah līh ṭaʿm tānī.)

    His supervisor, Murād , uses an expression meaning - “Eating with the family has a different taste.”
    With this expression, you’re saying that sharing meals with family is more pleasant than with others.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • مفيش (mafīš): “isn’t there, there isn’t”
  • زي (zayy): “like/resemble”
  • اللمة (āllammah): “get-together”
  • بجد (beǧad): “seriously”
  • طعم (ṭaʿm): “taste”
  • تيتا (tītā): “grandmother”
  • العيلة (ālʿīlah): “family”
  • Which phrase is your favorite to comment on a friend’s photo about a family reunion?

    16. Post about Your Travel Plans in Egyptian Arabic

    So, the family are going on holiday. Do you know how to post and leave comments in Arabic about being at the airport, waiting for a flight?

    Munā waits at the airport for her flight, posts an image of it, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down Munā’s post.

    باي باي قاهرة, أشوفك كمان اسبوعين. (bāī bāī ʾāherah, ʾašūfek kamān āusbūʿīn.)
    “Bye bye Cairo. See you in a couple of weeks.”

    1- باي باي قاهرة, (bāī bāī ʾāherah, )

    First is an expression meaning “Bye bye Cairo. .”
    The word “bye bye” is used the same way it’s used in English, but some people say “salam” instead. Cairo is Egypt’s capital city.

    2- أشوفك كمان اسبوعين. (ʾašūfek kamān āusbūʿīn.)

    Then comes the phrase - “See you in a couple of weeks..”
    This expression is used by people mostly when traveling to indicate that they’ll be away for some time. You can change the interval in the expression, but it’s more natural to stick with shorter intervals.

    COMMENTS

    In response, Munā’s friends leave some comments.

    1- يا بختك! (yā baḫtek!)

    Her nephew, Sāmī, uses an expression meaning - “Lucky you!”
    Use this expression to show you are feeling a bit envious of the poster, in a nice way.

    2- خديني معاكي! (ḫudīnī maʿākī!)

    Her husband’s high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “Take me with you!”
    Use this expression if you wish you could join the poster.

    3- تروحي و تيجي بالسلامة. (trūḥī wa tīǧī belsalāmah.)

    Her neighbor, Malak, uses an expression meaning - “May you return safely.”
    This is a wish for a safe journey.

    4- كلمينا أول ماتوصلي! (kallemīnā ʾawwel mātewṣalī!)

    Her high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “Call us once you get there!”
    Use this expression if you wish the poster to stay in contact with you during their trip.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • أشوفك (ʾašūfek): “see you (said to a female)”
  • كمان (kamān): “also, as well”
  • بختك (baḫtek): “your luck”
  • خديني (ḫudīnī): “take me”
  • تروحي (etrūḥī): “you go”
  • تيجي (tīǧī): “you come”
  • توصلي (tewṣalī): “you arrive”
  • Choose and memorize your best airport phrase in Arabic!

    17. Posting about an Interesting Find in Egyptian Arabic

    So maybe you’re strolling around at a local market, and find something interesting. Here are some handy Arabic phrases!

    ʾAmīr finds an unusual item at a local market, posts an image of it, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down ʾAmīr’s post.

    حد يقوللي إيه ده؟ (ḥad īʾūllī ʾeīh dah?)
    “Can someone tell me what this is?”

    1- حد يقوللي (ḥad īʾūllī )

    First is an expression meaning “Can someone tell me.”
    The Egyptian Arabic word for “person” literally means “one.” The full expression is used when you need answers to something you don’t know or understand.

    2- إيه ده؟ (ʾeīh dah?)

    Then comes the phrase - “what this is?”
    This is a very simple expression that you’ll use a lot when you get to Egypt because it means “What is this?” Use it to ask about anything you don’t know or aren’t sure about.

    COMMENTS

    In response, ʾAmīr’s friends leave some comments.

    1- سفينة فضائية؟ (safīnah faḍāʾeyyah?)

    His wife’s high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “Is it a UFO?”
    Use this question to partake in the conversation with humour.

    2- مخلوق فضائي؟ (maḫlūʾ faḍāʾī?)

    His high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “Is it an alien?”
    This is another humorous question to contribute to the conversation in a lighthearted manner.

    3- ده بيتباع فين؟ (dah byetbāʿ fīn?)

    His nephew, Sāmī, uses an expression meaning - “Where do they sell this?”
    Ask questions for more details and to keep the conversation flowing.

    4- طب ما كنت تسألنا كده. (ṭab mā kunt tesʾallenā kedah.)

    His college friend, Sīf, uses an expression meaning - “You should’ve asked for us.”
    Say this if you are of the opinion that the poster should’ve asked someone else - for the sake of all the social media friends.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • حد (ḥad): “somebody”
  • إيه (ʾeīh): “what”
  • سفينة (safīnah): “ship”
  • فضائي (faḍāʾī): “spatial/alien”
  • مخلوق (maḫlūʾ): “creature”
  • بيتباع (byetbāʿ): “is sold”
  • فين (fīn): “Where”
  • Which phrase would you use to comment on a friend’s interesting find?

    Perhaps you will even learn the identity of your find! Or perhaps you’re on holiday, and visiting interesting places…

    18. Post about a Sightseeing Trip in Egyptian Arabic

    Let your friends know what you’re up to in Arabic, especially when visiting a remarkable place! Don’t forget the photo.

    Munā visits a famous landmark, posts an image of it, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down Munā’s post.

    مكنتش أعرف إن أسوان جميلة كده! (makunteš ʾaʿraf ʾen ʾaswān ǧamīlah kedah!)
    “I didn’t know Aswan was so beautiful!”

    1- مكنتش أعرف إن (makunteš ʾaʿraf ʾen)

    First is an expression meaning “I didn’t know .”
    Use this expression to show surprise about something you didn’t expect.

    2- أسوان جميلة كده! (ʾaswān ǧamīlah kedah!)

    Then comes the phrase - “Aswan is so beautiful!.”
    When you use the word meaning “like that” after an adjective, it elevates its level similar to the word “very.” Notice that the Arabic is in the present tense, so the phrase literally means “Aswan is so beautiful.”

    COMMENTS

    In response, Munā’s friends leave some comments.

    1- روحي الأقصر بالمرة. هتعجبك. (rūḥī el-ʾuʾṣur belmarrah. hateʿǧebak.)

    Her neighbor, Malak, uses an expression meaning - “Go to Luxor while you’re at it. You’ll like it.”
    Use these phrases to make suggestions for the poster.

    2- النيل في أسوان تحفة! (elnīl fī ʾaswān tuḥfah!)

    Her husband’s high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “The Nile in Aswan is gorgeous!”
    Use this expression to add information pertaining to the poster’s comment about Aswan.

    3- متشخبطيش على الحيطان بس! (matšaḫbaṭīš ʿalā el-ḥīṭān bas!)

    Her high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “Just don’t write on the walls!”
    Use this expression to add to the conversation in a lighthearted, humorous way.

    4- وديتي البيبي فين؟ (waddītī el-bībī fīn?)

    Her nephew, Sāmī, uses an expression meaning - “What did you do with the baby?”
    Ask this question if you want to know the whereabouts of the poster’s child.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • مكنتش (makunteš): “I was not/did not”
  • بالمرة (beālmarrah): “while you are at it”
  • هتعجبك (hateʿǧebek): “you will like it”
  • النيل (ālnīl): “the Nile river”
  • الحيطان (ālḥīṭān): “the walls”
  • البيبي (ālbībī): “the baby”
  • Which phrase would you prefer when a friend posts about a famous landmark?

    Share your special places with the world. Or simply post about your relaxing experiences.

    19. Post about Relaxing Somewhere in Egyptian Arabic

    So you’re doing nothing yet you enjoy that too? Tell your social media friends about it in Arabic!

    ʾAmīr relaxes at a beautiful place, posts an image of it, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down ʾAmīr’s post.

    قاعد على الشط في الغردقة. (ʾāʿed ʿalā el-šaṭ fī el-ġardaʾah.)
    “Chilling on the beach in Hurghada.”

    1- قاعد على الشط (ʾāʿed ʿalā el-šaṭ)

    First is an expression meaning “Chilling on the beach”.
    This expression uses the verb “chilling,” but, like in English, in Egyptian it doesn’t necessarily mean “to make cold.” It just means that you’re engaging in all sorts of cool, relaxing activities.

    2- في الغردقة. (fī el-ġardaʾah.)

    Then comes the phrase - ” in Hurghada.”
    This expression is used to indicate location, in this case, Hurghada. Hurghada is the location of one of the most popular beaches in Egypt and is considered one of the best snorkeling and diving spots in the Red Sea.

    COMMENTS

    In response, ʾAmīr’s friends leave some comments.

    1- إنت دايماً بتلعب كده؟ (ʾenta dāyman betelʿab kedah?)

    His wife’s high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “Are you always playing?”
    Ask this question to tease the poster a bit.

    2- فين البنات الحلوين؟ (fīn el-banāt el-ḥelwīn?)

    His college friend, Sīf, uses an expression meaning - “Where are the beautiful girls?”
    Ask this question if you wish to know more about the pretty women on the beach.

    3- نفسي مرة أشوفك بتشتغل! (nefsī marrah ʾašūfak beteštaġal!)

    His nephew, Sāmī, uses an expression meaning - “I want to see you working for once!”
    Use this phrase to tease the poster.

    4- عايزين صور كمان! (ʿāyzīn ṣewar kamān!)

    His high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “We want more pictures!”
    Use this expression to show you are interested in the topic and would like to see more photos.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • الشط (ālšaṭ): “the beach”
  • الغردقة (ālġardaʾah): “Hurghada”
  • دايماً (dāyman): “always”
  • البنات (ālbanāt): “girls/ladies”
  • نفسي (nefsī): “I wish”
  • أشوفك (ʾašūfak): “see you (for a male)”
  • عايزين (ʿāyzīn): “we want”
  • Which phrase would you use to comment on a friend’s feed?

    The break was great, but now it’s time to return home.

    20. What to Say in Egyptian Arabic When You’re Home Again

    And you’re back! What will you share with friends and followers?

    Munā returns home after a vacation, posts an image of it, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down Munā’s post.

    التغيير حلو بس بيتي وحشني الصراحة. (eltaġīīr ḥelū bas bītī waḥašnī el-ṣarāḥah.)
    “Change is nice, but honestly I missed home.”

    1- التغيير حلو بس (eltaġīīr ḥelū bas )

    First is an expression meaning “Change is nice, but.”
    There are many words for “but” in Egyptian, but the one used here, “bas,” is most common.

    2- بيتي وحشني الصراحة. (bītī waḥašnī el-ṣarāḥah.)

    Then comes the phrase - “honestly I missed home…”
    The word for “missing” someone or something in Egyptian differ among dialects. The word for “honestly” in Egyptian literally means “honesty”.

    COMMENTS

    In response, Munā’s friends leave some comments.

    1- حمدالله عالسلامة! (ḥamdeāllh ʿālsalāmah!)

    Her high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “Welcome back!”
    This is the traditional greeting when people return from a trip.

    2- نورتي بيتك يا جميلة. (nawwartī bītek yā ǧamīlah.)

    Her neighbor, Malak, uses an expression meaning - “Home lit up with your presence, sweetie.”
    Use this expression to show you are feeling warmhearted and positive about the poster’s return.

    3- عايزين نشوفك! (ʿāyzīn nšūfek!)

    Her husband’s high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “We want to see you!”
    Use this expression if you would like to meet up with the poster.

    4- احكيلي كل اللي عملتيه بالتفصيل! (eḥkīlī kul el-llī ʿamaltīh beltafṣīl!)

    Her college friend, Sīf, uses an expression meaning - “Tell me everything you did, in detail!”
    Use this expression to show your great interest in the poster’s trip.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • التغيير (āltaġīīr): “change”
  • وحشني (waḥašnī): “I miss (it)”
  • نورتي (nawwartī): “you lit up”
  • نشوفك (nšūfek): “see you “
  • احكيلي (eḥkīlī): “tell me”
  • بالتفصيل (beāltafṣīl): “in detail”
  • How would you welcome a friend back from a trip?

    What do you post on social media on a religious day such as Eid?

    21. It’s Time to Celebrate in Egyptian Arabic

    It’s a religious day and you wish to post something about it on social media. What would you say?

    Amīr observes Eid, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down ʾAmīr’s post.

    كل سنة وإنتو طيبين. (kul sanah ūʾentū ṭayyebīn.)
    “Happy Eid to you all.”

    1- كل سنة (kul sanah )

    First is an expression meaning “Happy Eid (literally: every year).”
    This expression literally means “every year,” but it’s part of a bigger expression and doesn’t mean much on its own. Keep in mind that there are two Eids a year. One is called the “Small Eid” and takes place the day after the end of Ramadan. It is also known as “Festival of Breaking the Fast.” The other, called the “Grand Eid,” takes place on the third day of the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. It commemorates the sacrifice of an animal in place of the prophet Ishmael, and is also known as the “Festival of Sacrifice.” The same expression is used for both Eids.

    2- وإنتو طيبين. (ūʾentū ṭayyebīn.)

    Then comes the phrase - “to you all..”
    This expression literally means “and all of you are ok.” So the English equivalent of the entire phrase is “may you all be ok next year as well.”

    COMMENTS

    In response, ʾAmīr’s friends leave some comments.

    1- وإنتو طيبين يا حبايبي. (wʾentu ṭayyebin yā ḥabaybī.)

    His neighbor, Malak, uses an expression meaning - “Same to you, sweeties.”
    Use this expression to return the poster’s blessing/wish, using a term of endearment.

    2- تعالو نتقابل بكرة! (taʿālu netʾābel bukrah!)

    His high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “Let’s meet up tomorrow!”
    Use this expression if you would like to make a date with the poster.

    3- أخدتو العيدية؟ (ʾaḫadtu el-ʿīdyyah?)

    His wife’s high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “Did you guys receive the Eid gift?”
    Ask this question for more information. It is customary for Egyptians to exchange gifts during Eid.

    4- أول عيد معاك يا حبيبي. (ʾawwel ʿīd maʿāk yā ḥabībī.)

    His wife, Munā, uses an expression meaning - “First Eid with you, honey.”
    Use this expression to lovingly remind your husband that it’s your first religious holiday as a married couple.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • طيبين (ṭayyebīn): “good”
  • تعالي (taʿālī): “come”
  • نتقابل (netʾābel): “let’s meet”
  • بكرة (bukrah): “tomorrow”
  • العيدية (ālʿīdeyyah): “Eid gift”
  • عيد (ʿīd): “feast (eid)”
  • معاكي (maʿākī): “with you”
  • If a friend posted something about a holiday, which phrase would you use?

    Eid and other religious days are not the only special ones to remember!

    22. Posting about a Birthday on Social Media in Egyptian Arabic

    Your friend or you are celebrating your birthday in an unexpected way. Be sure to share this on social media!

    Munā attends her birthday party, posts an image of the event, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down Munā’s post.

    مش عارفة أقولوكو إيه. بحبكوا أوي. (meš ʿārfah ʾaʾūllūkū ʾeīh. baḥebbukū ʾawī.)
    “I don’t know what to say to you all. I love you all so much.”

    1- مش عارفة أقولوكو إيه. (meš ʿārfah ʾaʾūllūkū ʾeīh.)

    First is an expression meaning “I don’t know what to say to you all..”
    Use this phrase to express that you’re speechless about an event or an incident, whether positive or negative.

    2- بحبكوا أوي. (baḥebbukū ʾawī.)

    Then comes the phrase - “I love you all so much!.”
    The word for “very” or “very much” in Egyptian literally means “strong”. It’s placed after an adjective or a verb. This expression is used mostly to express platonic love.

    COMMENTS

    In response, Munā’s friends leave some comments.

    1- وإحنا كمان بنموت فيكي. (wʾeḥnā kamān benmūt fīkī.)

    Her high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “We love you back.”
    Use this phrase to let the poster know you feel the same about them.

    2- كل سنة و إنتي طيبة يا منى! (kul sanah wa ʾentī ṭayyebah yā munā!)

    Her college friend, Sīf, uses an expression meaning - “Happy birthday, Munā!”
    This is the traditional birthday wish.

    3- المهم إنك انبسطي. (elmuhem ʾennek enbasaṭṭī.)

    Her husband’s high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “The important thing is that you had fun.”
    Use this comment to partake in the conversation in a positive manner.

    4- عقبال مليون سنة! (ʿuʾbāl melyūn sanah!)

    Her supervisor, Murād , uses an expression meaning - “May you live for a million years!”
    This is an exaggeration, indicating a warmhearted, enthusiastic wish.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • أقولوكو (ʾaʾūllūkū): “I tell you (all)”
  • بحبكوا (baḥebbukūā): “I love you (all)”
  • أوي (ʾawī): “very (Egyptian Arabic)”
  • إحنا (ʾeḥnā): “we”
  • بنموت فيكي (benmūt fīkī): “we love you to death”
  • انبسطي (enbesṭī): “have fun”
  • مليون (melyūn): “million”
  • If a friend posted something about birthday greetings, which phrase would you use?

    23. Talking about New Year on Social Media in Egyptian Arabic

    Impress your friends with your Arabic New Year’s wishes this year. Learn the phrases easily!

    ʾAmīr celebrates the New Year, posts an image of it, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down ʾAmīr’s post.

    في حفلة راس السنة. كل سنة و أنتو طيبين. (fī ḥaflet rās el-sanah. kul sanah wa ʾentū ṭayyebīn.)
    “At the New Year’s party. Happy New Year, everyone.”

    1- في حفلة راس السنة. (fī ḥaflet rās el-sanah.)

    First is an expression meaning “At the New Year’s party. .”
    Starting a sentence with a prepositional phrase that explains where you are is something that’s usually seen on social media and in status updates.

    2- كل سنة و أنتو طيبين. (kul sanah wa ʾentū ṭayyebīn.)

    Then comes the phrase - “Happy New Year, everyone..”
    This is an expression used for many annual occasions, including New Year’s and Eid. The literal translation is something like “May you be healthy every year.”

    COMMENTS

    In response, ʾAmīr’s friends leave some comments.

    1- ربنا يخليك لعيلتك. (rabbenā yeḫallīk leʿīltak.)

    His neighbor, Malak, uses an expression meaning - “May God watch over you and your family.”
    Use this expression to give the poster and their family a blessing.

    2- وإنت طيب يا أمير. (ūʾenta ṭayyeb yā ʾamīr.)

    His college friend, Sīf, uses an expression meaning - “Happy New Year to you too, ʾAmīr.”
    This is the traditional response to the poster’s New Year wish.

    3- إن شاء الله السنة الجاية أحلى. (ʾen šāʾa Allah el-sanah el-ǧāyyah ʾaḥlā.)

    His high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “May God make next year even better.”
    Another positive, optimistic blessing for the New Year.

    4- رحت حفلة راس السنة فين؟ (ruḥt ḥaflet rās el-sanah fīn?)

    His wife’s high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “Where did you celebrate the New Year’s party?”
    Use this question if you wish for more information about the poster’s New Year, and to keep the conversation going.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • حفلة (ḥaflah): “party “
  • الجاية (ālǧāyyah): “next”
  • أحلى (ʾaḥlā): “better”
  • راس السنة (rās el-sanah): “new year’s eve”
  • رحت (ruḥt): “you went”
  • Which is your favorite phrase to post on social media during New Year?

    But before New Year’s Day comes another important day…

    24. What to Post on Christmas Day in Egyptian Arabic

    What will you say in Arabic about Christmas?

    Munā celebrates Christmas with her family, posts an image of it, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down Munā’s post.

    عيد ميلاد مجيد. (ʿīd mīlād maǧīd.)
    “Merry Christmas.”

    1- عيد ميلاد (ʿīd mīlād)

    First is an expression meaning “Christmas.”
    Adding the word “merry” after the word “birthday” turns “birthday” into “Christmas” in Egyptian. So literally, there’s no “Christ” in this expression. Keep in mind that Christmas in Egypt falls on January 7th.

    2- مجيد. (maǧīd.)

    Then comes the phrase - “Merry.”
    The expression “Merry Christmas” is the other way around in Arabic, so it’s literally “Christmas Merry.”

    COMMENTS

    In response, Munā’s friends leave some comments.

    1- أخيراً هناكل لحمة! (ʾaḫīran hanākul laḥmah!)

    Her high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “At last, we will eat meat!”
    Use this expression to share your excitement about the menu over this time.

    2- الناس زهقت من الفول والبطاطس! (elnās zehʾet men el-fūl welbaṭāṭes!)

    Her college friend, Sīf, uses an expression meaning - “People are so sick of beans and potatoes!”
    Use this expression to agree with the previous poster about the cuisine.

    3- تعالو ننزل ناكل مع بعض. (taʿālū nenzel nākul maʿ baʿḍ.)

    Her husband’s high school friend, Sārah, uses an expression meaning - “Let’s go eat out together.”
    Use this suggestion if you wish to get together with the poster.

    4- شكراً يا منى. (šukran yā munā.)

    Her supervisor, Murād , uses an expression meaning - “Thank you, Mona.”
    This is a simple response of gratitude for the poster’s Christmas wish.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • ميلاد (mīlād): “birth”
  • مجيد (maǧīd): “glorious”
  • هناكل (hanākul): “we will eat”
  • لحمة (laḥmah): “meat”
  • زهقت (zeheʾt): “I am bored”
  • فول (fūl): “beans”
  • بطاطس (baṭāṭes): “potatoes”
  • If a friend posted something about Christmas greetings, which phrase would you use?

    So, the festive season is over! Yet, there will always be other days, besides a birthday, to wish someone well.

    25. Post about Your Anniversary in Egyptian Arabic

    Some things deserve to be celebrated, like wedding anniversaries. Learn which Arabic phrases are meaningful and best suited for this purpose!

    ʾAmīr celebrates his wedding anniversary with his wife, posts an image of it, and leaves this comment:

    POST

    Let’s break down ʾAmīr’s post.

    كل سنة و إحنا مع بعض يا روحي. (kul sanh wa ʾeḥnā maʿ baʿḍ yā rūḥī.)
    “May we spend more years together, honey.”

    1- كل سنة و إحنا مع بعض (kul sanah wa ʾeḥnā maʿ baʿḍ)

    First is an expression meaning “May we spend more years together,.”
    This expression is similar to the expression for “Happy New Year,” or “kul sanah w enta tayyib”. This phrase is normally used on New Year’s Day. But this time, after the expression meaning “every year,” you add “being together” (w ʾeḥnā maʿ baʿḍ) و احنا مع بعض. This makes it clear that Amir is referring to his wedding anniversary.

    2- يا روحي. (yā rūḥī.)

    Then comes the phrase - “honey..”
    Egyptians use the phrase “my soul” as a term of endearment, like “baby” or “honey.”

    COMMENTS

    In response, ʾAmīr’s friends leave some comments.

    1- إن شاء الله كل سنة أحلى من إللي قبلها. (ʾen šāʾ el-lh kul sanah ʾaḥlā men ʾellī ʾablahā.)

    His wife, Munā, uses an expression meaning - “Hopefully every year will be better than the one before it.”
    Use this expression to show you agree with your husband’s sentiments.

    2- ربنا يهنيكو ببعض. (rabbenā yehanīkū bebaʿḍ.)

    His neighbor, Malak, uses an expression meaning - “May God bring you happiness together.”
    Use this blessing to wish the couple even more happiness.

    3- جبتلها هدية؟ (ǧebtelhā hedeyyah?)

    His college friend, Sīf, uses an expression meaning - “Did you get her a present?”
    Use this expression if you are feeling humorous.

    4- عقبال 100 سنة مع بعض يا حلوين. (ʿuʾbāl 100 sanah maʿ baʿḍ yā ḥelwīn.)

    His wife’s high school friend, Šīrīn, uses an expression meaning - “May you spend 100 more years together, lovelies.”
    This is another warmhearted wish for many more happy wedding anniversaries.

    VOCABULARY

    Find below the key vocabulary for this lesson:

  • قبلها (ʾablahā): “before it”
  • جبتلها (ǧebtelhā): “I got her”
  • هدية (hdeyyah): “gift”
  • عقبال (ʿuʾbāl): “wishing you”
  • بعض (baʿḍ): “some”
  • If a friend posted something about Anniversary greetings, which phrase would you use?

    Conclusion

    Learning to speak a new language will always be easier once you know key phrases that everybody uses. These would include commonly used expressions for congratulations and best wishes, etc.

    Master these in fun ways with Learn Arabic! We offer a variety of tools to individualize your learning experience, including using cell phone apps, audiobooks, iBooks and many more. Never wonder again what to say on social media!

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    How to Say Sorry in Arabic: Keys to the Perfect Apology

    Well, you blew it. Perhaps it wasn’t even your fault. Maybe it was a moment of weakness and you definitely won’t do it again.

    The point is, you’ve got to apologize for something now. And you’re going to have to do it in Arabic, which is why, when learning Arabic, how to say sorry is so essential.

    Trying to navigate the intricacies of politeness in a new language isn’t the easiest thing in the world. It would be a lot easier if you could just communicate in English—easier for you, that is!

    Saying sorry in Arabic is something you shouldn’t do until you’re well past the language-learning level of taking phrases from articles like this one. Each situation that calls for an apology is unique and complex.

    But everyone has to start somewhere, and when it comes to how to say sorry in Arabic, lessons like this one are a good place to do so. Even learning a simple “sorry” in Arabic language can have massive benefits. Start with a bonus, and download your FREE cheat sheet - How to Improve Your Arabic Skills! (Logged-In Member Only)

    1. What is an Apology?
    2. Basic Phrases for Apologizing
    3. Asking for Forgiveness
    4. Four Different Approaches to Apologizing
    5. Saying Sorry When it Really Wasn’t so Bad
    6. Learning to Apologize Like a Native
    7. Conclusion

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    1. What is an Apology?

    3 Ways to Say Sorry

    An apology is when one person has wronged another in some way, through word or deed, and now must bear a certain amount of responsibility to right that wrong. In other words, an apology is a way of transforming what has been seen as offensive into what can be seen as acceptable.

    Sometimes that’s as easy as saying a set phrase like “I’m sorry.” After all, life happens and we can’t all be perfect. There are bound to be little mishaps from time to time that simply take a tiny acknowledgment of guilt to fix.

    But many times, it’s not so simple.

    It often takes specific reflection on the offensive act before the other party is satisfied—particularly in formal or serious situations. This is even more apparent in conservative Arab cultures.

    Take just one example: You’re a professor, and a student arrives late to your class. Would you prefer that he mumbles “sorry” as he heads to his seat, or that he gives you a more detailed and “real” apology along the lines of “Sorry I’m late, Professor, there was construction on the road.”

    It might not matter to you. But it certainly does to others.

    Knowing how to navigate these treacherous cultural waters is one of the most important things you can learn in terms of cross-cultural communication. Far more so than just the language itself! That said, when learning how to say sorry in Arabic, phrases like the ones below make for good building blocks as you work toward more complex apologies, and are great for building your core “sorry” in Arabic vocabulary.


    2. Basic Phrases for Apologizing

    Say Sorry

    So, what does saying sorry in Arabic words look like? The simplest way of how to say sorry in spoken Arabic is with the word “sorry.”

    • آسِف
      ʾāsif
      Sorry

    Infinitesimally more complicated is “I’m sorry,” which naturally requires the pronoun.

    • أنا اسفة / أنا آسِف
      ana ʾāsif / ana ʾāsifa

    In Arabic and in English, there’s also a verb form: I apologize.

    • أنا أعتذر
      ʾanā ʾaʿtaḏir
      I apologize.

    This is more formal and slightly heavier in tone. As you can probably guess, something as simple as your choice of words can have a big effect on how the other party perceives your message.

    And yet, taking the time to learn “sorry” in Arabic may simply not be enough. Let’s dive a little deeper, and learn how to say “forgive me” in Arabic.


    3. Asking for Forgiveness

    Asking for Forgiveness

    If you ask someone to forgive you, it’s possible that it might actually make them angrier than if you waited for things to blow over naturally.

    After all, forgiveness takes a certain amount of sacrifice. And when you’ve been wronged by someone, sacrifice is the very last thing you want to do.

    On the other hand, if someone is already past being emotional, but still harbors a little bit of a grudge, asking for forgiveness puts the ball in their court to give up their enmity and move on. It can be a wake-up call, like “I guess it’s time to let this go.”

    • أرجوك سامحني، أتوسّل إليك
      ʾarǧūk sāmiḥnī, ʾatawassalu ʾilayk
      Please forgive me, I beg you.

    Let’s take a closer look at that verb: سامِحْنِي‎ (sāmiḥnī).

    The triliteral root is س م ح, s-m-ḥ, which is related to permission and magnanimity. For instance, there’s سَمَحَ (samaḥa) which means “to allow; to permit” as well as سَمُحَ (samuḥa) which means “to be generous.”

    The verb sāmiḥnī itself translates most directly to the English phrase “forgive me.” If a woman is speaking, it would be sāmiḥinī instead.

    And it’s a pretty serious word! You absolutely wouldn’t use it for simple annoyances or misunderstandings that resolve themselves quickly.

    The more you pull apart these words and phrases, the more impossible the whole task seems. And yet, tons of second-language Arabic speakers have figured it out. How, then, can you come up with a foolproof way to apologize in Arabic?


    4. Four Different Approaches to Apologizing

    Woman Covering Her Mouth

    There are as many different ways to get an apology across as there are bends in a river. In general, the most effective and heartfelt apologies are a combination of multiple approaches.

    Saying sorry isn’t enough on its own, but check out these different strategies and think about how you might express these feelings in Arabic.

    1- Trying to Right the Wrong

    With this strategy, you implicitly accept guilt and want to show with your actions that you regret what happened.

    Righting the wrong could be as simple as paying for something that you accidentally broke, buying someone a meal, or even something as complex as making a thoughtful gift from scratch to show that you care.

    The important thing is that you’re expending time, effort, or money on behalf of the other person because they were inconvenienced by you. Here are three different ways to let someone know you’re immediately prepared to make amends.

    • سأحاول إصلاح ذلك
      saʾuḥāwilu ʾiṣlāḥa ḏalik
      I’ll try to fix it.
    • سأشتري لكِ واحدة جديدة
      saʾaštarī lak waḥidah ǧadīdah
      I’ll buy you a new one.
    • يمكنك أن تأخذ طعامي
      yumkinuka ʾan taʾḫuḏa ṭaʿāmī
      You can have my food instead.

    What do these phrases have in common? They refer to something in particular, such as “food” in the last example.

    2- Accepting Responsibility

    Here, you’re explicitly accepting guilt and admitting that it was, in fact, your fault. This is a very valuable trait to have. No matter how much people enjoy making excuses, nobody likes to hear them.

    • أنا المسؤول.
      ʾanā al-masʾuūl.
      I am responsible (for it).
    • لقد كانت غلطتي.
      laqad kānat ġalṭatī.
      It was my mistake.
    • إنها غلطتي
      ʾinnahā ġalṭatī
      It’s all my fault.

    As you can see from these two examples, the word غَلَط‎ (ghalata) here means “error” or “mistake.” Idiomatically, in English we can say “it’s my fault,” but in Arabic it’s better to stick with phrasing in the style of “it’s my mistake” or “the error was mine.”

    3- Not Doing it Again

    As long as you can keep your promise, you’ll definitely want to reassure the other person that you won’t make the same mistake again.

    Are you trustworthy? Hopefully you’re not a خائن (ḫāʾin) or a traitor, a snake, or a backstabber. If somebody calls you that, you might want to skip straight to the later part of this article where you learn how to beg for forgiveness. Either that or start a fight.

    Assuming that nobody is brawling over an attack on their honor, here are two phrases you can use to try and convince the other person that you’ve turned over a new leaf.

    • .أعِدُك أنني لن أفعَلَ ذلك مرة أخرى
      ʾaʿiduka ʾannanī lan ʾafʿala ḏalika marraẗan ʾuḫrā.
      I promise I won’t do it again.

    Of course, with most people, you’re lucky to even get this chance. Your actions have to speak louder than your words here.

    4- Explaining Your Actions

    Who doesn’t like to stick up for themselves? Although we mentioned earlier that you should try to avoid excuses and stay honorable, it’s not a black-and-white situation.

    If the thing that happened really wasn’t that serious, then explaining the circumstances can let the other person step into your shoes for a moment, and understand that you really didn’t mean any harm.

    • لقد كان الطريق مزدحماً
      laqad kān al-ṭarīqu muzdaḥiman
      There was a lot of traffic.
    • الحقيقة أنها ليست لي
      al-ḥaqīqaẗu ʾannahā laysat lī.
      The truth is, it wasn’t mine.
    • لقد كان سوء تفاهم
      laqad kāna sūʾa tafāhum
      It was a misunderstanding.
    • أعتذر بشدة. لم أتمكن من الرد على هاتفي
      ʾaʿtaḏir bišiddah. lam ʾatamakkan min al-rad ʿalā hātifī
      I’m sorry, I couldn’t pick up my phone.

    Who knows when you might need phrases like these? As alluded to previously, however, doing this too much is a recipe for being brushed off in the future. If you’re always the one to come up with an excuse, well, congratulations on reaching such an impressive level in Arabic!

    But whichever of your friends that are still sticking around might be having second thoughts.


    5. Saying Sorry When it Really Wasn’t so Bad

    Woman Apologizing for Bumping Someone

    Time for something a little lighter: how to apologize in Arabic language for smaller things.

    In English, we say the word “sorry” to apologize, but we also use it as a kind of filler word when the tiniest inconvenience has taken place. It doesn’t even matter if it was your fault.

    You might say “sorry” when you mishear someone, for instance; but wasn’t it their fault in the first place for speaking so quietly? And how many times have you automatically mumbled an apology when someone bumped into you in a crowded place?

    Well, from Morocco to Iraq, people are bumping into each other and mumbling apologies just the same as people do in English-speaking countries. It’s a good idea to learn these two phrases for “excuse me'’ and “sorry” in Arabic.

    • عفوا
      ʿafwan
      Excuse me! (to squeeze past somebody in an elevator)
    • المعذرة
      al-maʿḏirah
      Sorry… (to get someone’s attention)

    If you want to be specific about mishearing someone, you can say آسِف (aasif) and then add this simple phrase:

    • ماذا قلت؟
      māḏā qult?
      What did you say?

    Lastly, the word عفوا (ʿafwan) means “excuse me,” like the kind of thing you’d say after coughing or sneezing. It’s neutral and formal, so you can easily use it in any situation where you don’t really know your audience.

    On the whole, most people find Arabs extremely polite and well-mannered. They might not take unnecessary apologies as far as some British people do, but this is one aspect of Western culture that you can import wholesale into the Middle East.


    6. Learning to Apologize Like a Native

    Woman Gesturing

    You can learn a lot about apologizing in Arabic by watching TV and reading books meant for native speakers.

    TV is a bit of a double-edged sword in this case. Soap operas have people apologizing and begging forgiveness at least once an episode, but there aren’t any ordinary daily-life soaps in MSA. Arabic TV shows dealing with everyday situations are all in colloquial Arabic.

    The MSA shows you’ll tend to find are the kind of sweeping historical epics that come out around Ramadan. Either that, or Sesame Street.

    So for really expressing yourself naturally in Modern Standard Arabic, you’ll have to do a lot of reading. Fiction in translation that you’re already familiar with is an excellent starter. It won’t teach you the cultural norms, but it will give you a great first boost for being comfortable reading the language.

    After that, you can move into original articles (because they’re short), literature, and even poetry. Authentic depictions of actual Arab cultures written in Arabic are the ideal way to pick up on real norms of how feelings get expressed—certainly not limited to apologies.


    7. Conclusion

    All in all, feelings rely heavily on language. Sure, you can shout, scream, and break things, but at the end of the day you’ve got to be clear about what you mean.

    We didn’t cover the myriad ways that people might demand or accept apologies in Arabic because there’s simply no end to the depth this topic could reach.

    Learning how to say sorry in Arabic is a valuable skill for communication across the Arab world. Even better than that, though, is a thoroughly open mind and a readiness to be extremely flexible when it comes to cultural misunderstandings.

    Most people will afford you this luxury as a visiting foreigner. Will you be prepared to offer them the same?

    If you want to take your Arabic up a notch, don’t hesitate to grab ArabicPod101’s free trial to get access to over 1060 video and audio lessons.

    Before you go, let us know in the comments how confident you feel now about offering an apology in Arabic. Much more confident, or do you still need some time to study and practice? We look forward to hearing from you!

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    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.

    Watching Arabic Movies: Learn Arabic through Arab Cinema

    When you want to go beyond your textbook and your classroom, you’ve got two basic escape routes.

    The first is the written word. You could read blogs, newspapers, or books in Arabic. Not a bad idea—but it still sounds suspiciously like work.

    What if you just relaxed your way into Arabic in a way that let you become more fluent with the language, more educated about the culture, and more knowledgeable about art in general?

    What if you watched a bunch of Arabic movies?

    If you’ve never watched Arabic movies before, well, of course you’re missing out. But you’re probably also misinformed.

    Cinema around the world is not, generally speaking, kind to Arabs on screen. It’s not hard to think of examples. That’s why it’s important to open your mind beyond stereotypes and understand what cinema looks like when it’s made by and for Arab people.

    Fortunately, in recent years more and more festivals are promoting Arabic-language films. That’s even happening outside Cairo, long considered one of the focal points of Arab cinema.

    So in this article you’ll be introduced not only to the classic films that shaped the art form, but you’ll also find some modern favorites that have gained international acclaim. After all, quality learning and fun are what we strive for at ArabicPod101.com. Let’s get started with our Arabic movies list!

    Note: If you’re wondering where to watch Arabic movies, there’s a chance you’ll find some Arabic movies on Netflix or YouTube. You can also try searching for these Arabic movies online. Here are some tips to improve your pronunciation while watching movies in Arabic.

    Ways to improve pronunciation

    Table of Contents

    1. The Sin
    2. The Mummy
    3. Kandisha
    4. Solitare
    5. West Beirut
    6. The Worthy
    7. Omar
    8. Blessed Benefit
    9. Far from Men
    10. Theeb
    11. Dubbed Disney Films
    12. Conclusion

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    Movie genres


    1. The Sin (الحرام‎ Al-Haram) — Modern Standard Arabic, 1965

    The sin poster

    Maybe you thought all Arabic cinema was happy and upbeat? Nah.

    The Sin is a grim and moving portrait of peasant oppression in Egypt. Faten Hamama plays Azizah, a young farmer’s wife, who’s forced to not only bear terrible injustice but also to keep it secret lest it tear apart her family. That’s a simple summary, though the film pulls this narrative thread in a way that makes it clear it wasn’t an isolated incident at that time.

    It’s the type of film that makes you stop and think about the world, and it certainly had that effect upon its release. The French newspaper Le Monde described the film as “a reflection of everything around one individual, from people to culture.”

    As was common in the middle of the 20th century, the film was released in Modern Standard Arabic. This decision was seen as only natural because of the prestige of Modern Standard Arabic in literature and formal discourse. Later, of course, cinema in vernacular Arabic became the norm, particularly in Egypt.


    2. The Mummy (المومياء Al-Mummia) — Modern Standard Arabic, 1969

    The mummy poster

    No, this isn’t a dub of that action movie with the bad CGI. Instead, it’s a slow-moving and eerie piece about grave robbing in the late 1800s.

    The film is about searching for an Egyptian national identity among colonialism, war, and antiquity. The band of grave robbers, an Upper Egyptian tribe, has a dissenter who goes to the police and helps the authorities find the cache of ancient treasure.

    It’s considered one of, if not the most, important film(s) in Egypt, though as it’s more methodical and pensive, it’s not most people’s first choice.

    But for you as an Arabic learner, this is a great opportunity to hear relatively slow and clear Modern Standard Arabic even in a relatively conversational context. You can even find subtitles in Arabic and English for the whole film!


    3. Kandisha (قنديشة Qandisha) — Moroccan Arabic, 2008

    Lawyers are considered to be clear and logical thinkers. They’re the last people you would expect to be wrapped up in a supernatural mystery.

    Nyla Jade (played by Amira Casar) is a defense attorney for a woman accused of murdering her husband. Her client firmly alleges that her husband was killed by the vengeful spirit Kandisha.

    Kandisha is actually a medieval Moroccan legend, and in the film she’s far more than just a myth. Nyla becomes convinced as well, and must work to make everyone in the courtroom, her colleagues, and her own husband believe that Kandisha was responsible for the murder.

    The film has dialogue in French, Moroccan Arabic, and English, accurately reflecting the multilingualism present in modern-day Morocco.


    4. Solitare (محبس‎ Mahbas) — Lebanese Arabic, Syrian Arabic, 2016

    The timeless tale of a mother disappointed in her daughter’s choice of husband is honed to razor perfection in this comedy from Lebanon.

    Therese (Julia Kassar) has borne a grudge against Syrians for decades when her daughter Ghada (Serena Chami) turns out to be engaged to Samer (Jabar Jokhadar), a Syrian man. Nobody wants to tell Therese, but the truth comes out when Samer greets her with his Syrian Arabic.

    Arab weddings are far more than personal affairs. Whole families are involved in every aspect, and a disapproving parent on one (or both) sides can spell disaster for the couple.

    The film shines light on Lebanese-Syrian relations through the mirror of baseless prejudices held by individuals. For the learner of Arabic, the snappy dialogue and fast exchanges between two similar yet distinct varieties of Arabic are a goldmine of authentic experience.

    If you’re interested in watching Arabic comedy movies, we highly recommend this one.


    5. West Beirut (بيروت الغربية‎ Bayrut Algharbiat ) — Lebanese Arabic, 1998

    When a civil war happens in your country, it may not seem real at first. Especially if you’re just beginning to enter the adult world.

    That’s how Tarek (Rami Doueiri) and Omar (Mohamed Chamas) find themselves feeling in the year 1975 when Beirut erupts into war. No school! No rules! But it’s not a vacation that ends in September.

    It’s a new and uncertain era for them and everyone they know. The film is about how young people can discover for themselves what’s most important in their lives when the system that held them in place for all their lives begins to crumble.

    Truly breathtaking cinematography lends the scenes of conflict a gripping realism that will keep you on the edge of your seat. And, of course, the Lebanese Arabic spoken throughout is as authentic as can be, pulled straight from the memories of the director himself.


    6. The Worthy ( المختارون Almukhtarun) — Many dialects, 2016

    The worthy poster

    For some reason, nobody ever thinks of post-apocalyptic dramas in the Middle East. And yet in a region plagued by drought, the question of who should get water as civilization crumbles becomes magnified.

    Director Ali F. Mostafa expertly uses his limited budget to build an intense, gripping character drama about mysterious and smooth-talking newcomers to a small band of survivors guarding the only water source for miles around.

    As the film goes on, it turns more into horror as the group starts to turn against itself, deciding who should live and who should die. In other words, who counts as “worthy.”

    There are twelve main characters, and since borders have collapsed in the world of the film, they come from across the Middle East—Syria, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia. They all speak in their own dialects, which are similar enough to be understood by native speakers or advanced learners.


    7. Omar (عمر Umar) — Palestinian Arabic, 2014

    They say that war pits brother against brother and friend against friend.

    That concept is explored against the backdrop of Israeli-Palestinian conflict—with a love triangle thrown in to boot.

    When Omar (Adam Bakri) is captured by Israeli security forces, he’s made to inform against his childhood friends Tarek and Amjad. This is made all the more excruciating by the fact that he and Amjad are both deeply in love with Tarek’s sister Nadeen.

    The feeling of being trapped, the feeling of being forced to choose between terrible outcomes—those are everyday feelings in zones of conflict. The film was shot on location: Omar was born in Nazareth and the film was mostly shot there. So what you see on screen is as authentic as it gets.

    You may not know that many Israelis speak Palestinian Arabic natively or as a fluent second language. In this film you’ll hear bits of Hebrew, but mainly Palestinian Arabic from the principal characters.


    8. Blessed Benefit (انشالله استفدت inshallah istafadet) — Jordanian Arabic, 2016

    How about a comedy to lighten things up? A prison film might sound like a recipe for a dark drama full of brutality and terror, but not if the film depicts prison life as saner than life on the outside.

    Ahmad (Ahmad Taher) is an unlucky contractor thrown in jail for three months for failing to deliver on a project. The people he meets inside turn out to be from all levels of Jordanian society, and they share with him their own life philosophies.

    Gradually, Ahmad comes to ask himself: If all of my needs are taken care of in prison, what good is being free?

    The dialogue and editing is fast-paced and quick-witted. Some jokes are international, but others might go over your head if you haven’t spent time in or around Jordan—or in a prison.


    9. Far from Men — Algerian Arabic, 2015

    Algerian Arabic isn’t the only language in this movie, but it’s a very important one.

    Viggo Mortensen plays Daru, a schoolteacher in rural Algeria. Right at the start of the revolution against the French, he’s assigned the duty of escorting a murderer (Reda Kateb) across the desert to his trial.

    Their long journey is speckled with thoughtful discussion about the nature of guilt and innocence, and over the course of the film you may not be certain what either character is headed toward.

    Viggo Mortensen is a talented language learner, and for this particular role he learned to speak Algerian Arabic, which he uses along with French and Spanish in the film.

    He’s the type of person to throw himself into a film role, and therefore he actually went so far as to translate all of his lines into Arabic just in case the director changed his mind about the language that should be used for a particular scene.


    10. Theeb (ذيب‎ Theeb) — Bedouin Jordanian Arabic, 2014

    This is a beautiful period piece set during the First World War, though that’s only a backdrop to the dramatic events that unfold in the desert between a relatively small cast of characters.

    Theeb (Jacir Eid Al-Hweitat) is a young Bedouin boy living in a remote part of what was then the Ottoman Empire. His older brother agrees to lead a British officer across the desert, and Theeb sneaks along for the adventure.

    But there’s more danger in the desert than sand and sun. Tribes of bandits lurk in the (stunningly beautiful) canyons, and before long, Theeb and his brother Hussein are living off their wits alone.

    The film was purposefully made in the local Bedouin dialect of a particular part of Jordan. In fact, the filmmakers were so dedicated to authenticity that they were forced to write all the women out of the story—local women weren’t willing to act, and professional actresses wouldn’t know the dialect.


    11. Dubbed Disney Films — Egyptian Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic

    Snow White and the Seven Dwarves Movie

    The Walt Disney Company has released films drawing inspiration from all over the world. In the interest of sharing the stories as widely as possible (and making money), Disney films have traditionally been dubbed into many languages for international release.

    The Disney films of the 1990s were dubbed into Egyptian Arabic. By that time, Egyptian Arabic was already well-established as a widely-understood dialect all around the Arab world. It was amazing to hear Disney characters speak authentic and hilarious slang with voices of some of the best-known Egyptian actors and comedians.

    In the early 2010s, however, Disney made the decision to dub films in Modern Standard Arabic for the Arabic market. Some people supported this, but the reaction on social media—in Egypt particularly—was overwhelmingly negative. No matter how hard the translators and voice actors worked to breathe life into the characters, the fact remained that it just felt strange to hear people quipping and joking in Modern Standard Arabic when nobody did that in real life.

    They even went so far as to re-release their classic films in Modern Standard Arabic. That is, until the social media pressure and the poor box office performance of some Modern Standard Arabic films finally worked. In 2017, the company began to reverse their decision, and now Egyptian Arabic is back to being the dubbing dialect of choice.

    Donald Duck with Thumb Up


    12. Conclusion

    Taking on a language like Arabic, spoken in so many countries by people from so many backgrounds, can seem like an insurmountable challenge. It may be a good idea to watch Arabic movies with English subtitles if you’re a beginner.

    But the way people grow up in those countries is shaped by movies as well. Film is an indispensable part of anyone’s cultural consciousness these days. By seeing how stories play out through the lens of other cultures, you can start to see what they think of as “normal,” “strange,” or “right and wrong.”

    And that knowledge will go incredibly far toward making you competent with the language.

    So if you’ve never even seen a single Arabic-language film, why not start with these? They’re the perfect start to an incredible world. We hope that ArabicPod101 helped you find just the Arabic movie you need to increase your learning power and have fun in doing so!

    If you found this article helpful and want to learn even more about Arabic culture, you can check out our other insightful blog posts, study with our free vocabulary lists, and even upgrade to use our MyTeacher program and learn with your own personal Arabic teacher. We wish you all the best and some uninterrupted Arabic-language movie watching time!

    We truly hope you’ll start watching Arabic movies in 2019!

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    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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    9 Arabic TV Shows You Won’t be Able to Live Without

    One of the most compelling reasons to learn another language is to be able to enjoy entertainment from around the world.

    And if you’ve come this far without dipping your toes into the wellspring of Arabic television, prepare to be amazed.

    Because the Arab world is enormous.

    In addition to several thriving film industries, Arabic-speaking people have enjoyed television programs of every sort for generations.

    From sprawling battle scenes to nail-biting game shows to thrilling political dramas, there truly is something for everyone. So let ArabicPod101.com help you find your new favorite Arab show! (And in case you’re wondering where to watch Arabic TV shows, keep in mind that YouTube and Netflix are good places to start.)

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    Table of Contents

    1. Ramadan Historical Epics in Modern Standard Arabic
    2. Learn Like a Child with this Pan-Arabic Classic
    3. Watch Stories Unfold in the Language of the Streets
    4. Reality Shows: More Fun than Fiction?
    5. Bonus
    6. Conclusion

    1. Ramadan Historical Epics in Modern Standard Arabic

    At some point in the past, some genius marketing executive realized that the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, with its thirty days of fasting during daylight, was the perfect market for a thirty-episode evening TV special.

    Some of the most popular and big-budgeted Ramadan dramas have been sweeping historical epics retelling passion, betrayal, and intrigue of medieval times.

    And in keeping with the grandiose scale, quite a few of these epics have actually been produced entirely in Modern Standard Arabic!

    The reaction to that has been amazing. As much as people love hearing their own dialects on screen, it can be a really otherworldly experience to be thrust back in time and hear people speak beautiful fusha (the Arabic language of long ago) as if it was their native tongue.

    If you want to start watching a quality, exciting TV show in Arabic, check out these MSA epics and see what you think!

    1- أوركيديا (Orkidia)

    The English title gets spelled in a number of different ways—I saw it as Orchidea, Orkadea, and Orcadia while researching this article.

    However you’d like to spell it, Orkidia was massively hyped in the months leading up to Ramadan in 2017. It’s about the political intrigue, passionate romance, and flashing tempers between leaders of three ancient kingdoms.

    Syrian director Hatem Ali spearheaded this project, which reportedly cost five-million US dollars to shoot. Most of the shooting was done in Romania. Southern Europe here stands in for the battlefields of the war between the Kingdoms of Samara, Assyria, and Orkidia, with more than 500 extras used for some epic battle scenes.

    If this happens to remind you of a certain Western TV series about thrones and games of intrigue, you’re not alone. Quite a few people have drawn parallels to Game of Thrones, only this Arabic version comes without the gratuitous nudity.

    We understand, though, if you want to get a taste of this exciting Arab TV show before immersing yourself in it.

    2- عُمَرْ (Omar)

    Omar

    Omar (or The Omar Series) could be considered one of the most ambitious Arabic TV projects ever made, and some even consider it the best Arabic TV show.

    It depicts the life of Omar ibn Al-Khattab, a close companion of the Prophet Muhammad and the second caliph of the Islamic Empire.

    For this, it received huge criticism from some Muslim leaders who saw it as blasphemous to have an actor play the role of Omar. However, other religious leaders approved of the depiction and felt that this new way of storytelling could be a great help for people who might not read much history anymore.

    And the fans? Whether they were drawn in by the gorgeous cinematography, the rich historical detail, or the controversy itself, they loved it.

    It’s one of the highest-rated Arabic miniseries ever, and that’s just perfect for you, the learner.

    Why? Because like Orkidia, it’s all in beautifully spoken MSA!

    And perhaps in anticipation of religious protests against the show, the producers also created two daily educational segments that explore the problems of governing an empire and the moral choices that Omar had to make in life.

    2. Learn Like a Child with this Pan-Arabic Classic

    1- افتح يا سمسم (Iftah Ya SimSim)

    Iftah Ya SimSim

    When Sesame Street first premiered in 1969, it was conceived as a perfectly American program. Little did the producers know, its characters and messages had wide-reaching international appeal.

    Iftah Ya SimSim was a Kuwaiti production from the late 1970s until the Gulf War in 1990. It was beloved by millions and was massively successful in bringing literacy and basic education to the underserved population.

    Sesame Street

    This is in no way a translation or copycat of Sesame Street—it was developed by and for Arabs and designed to help young kids all over the Arab world grow into educated and moral adults.

    Early on in its development, the decision was even made to produce the entire show in Modern Standard Arabic in order to promote cultural literacy and pan-Arab collaboration.

    This was a big gamble, but it paid off. Linguistic purists worried that MSA would either confuse kids or start devolving into a slangier form of itself, but that never happened. Even the young kids invited to take part were able to speak MSA with only a handful of regional colloquialisms.

    In 2015, the show was revived with the same educational and language goals, and put on YouTube for all to see. This really is a great TV show to learn Arabic with, especially for beginners due to its simple yet far-reaching nature.

    3. Watch Stories Unfold in the Language of the Streets

    1- Grand Hotel / Secret of the NIle

    As I mentioned above, Ramadan television is so highly anticipated by viewers and networks alike that it’s known as “super-primetime.”

    Secret of the Nile was the first Egyptian show on Netflix, released for Ramadan 2016, and it did really well. Really well.

    It’s about a man who infiltrates the staff at the Grand Hotel to find out about his missing sister. He ends up learning quite a bit more—about romance, deception, and secrets kept by the highest levels of Egyptian society.

    The stunning period cinematography was so gorgeous and the plot so thick with twists, people from all over the world who had never even considered Arabic TV fell in love. It was described as “bingeworthy” by more than one media source.

    2- Shankaboot

    Shankaboot

    Have you ever fantasized about gliding on a Vespa through the streets of Milan?

    How about being a delivery boy on a rickety scooter on the streets of Beirut? Practically the same thing, right?

    This Lebanese series was actually one of the first Arabic-language web series ever created, and certainly the most well-known at the time.

    It ran for five seasons with 52 total episodes of around five minutes each. But that’s plenty of time to watch Suleiman the delivery boy meet with strange and surreal slices of life around the streets of Beirut.

    The producers actually purposefully cast actors with little or no experience to save on cost and get more realistic portrayals of everyday people.

    They also came up with the neat idea of having fans of the series write in and suggest plot points or lines of dialogue. You can’t get that level of audience interaction anywhere else!

    4. Reality Shows: More Fun than Fiction?

    Fictionalized series and dramas are wonderful escapes from daily life, but they’re far from the only great genre of TV.

    Reality shows can be perfect for language learners because they expose the learner to ordinary people speaking spontaneously—or at least not reading directly from a script.

    Watch these Arabic TV shows for an immersive and insightful look at the language.

    1- MBC Top Chef

    Fifteen contestants from around the Middle East gather together for a grueling thirteen-week competition. Following the Top Chef format that has been tried and tested around the world, at the end of each week one chef is eliminated from the competition.

    Every meal is judged based on flavor and presentation by three internationally renowned chefs: Chinese-Egyptian Bobby Chinn, Saudi Mona Mosly, and Lebanese Maroun Chedid.

    In the first season, contestants came from pretty much every Arabic-speaking country: Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Morocco, and Oman among others.

    That means you’ll get a nice mix of dialectal Arabic as well as Modern Standard Arabic in the more formal moments.

    And since this is an international show based off of an American format, don’t be surprised to hear quite a bit of English as well.

    During each episode, you’ll see the cooking action play out on screen, you’ll hear the contestants explain what they were doing, and you’ll hear the judges’ interpretations of the final dish.

    Those are all great opportunities to learn words for food, ingredients, and how to prepare them. And since they’re repeated in different contexts, they’ll really stick in your mind way more than others.

    Go ahead and see for yourself what this show is all about!

    2- Minute To Win It Egypt

    Minute To Win It Egypt

    Have you ever idly rolled a coin between your fingers or batted a balloon around in the air?

    What if millions of people were watching and a life-changing amount of money was on the line?

    That’s the premise behind Minute To Win It, a reality game show where contestants try to accomplish unusual tasks with everyday objects inside of 60 seconds.

    The show was created in the United States and became immediately popular worldwide, eventually being broadcast to more than fifty countries.

    But why this show for language learners? Simple: the style of language used.

    I’m not even talking about MSA vs Egyptian Arabic – I mean what the people are saying.

    For every game, the host and the announcer both describe the task that has to be performed, and while the contestant is stacking bottles or balancing toothpicks, the commentary is describing the action.

    “Watch it now, it’s about to tip over!” “Hurry now, ten seconds left!”

    That’s a whole lot of repetitive, descriptive language that makes it a cinch to follow for learners. If you miss a word or phrase, you’ll probably hear it again in the replay.

    In addition, that kind of vocabulary isn’t often seen in language books. But every native speaker knows how to use words like stack up, balance, fall, arrange, find… and if you want to speak Arabic well, you’ll have to learn them too.

    If this kind of television seems up your alley, go ahead and check it out on YouTube.

    3- Stars of Science

    Unlike the two reality shows above which are direct copies of Western show formats, Stars of Science is a homegrown show from Qatar, where engineer-entrepreneurs pitch and create new inventions in front of expert judges.

    It makes a lot of sense, too—reach far back into the history of the world, and it’s easy to see that the scientific tradition has its roots in Arab cultures.

    More than 7,000 applicants apply for each season, from which sixteen are selected. They need to prove not only that their products—such as a remote power source for pipeline robots or a rapid-action clothes steamer—work well, but that they’ll be cost-effective and profitable for investors.

    Contestants speak to each other in dialects when they can understand, and MSA when they can’t. This is a very realistic (it’s reality TV, of course) depiction of how Arabs from different language backgrounds might communicate when working together on a project.

    You’ll hear people speak their dialects with added MSA words, speak pure dialect, and “modify” their dialects toward one another to achieve an understandable, if fluid, common ground.

    Interested in learning more about this show, its contestants, and the inventions they present? Find out for yourself if this is the show for you.

    5. Bonus

    1- Jinn (Netflix Original)

    Maybe you’ve seen Aladdin? Remember Robin Williams as the Genie?

    Well, a Jinn is just about the polar opposite of that.

    In Islam, a Jinn is a creature that dwells in a parallel spirit world and has the power to haunt, influence, and even possess people in our world.

    There are some pretty spooky videos out there on YouTube that purport to show Jinns caught on camera, and Islamic religious leaders regularly issue warnings about the dangerous influence of the Jinns on modern everyday life.

    The upcoming Netflix series has only just started production in Jordan, but it’s received considerable press as the American streaming company’s first Arabic-language original. Netflix has produced Arabic series before, but never from scratch as with this one.

    It’s being billed as a “supernatural teenage coming-of-age drama” which is unique in itself, not least because there aren’t too many Arabic-language shows focused on teenagers.

    Plot details are sketchy right now, though we do know it’ll revolve around the thrilling relationships between human teenagers, Jinns, and the guardian Jinn who’s tasked with keeping an eye on rogue Jinns.

    As of October 2018, the show is being marketed as “Arabic-language” so it’s not clear how much will be in Jordanian Arabic and how much in MSA.

    Nevertheless, it’ll be an amazing chance for classical Arabic storytelling to reach millions of viewers around the world with a new face.

    This really is an Arabic TV series with promise and potential!

    6. Conclusion

    One of the best reasons to watch TV programs or series to learn a language is that you get used to the same actors talking about the same types of things across dozens of hours.

    Two-hour movies are great for their production value and contained stories, but sometimes a plotline just needs ten or twenty hours to get going.

    Thank goodness for TV shows, and may the Arab world never stop making excellent dramas!

    We hope that you gained some valuable insight into the world of Arab shows with ArabicPod101.com. If so, please feel free to explore our site and learn even more about your target language! Here you’ll find invaluable resources for fun yet effective learning, from vocabulary lists to our MyTeacher app which offers you one-on-one guidance as you learn Arabic.

    We wish you well in your language-learning journey, and several hours of enjoyment watching Arab TV shows.

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    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.

    Sinai Liberation Day & The Sinai Peninsula’s Significance

    We’re going to talk now about an important day in Egyptian history: Sinai Liberation Day (or just Sinai Day). On this day, Egypt regained the land of Sinai and the last Israeli soldier left it after Camp David agreement. The liberation of Egypt’s Sinai put a large mark of victory on Egypt’s history.

    In learning about this holiday, you’re delving into some of Egypt’s most significant history, particularly involving the Sinai Peninsula. This will give you a deeper knowledge of the country’s culture and its people. At ArabicPod101.com, we hope to make this learning adventure both fun and informative. So let’s get started!

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    1. What is the Arabic Day of Liberation?

    Sinai Liberation Day is the day when all the land of Sinai, except Taba, was liberated from Israeli occupation. This was in 1982 and we regained Taba later in 1988 during the reign of the former president Hosni Mubarak. Sinai was occupied since 1967, but the Egyptian army kept struggling by all means in order to regain it.

    The land of Sinai became the symbol of peace because it was regained after a peace treaty. The land of Sinai is distinguished by its beauty, charm, and scenic nature. Sinai is also characterized by its golden sands, great sea, and high mountains. Sinai and Taba are among the most beautiful places frequented by tourists from all over the world where they enjoy many water sports.

    2. When is Sinai Liberation Day?

    Liberation Day in April

    On 25th April, the Day of Liberation in Egypt is observed. For Egypt, Sinai Liberation Day takes place on the day it gained back the land of Sinai after the Camp David agreement.

    3. How Does Egypt Celebrate Liberation Day?

    Flag of Egypt

    This day is a public holiday in Egypt; in other words, all government departments are closed. On Sinai Liberation Day, Egypt doesn’t usually hold elaborate festivities, but it’s still a day of immense significance for its observers.

    Egypt uses this day to remember and honor those who sacrificed themselves for Sinai’s liberation. Further, they pause for a while on this holiday to think about Sinai’s lovely nature and its place in the world today. We’ll go more into this below.

    4. Additional Information: About the Sinai Peninsula

    Want to learn more about the land of Sinai for Egyptian Sinai Liberation Day? Read the Arabic text below for more information (and find the English translation directly below it).

    تتميز منطقة سينا بالسياحه العلاجيه ,فهنلاقي كتير من السياح بييجوا من انحاء العالم بغرض الاستشفاء من امراض زي الصدفيه و ده لأنهم اكتشفوا ان مية البحر الاحمر و الشعب المرجانيه اللي فيه بتساعد على الاستشفاء من بعض الامراض الجلديه

    سينا ليها اسماء كتيرة زي مثلا أرض الفيروز ودا لأن بحرها بيتمتع بلون فيروزي رائع , سينا برده بيطلق عليها ارض
    الزيتون و دا لأن فيها أجود أنواع شجر الزيتون اللي بينتج ألذ انواع الزيتون و زيت الزيتون.

    ارض سينا تمتلك موقع استراتيجي ودا لأنها حلقة الوصل بين قارة اسيا وقارة افريقيا ….بين مصر و الشام .. بين المشرق العربي و المغرب العربي

    Sinai region is famous for medical tourism. Tourists the world over come to visit it seeking treatment from diseases such as psoriasis because it was discovered that the water and coral reefs of the Red Sea help in treating some skin diseases.

    Sinai has many names. It is called the land of turquoise because of the magnificent turquoise color of its sea. Sinai is also called the land of olives because it contains the best quality of olive trees which produce the most delicious olives and olive oil.

    The land of Sinai has a strategic location because it is a liaison between the continents of Asia and Africa…between Egypt and the Levant…between the Arab Mashreq and the Arab Maghreb.

    5. Must-know Vocab

    Birds-Eye View of Land

    Here’s some vocabulary you should know for the Day of Liberation in Israel!

    • أبريل (ʾibrīl) — April
    • أرض (ʾarḍ) — land
    • إسرائيل (ʾisrāʾīl) — Israel
    • البحر الأَحمر (al-baḥr al-ʾaḥmar) — Red Sea
    • عيد تحرير سيناء (ʿīd taḥrīr sīnāʾ) — Day of Liberation
    • الخامس و العشرين (al-ḫāmis wa al-ʿišrīn) — twenty-fifth
    • شبه جزيرة سيناء (šebh ǧazīrat sīnāʾ) — Sinai Peninsula
    • قوات (quwwāt) — troop
    • معاهدة (muʿāhadah) — treaty
    • إنسحاب (ʾinsiḥāb) — withdrawal
    • تحرير (taḥrīr) — liberation

    To hear each word pronounced, check out our Day of Liberation vocabulary list. Here, you’ll find each word accompanied by an audio of its pronunciation.

    Conclusion

    We hope you enjoyed learning about Sinai’s Day of Liberation with us! Is there a similar holiday in your own country? How do you celebrate it? Let us know in the comments!

    For more information on Egyptian culture and the Arabic language, visit us at ArabicPod101.com. We offer an array of insightful blog posts, free vocabulary lists, and an online community where you can discuss lessons with fellow students. By creating a Premium Plus account, you can also take advantage of our MyTeacher program and learn Arabic with your own personal teacher!

    Learning a language can be a difficult journey, but know that all of your hard work and determination will pay off! Soon you’ll be speaking Arabic like a native, and ArabicPod101.com will be here every step of your journey there with effective lesson materials and tons of support!

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    Give and Take: Secrets of Gift-Giving in Arabic Cultures

    Give and Take in Arab Countries

    1. Introduction

    In the Arabic language, there are two words for a “gift.”

    • هدية (hadieh) is the type of gift that you would give for a birthday or Eid al-Fitr—a gift to celebrate a special occasion.
    • هبة (hiba) is a gift that truly comes from the heart—a donation, a sponsorship, even a sacrifice of some sort.

    The language itself tells you how important the concept of gift-giving is in Arab culture. And as anyone who’s done business in the Arab world or experienced Arab hospitality knows, it’s an aspect that’s impossible to ignore.

    So whether you’re preparing for a trip to Saudi Arabia or welcoming new Iraqi neighbors, check out the guide below to make sure you’re checking all the right boxes.

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    2. Outstanding Gifts for All Occasions

    Obviously, anything can be a gift when it’s among friends.

    When you know someone well, you know what they like and dislike, and it’s not hard to figure out what kind of thing to get them.

    But when it comes to strangers, you can just keep three things in mind: Food, Business, Hospitality.

    • Food: Gifts of food are safe, easy, and always welcome—though during the fasting month of Ramadan, it’s best to wait until after sundown to present someone with a gift of this sort. Offer packaged and easily shared foods such as dates, cookies, and sweets, particularly if the receiver has a family.
    • Business: The business-minded professional will always appreciate a tasteful personal organizer or business card holder, particularly in black or silver if it’s for a man.
    • Hospitality: Finally, treating someone to a business lunch or a friendly dinner—or a home-cooked meal, if possible—is truly going above and beyond. Refusing such an invitation might be perceived as rude, so a polite way to decline is to shift the blame to your company’s policy or something you have to do with your family.

    Is there anything you should avoid giving? Certainly.

    If your gift was given with friendly, sincere intentions, you’re unlikely to actually offend most people. Usually, they’ll politely put it aside and forgive you for your faux pas.

    But of course, you never want to put anyone in that situation, so there are a couple of things you probably ought to leave off the shopping list.

    Most everybody that knows about Muslim culture knows that pork and alcohol are forbidden, or حَرَام (haram).

    However, did you know that many Muslims also prefer to stay away from dogs? This doesn’t apply to every follower of Islam, nor does it apply to every Arab, but unless you’re told otherwise, assume that gifts with dog motifs might not be so warmly accepted.

    Art of Giving

    3. The Art of Giving

    Just as every culture has norms about gifts themselves, there are plenty of things to consider when actually exchanging the items. In Western culture, for instance, some personal gifts are inappropriate for men to give women or vice-versa.

    But in Arab culture, gift-giving itself is considered too intimate of an act to be shared by men and women who aren’t husband and wife. If a man must give a gift to a woman, it’s more modest (and therefore more polite) to say that it came from his own mother or sister.

    Even the act of handing over the gift is important. You wouldn’t like it if someone casually tossed an unwrapped gift at your feet—and in the Arab world, giving a gift with the left hand is a similarly-sized mistake.

    As the left hand is considered unclean and associated with bathing, always use both hands or your right hand alone to give and receive presents. The most common thing you’ll likely receive is a business card—make sure you get this one right!

    And lastly, keep in mind that giving gifts out of the blue carries an unspoken expectation that they will be repaid in kind later.

    Gift

    4. Conclusion

    To say “Thank you for the gift,” in Arabic, use the phrase شكرا لك على الهدية. (shukran lak 3alaa al-hadiyya). A couple of well-chosen phrases in Arabic go a long way.

    But it’s how you act when you give or get a gift that makes the most difference, not the language you use.
    In Arab culture, just like in the West, you need to be sincere. Be generous. Be thoughtful.

    If you picked out something cheap because you think it’ll help you land a business deal, the other person is going to see through that in a second.

    So pay attention to the guidelines above, and remember the most important lesson: Give from the heart, and the rest will follow.

    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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    A Handshake is Worth 1000 Words: Body Language in Dubai Business Culture

    Body Language in Dubai Business Culture

    “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

    Nelson Mandela gave some solid advice. Your words, and the language they’re spoken in, can make a powerful impact.

    But what about what you’re not saying?

    What are you communicating without even realizing it?

    Is your message, “I’m confident, trustworthy, and capable,” or something more like “Watch out!”?

    In this article, we’re going to take a holistic look at the nonverbal signals you might be giving your business partner.

    When you’re in another culture, you can’t expect your body language to stay the same. In Dubai, you might accidentally be sending messages that tip the scales in the other guy’s favor—and not even know it!

    Everything from your head to your feet matters in the business culture of Dubai, where personal relationships are the foundation of any successful venture.

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    1. Your Face and Eyes

    1- Smile Like You Mean It

    A lot of people tend to go one of two ways when it comes to smiles.

    They might avoid it entirely in the hopes that they’ll be taken seriously. Or they go too far, grinning like mad even past the point of burning cheeks.

    Neither of these options flies particularly well in most countries in the world.

    And in Dubai, you’ll need to tone it down even more.

    Laughing too much at others’ jokes or always smiling without good reason makes you come off as an oddball at best—and untrustworthy at worst. If nobody understands what’s so funny, they’ll wonder what you know about the situation that they don’t.

    If you’re at a trade show, for instance, you’ll see people on both ends of the spectrum trying to get your attention.

    Watch and see—the ones in the middle, giving gentle and authentic smiles, are the ones who make the most connections.

    Eye Contact

    2- Eye Contact

    Eye contact is the type of thing that really differs from person to person.

    Some people in Dubai prefer strong eye contact as a show of respect, while others would prefer that you politely avert your gaze when speaking to them.

    If you can, take a look at how other people around you—especially the successful ones—use eye contact.

    Are they looking down into their teacups, over their partner’s shoulder, or directly into their eyes?

    Follow their cues, and remember not to overthink things.

    As a foreigner, you will be given a certain amount of leeway on these subtle issues. Just remember to stay focused and respectful when spoken to; don’t let your attention wander.

    One more thing to note here: Men shouldn’t make prolonged eye contact with women, especially in public. It comes across as leery or even threatening and makes both parties uncomfortable before long.

    3- Speech

    Language

    Dubai is an incredibly cosmopolitan city already, and becoming more international by the day.

    You’re likely to hear a dozen languages on the street every time you go out.

    Many firms even prefer to do business in English rather than hire an interpreter. If you’re experienced in international business, you’ll already know that English is widely spoken all around the world already.

    Be that as it may, the fact is that Arabic is the de facto and de jure language of the UAE.

    Native Emiratis speak Gulf Arabic from childhood and learn to read and write in the formal written language.

    This Modern Standard Arabic differs in several key ways from the Gulf Arabic of the street. Pronouns are different, the grammar rules are more complex, and the written language preserves more classical vocabulary.

    That means that learning to speak, read, and write in Arabic is a pretty big task. The U.S. Foreign Service Institute rates it as one of the hardest languages to learn for English speakers.

    With that effort, though, comes great reward.

    By law, all contracts and regulations in Dubai must be in Modern Standard Arabic.

    Knowing the language will make you more confident that what you’re signing matches the translation you’re given.

    And it also gives you an enormous status boost.

    Even by learning a few polite phrases you’ll separate yourself from the foreign expats who couldn’t care less about the local culture. You wouldn’t believe how many people live for years in a foreign country, expecting everyone to speak English whenever they go out.

    People will notice the effort you’ve made to connect with them, and it won’t be forgotten.

    Etiquette

    No matter what language you speak, there are a couple of notes you should pay attention to for conversation etiquette as well.

    Whenever you’re meeting with a local, you should avoid dominating the conversation.

    Give them time to think, and don’t interpret short silences as awkward. In the negotiation-laden Arabian Gulf, people often take a while to think things over.

    It may take quite a few sips of tea or scratches of the chin before the time comes to give an answer.

    In addition, steer away from rude language and asking about a man’s wife.

    Bawdy language in the some countries can be a mark of camaraderie, but in the Arab world it’s far too forward for a formal meeting.

    And though it’s important to pay attention to business partners’ personal lives, it’s also a little bit out of bounds to ask directly about a man’s wife—so ask about his family as a whole instead.

    4- Out to Lunch

    Dining etiquette and table manners are complicated enough to deserve an entire article on their own.

    Fortunately, a lot of the things that are polite or rude in other countries have the same connotation in Dubai.

    And that’s great! When you’re looking at an array of amazing al-machboos, shawarma, and al-harees, you don’t want to have to think too hard before you eat!

    The basic rules are easy to remember. Don’t talk with your mouth full, don’t gorge yourself, don’t make loud eating noises—the usual stuff.

    However, you should also make sure that you’re one of the last to begin eating unless invited otherwise. This shows great respect for all present.

    If bread is a part of the meal—and it’s likely to be—don’t cut it with a knife. Instead, tear it with your hands and eat small pieces.

    Lastly, don’t order any alcohol when you’re out at a restaurant.

    Most Muslims don’t drink alcohol, and you don’t want to be the only one at the table drinking, even if nobody says anything.

    If you happen to be dining with someone who does drink alcohol, wait for them to suggest it.

    Hand and Shoulder

    2. Your Shoulders and Hands

    1- Physical Affection

    Physical affection between male friends is more common in Dubai than in some other countries.

    For example, you might see two men holding hands in the street—think nothing of it. In the same vein, don’t be surprised if a local friend of yours holds onto your handshake longer than you’re expecting him to.

    In many countries, it’s not particularly common for men to show each other much, if any, physical affection.

    Emirati men, in contrast, are used to clapping each other on the back or throwing their arms around each other’s shoulders to physically express their close friendship.

    If this makes you uncomfortable, then you do have the right to hold back a little.

    This is another thing that foreigners aren’t expected to master straight away. In fact, anyone used to dealing with business people in other countries is likely aware of the preference for less physical contact.

    But again, the more you approach this cultural gap with an open mind, the less of an obstacle you’ll find it to be.

    Handshake

    2- Handshakes

    In the Arab world, handshakes are often less firm than you may be used to.

    How many ‘80s business seminars went over the importance of a firm, manly handshake? Something about showing your dominance in the room or your physical strength?

    Forget it. In rapidly-advancing Dubai, that ideal is far behind.

    A powerful handshake can come off as pugnacious and aggressive—far from your intended effect.

    Don’t take offense if you’re offered a “limp” handshake at a meeting or introduction. The handshake in Dubai is more of a show of respect than power.

    Speaking of respect, it’s important to greet people by using their official titles.

    If you’re meeting someone with a PhD, call them Doctor. If you have the opportunity to meet a sheikh, use Sheikh as the title and then their full name.

    By the way, just as with eye contact, men should also avoid offering Muslim women handshakes.

    The opportunity may never even come up, but you should keep it in mind. If a woman offers her hand to you, don’t refuse and instead give the same light but respectful handshake discussed above.

    Women should be prepared for Emirati men to refuse a handshake on religious grounds.

    If this happens, don’t take it as a snub and instead place your right hand over your heart with a small nod of your head and a smile.

    The reasoning behind this is simple.

    In conservative Muslim cultures, men are expected to respect a woman’s comfort zone. In Dubai, this takes the form of refraining from all forms of physical contact.

    3- Hand Etiquette & More

    It’s the age-old question in any new situation: “What am I supposed to do with my hands?”

    The same tactics that work in other countries work in Dubai too.

    Don’t clench your fists, don’t cross your arms tightly, don’t fiddle with your clothes. If you’re nervous, adopt a relaxed yet upright posture with your right hand holding your left wrist.

    There’s just one extra general rule to remember:

    In Dubai, as in many Muslim cultures, it’s considered rude to offer things with the left hand.

    Traditionally, the left hand is used for cleaning after using the bathroom. That may or may not be the case for you, but keep in mind the cultural association.

    That’s what native Emiratis think of when you offer them your left hand. Is that where you want their mind to go in a business meeting?

    Whether you’re a lefty or a righty, you need to shake hands with your right hand, open doors for people with your right hand, and hand things to others with—you guessed it—your right hand.

    And what’s one of the most important handoffs you’re going to make?

    The business card.

    When you exchange business cards, take the other person’s with both hands and examine it carefully before putting it away.

    Hand over your own card with your right hand, naturally, and make sure that the Arabic side is facing up.

    Surely you remembered to have your cards printed in Arabic and English, right?

    One more thing to note:

    During a meeting, you may notice that people look down at their phones more often than you’d like.

    But this isn’t seen as rude or intrusive in Dubai.

    Rather—depending on whom you’re meeting, of course—a meeting is more of an extension of someone’s regular work day instead of special time set aside to connect one-on-one.

    Unfortunately, as a foreigner you may be held to a bit of a higher standard here.

    You’re expected to show a very high degree of respect to your hosts, and that may mean sacrificing the freedom of checking your emails while someone else is talking.

    Smile Like You Mean It

    3. Your Legs and Feet

    1- Confident Posture

    When your business associate comes into the room, they want to see a confident businessperson.

    And you want to control the room as much as you can from your own position.

    You can achieve this, in part, by widening your frame slightly and simply taking up a little more space in the room.

    Stand with your feet slightly apart to project an image of powerful confidence without intimidation.

    Slouching is frowned upon in most cultures already, but in the stricter and more formal business culture of Dubai, it’s seen as even more negative.

    Slouching when sitting or walking implies that you’re either lazy, uncomfortable, or have something to hide.

    In contrast, if you pull the old trick of leaning back in your chair with your hands behind your head to intimidate others, you’ll come off as trying way too hard.

    Avoid this outdated tactic, and instead go for a friendly, genuine slight lean forward over the desk. You’ll appear eager to listen to what the other party has to say, which can only lead to a smoother relationship.

    2- Bottom of the Feet

    Be sure not to step on anyone’s toes—literally or figuratively!

    Similar to the left hand, many more conservative people in Dubai find the bottom of the feet unclean.

    Resting with your feet pointed at someone else or accidentally kicking someone under the table might not get you in trouble directly, but it sends a subconscious message that you don’t respect them.

    Pay attention to how you’re crossing your legs and feet in a meeting. Are your feet pointed toward somebody you’re trying to impress, or worse yet, toward someone with higher status than you? They’d better not be.

    Don’t jiggle your legs when you’re sitting down, either.

    It’s a sign of nervousness, and it shows your conversation partner that something else is on your mind. And at a business lunch, there’s the added danger of knocking over the tea!

    After reading this list, you might be thinking, “Are these little things really what’s going to make or break my business deal?”

    But put yourself in the other person’s shoes. (As an expat, that’s an exercise you should be doing daily anyway.)

    Suppose someone came into your office with a sullen look on his face, gave you a sweaty, limp handshake, fiddled with his phone during your conversation, and slammed the door behind him on the way out.

    Each of these things individually could be explained away with the context or easily brushed aside.

    But together, they’re practically unforgivable. You probably hate that guy just from the description!

    That’s the same kind of cultural friction that can happen when you hold on to all your previous body language norms in a new environment.

    In doing business in a different culture, you’ve made an unspoken commitment to respect the local people and their way of life. If you can’t back that up with your actions, you’re not going to meet with a whole lot of success.

    4. Conclusion

    Dubai is a rapidly growing cosmopolitan city. Local businesspeople are used to dealing with foreigners from all over the world.

    It’s completely natural that they’ll have dealt with cultural misunderstandings before.

    That high tolerance, however, only makes it that much more valuable to be aware of and respectful of the local culture.

    If you’re used to people making mistakes, someone who’s sensitive to what you find offensive is going to be a breath of fresh air.

    Your task is simple and yet endless. Culture runs far deeper than can be described in a simple article. These simple outward differences between body language in other countries and body language in Dubai are rooted in millennia of tradition.

    All you have to do to conquer this is to see the world with an open mind.

    You have to understand that what you find offensive or grating might not matter at all to others. Conversely, they might find themselves subconsciously annoyed because of something you don’t even think about.

    You just need to keep one basic principle in mind. If you can pay attention to how others act and react, you’ll be on the right track to mastering your body language no matter where you go.

    And Dubai is waiting for you to take that first step.

    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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