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Archive for the 'Arabic Phrases' Category

Arabic Filler Words: Speak the Language Like a Native

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Imagine if people were like programmed robots.

No typos.

No slips of the tongue.

No blemishes.

Just plain perfection.

That would make everything pretty boring, wouldn’t it?

Filler words are one of those imperfections that make human interactions unique. 

Without further ado, let’s get right into the top Arabic filler words and how to use them.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. What are filler words and why do we use them?
  2. The Top Arabic Filler Words
  3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words
  4. Conclusion

1. What are filler words and why do we use them?

Woman and Question Marks

Filler words (or “fillers”) are the sounds we use to let others know that we have not yet finished talking, even if we’re pausing for a few seconds. They help remove awkward stops in our speech and connect sentences without them having to make sense grammatically. Fillers are mostly meaningless when used for that purpose, despite the words themselves having a real meaning in other contexts.

While filler words may sound unnecessary, they actually play an important role in speech. This is because it’s difficult for most people to continuously hold a smooth conversation without having to stop and think about what to say next—even if just for a second or two.

Filler words are mainly used in real-life interactions, but they can also be found occasionally in emails and text messages. Some of us like to type “uh,” “actually,” or “basically” in our texts, thinking it will add meaning to the sentence or give the reader a better understanding of our tone.

While people may not agree on the necessity of using filler words, it’s undeniable that they play a great role in our speech. Most of us start using them without even noticing it.

It’s interesting to note that filler words—while still existent—are not as frequently used in languages linked to cultures that are more direct or cold. Given the warmth of most Arabic-speaking cultures, filler words are prominent players in a variety of Arabic dialects.

With that in mind, because Arabic dialects are spoken informally, they rely more on filler words than MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) does. 

We’ve categorized the fillers below based on dialect to make sure you don’t confuse anyone by using a different dialect.

2. The Top Arabic Filler Words

Before we get started on dialects, let’s first look into MSA filler words.

A- MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) Filler Words

جَميل
ǧamīl
beautiful

This filler word is used to respond to statements you don’t really have an answer for. It’s the equivalent of “cool” in English. 

Example #1

جَميل. لِنَذهَب إلى المَقهى.

ǧamīl. linaḏhab ʾilā al-maqhā.

Beautiful, let’s go to the café.

Example #2

جَميل. فَلنَلتَقي غَداً.

ǧamīl. falnaltaqī ġadan.

Beautiful, let’s meet up tomorrow.

عَفواً

ʿafwan

sorry

This filler is used to ask for repetition or to respectfully interrupt someone.

Example #1

عَفوَاً، هَل يُمكِنُكَ إعادَةُ جُملَتِكَ الأَخيرَة؟

ʿafwan, hal yumkinuka ʾiʿādaẗu ǧumlatika al-ʾaḫīrah?

Sorry, but can you repeat your last sentence?

Example #2

عَفواً، وَلَكِنَّكَ غَيَّرتَ المَوْضوع.

ʿafwan, walakinnaka ġayyarta al-mawḍūʿ.

Sorry, but you changed the subject.

B- Moroccan Arabic Filler Words

زَعما

zaʿmā

like

This is probably the most popular Moroccan filler word. It’s the equivalent of “like” in English.

Example #1

زَعما بغيت ناكل.

zaʿmā bġīt nākl.

Like, I wanna eat.

Example #2

زَعما أَتبقا هاكا كاتِهدِر.

zaʿmā ʾatbqā hākā kātihdir.

Like, you’ll just keep talking like that.

إيوا

ʾiwa

so

This is used to confront a statement or to begin a sentence.

Example #1

إيوا خَلّيه يِكلِس بوَحدو.

ʾiwa ḫallīh yiklis bwaḥdū.

So let him sit down alone.

Example #2

إيوا سكِت.

ʾiwa skit.

So shut up.

C- Levantine Arabic Filler Words

يَعني

yaʿnī

meaning

This one is the equivalent of “like” in English.

Example #1

يَعني إنتَ رَح تِجي بُكرا؟

yaʿnī ʾinta raḥ tiǧī bukrā?

Like, you’ll come tomorrow?

Example #2

يَعني أَنا ما بَدي أُخرج. 

yaʿnī ʾanā mā badī ʾuḫrǧ.

Like, I don’t wanna go out.

والله

wallah 

by God

This filler word is used to start a sentence, and the English equivalents would be “you know” or “by God.”

Example #1

والله أَنا قاعِد إستَنّا فيه.

wallah ʾanā ʾāʿid ʾistannā fīh.

You know I’m actually sitting here waiting for him.

Example #2

والله ما بَعرِف.

wallah mā baʿrif.

By God, I don’t know.

هَلّأ

hallaʾ

now

This is a popular filler in Arabic used to transition to a new sentence.

Example #1

هَلَّأ شو بَدَّك مِنّي؟

hallaʾ šū baddak minnī?

Now what do you want from me?

Example #2

هَلّأ بَدَّك تِحكي؟

hallaʾ baddak tiḥkī?

You want to talk now?

طَيِّب

ṭayyib

okay

This filler word is great for transitioning from one topic to another. 

Example #1

طَيِّب، شو رَح نسَوِّي؟

ṭayyib, šū raḥ nsawwī?

Okay, what are we going to do?

Example #2

طَيِّب، شو رَأيكُم في القانون الجديد؟

ṭayyib, šū raʾīkum fī l-qānūn l-ǧdīd?

Okay, what’s your opinion on the new law?

D- Egyptian Arabic Filler Words

حِلو

ḥelū

sweet

Example #1

حِلو، اِتَّفَقنا.

ḥelū, ettafaʾnā.

Sweet, we have a deal.

Example #2

حِلو، نروح لِلصَفحَة إللي بَعدَها.

ḥelū, nrūḥ lelṣafḥah ʾellī baʿdahā.

Sweet, we move to the next page.

أَصلاً

ʾaṣlan

anyway

Example #1

إنتَ أَصلاً عايِز تروح فين؟

ʾenta ʾaṣlan ʿāyez trūḥ fīn?

Where did you want to go, anyway?

Example #2

أَنا أَصلاً ماكُنتِش عايِز أَخرُج.

ʾanā ʾaṣlan mākonteš ʿāyez ʾaḫrog.

I didn’t want to go out anyway.

3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words

While filler words are largely meaningless, they do leave an impression of the speaker or writer on others. Using them sends messages to the subconscious mind of the listener or reader, which helps them form an opinion of you.

Below are the key pros and cons for using filler words in different day-to-day situations.

A- Pros 

You sound more natural.

Arab Men Hugging

Cutting fluff words completely (which feels impossible for most people) will make you sound very clear and straightforward. But you never want to sound like a robot. People will perceive you as out of touch or just too different if you never use fillers. 

A better approach is to minimize your usage of filler words and strike a fine balance. This will help you sound “normal” enough to other folks without sabotaging your credibility. 

You sound friendlier.

A Smiling Doctor

In our day-to-day lives, we want to be accessible to people and make them feel safe around us. 

The spontaneity that filler words add to your tone will make you sound more natural in the ears of other people, which will consequently draw them closer to you and increase your perceived level of familiarity with each other. 

B- Cons 

You’re considered hesitant.

Using fillers excessively can cause the listener to lose focus or interest, and give them the perception that you’re hesitant. This is especially true in formal environments or events like job interviews.

For example, you may have noticed a pattern in lectures where teachers lose their students’ attention as soon as they start to sound hesitant or use many filler words.

Filler words raise doubts about your statements and make them sound weaker, which ties into the next con. 

You’re perceived as having low self-confidence.

A Confident Woman

Few people are happy to hire, befriend, date, work with, or build any kind of relationship with someone who has low self-confidence. 

Using a lot of filler words can easily give the perception that you have low confidence in yourself, your ideas, and your conversation skills.

C- How to Substitute Filler Words

Steve Jobs

Here’s a cool story on the importance of substituting filler words.

In an interview, Andy Miller (who used to be one of Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ co-workers) talked about how he had to take the so-called “Steve test” before he could sell his company to Apple and join the company board.

What’s interesting about this is that Steve Jobs would just stare at the interviewee for 60 seconds in total silence after the interview was supposed to start.

If that silence was broken with filler words within that one minute, Steve Jobs knew the interviewee wouldn’t be the right fit for the company and would therefore decide not to work with them. If they kept silent and only spoke when necessary, he would know that they were strong enough to work and negotiate for him.

The moral of the story is this: Filler words can simply be replaced with silence. If you don’t know what to say, just don’t say anything. Rather, use body language to keep your listener’s attention. 

4. Conclusion

If you’ve gotten this far, you’re now armed with a skill most Arabic learners don’t have: You know how to use and understand filler words. Which ones are your favorite? And what filler words do you use most in your own language?

It’s up to you now to decide if you’re for or against using filler words, and how much you would want to incorporate those in your Arabic speaking.

Feel like acquiring more skills? Want to learn some new pronouns, prepositions, verbs, sentences, or even letters? Or maybe you want to know how to introduce yourself or shop in Arabic?

Check out ArabicPod101.

Our website provides thousands of concise video, audio, and text lessons designed within the framework of a learning system that fits your needs at any level.

Give ArabicPod101 a go and enjoy the luxury of having an infinity of well-categorized learning content coupled with the most effective learning techniques.

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And don’t just take my word for it. You can try it for yourself right now and test all the features above and more.

اِستَمتِعوا بِالتَعَلُّم!

istamteʿū bittaʿallom!

Enjoy learning!

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Arabic Love Phrases: Learn to Express Your Love in Arabic

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Imagine going to see the same movies on every single date with your partner.

Pretty boring, right?

Point is, creativity is key to every love relationship.

Bringing new things to the table is what keeps a relationship alive and as exciting as when it began.

That’s where learning expressions in your partner’s native language comes into play.

Being one of the best ways to show your acceptance, involvement, and appreciation of your partner, learning some Arabic love phrases and discovering how to express your love in Arabic can take your relationship to a whole new level.

Not only because it’s your partner’s native tongue, but also because Arabic is one of the best languages for expressing romantic feelings.

Having a hard time believing that? Check out Inez’s song My Love in Arabic, or Samira Said’s classic Youm Wara Youm

And considering that Arabic is the richest language by number of words (with more than 12 million of them), there is no end to the creativity you can employ when expressing your feelings in this beautiful language. 

Not the creative type? Unsure how to put your feelings into words that do them justice? Don’t worry; many Arabic poets throughout history have created enough love poetry to have you covered.

While we’d love to share some Arabic poetry here, this post will be dedicated to breaking down some basic phrases you can use to express love in Arabic.

The expressions below will all be in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), unless otherwise noted.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. Confess Your Affection: Pick-Up Lines and More
  2. Fall in Deeper: “I Love You,” and More
  3. Take it One Step Further: “Will You Marry Me?” and More
  4. Endearment Terms
  5. Must-Know Love Quotes
  6. Conclusion

1. Confess Your Affection: Pick-Up Lines and More

A Boyfriend Holding His Girlfriend in a Park During Autumn

Unless it’s love at first sight, every love journey starts with friendship. But at some point, someone has to break the ice and confess their feelings. 

  • Can we go out on a date?
    هَل يُمكِنُنا الخُروجُ في مَوْعِد؟
    hal yumkinunā al-ḫurūǧu fī mawʿid?

In most Arabic-speaking cultures, romance is discreet and pretty private. We advise that you ask your partner out when it’s only you and them around. 

And because “meetup” and “date” are the same word in Arabic (مَوْعد [mawʿid]), you can elaborate by adding the word رومانسي (romansi), or “romantic,” after مَوْعِد  (mawʿid).

  • You mean so much to me. [ addressing a male ]
    أَنتَ تَعني الكَثير لي.
    ʾanta taʿnī al-kaṯīr lī.
  • You mean so much to me. [ addressing a female ]
    أَنتِ تَعنينَ الكَثير لي.
    ʾanti taʿnīna al-kaṯīr lī.

The phrases above can be used to express the care you have for your potential date. It can be a great way to transition into a romantic relationship if you’re already friends. Keep in mind that the first example is for addressing males (which is the default/neutral gender in Arabic). If you’re addressing a female, you should use the second phrase. 

  • I’ve got a crush on you.
    أَنا مُغرَمٌ بِك.
    ʾanā muġramun bik.

While the exact concept of “having a crush” doesn’t exist in Arab culture, the expression above is the nearest way to express that feeling.

  • You’re so beautiful.
    أَنتِ جَميلَةٌ جِدّاً.

This expression is mainly used for females.

  • You’re so handsome.
    أَنتَ وَسيمٌ جِدّاً.
    ʾanta wasīmun ǧiddan.

And this one is for use toward males. 

  • I think of you as more than a friend. [ addressing a male ]
    أَظُنُّ أَنَّكَ أَكثَرُ مِن مُجَرَّدِ صَديق.
    ʾaẓunnu ʾannaka ʾakṯaru min muǧarradi ṣadīq.
  • I think of you as more than a friend. [ addressing a female ]
    أَظُنُّ أَنَّكِ أَكثَرُ مِن مُجَرَّدِ صَديقة.
    ʾaẓunnu ʾannaki ʾakṯaru min muǧarradi ṣadīqh.

2. Fall in Deeper: “I Love You,” and More

An Intimate Couple at Dusk

Love is like a beautiful flower. The more you water it, the more it blossoms into something even better. That comes with an investment in your partner through encouraging actions and continuous positive affirmations. Here are a few love phrases in Arabic to keep those romantic feelings and intentions intact throughout the early stages of your relationship.

  • I love you. [ addressing a male ]
    أُحِبُّك
    ʾuḥibbuk
  • I love you. [ addressing a female ]
    أُحِبُّكِ
    ʾuḥibbuki
  • Words can’t describe my love for you.
    الكَلِماتُ لا تَقدِرُ أَن تَصِفَ حُبّي لَك.
    al-kalimātu lā taqdiru ʾan taṣifa ḥubbī lak.
  • If I know what love is, it is because of you.
    إن كُنتُ أَعرِفُ مَعنى الحُب، فَذَلِكَ بِفَضلِك.
    ʾin kuntu ʾaʿrifu maʿnā al-ḥub, faḏalika bifaḍlik.

After expressing your love and spending a long time nurturing your relationship with your partner, it’s a good idea to use more creative expressions like this:

  • You are my love.
    أَنتَ حُبّي.
    ʾanta ḥubbī.

When addressing females, anta becomes anty.

  • You are my life.
    أَنتَ عُمري.
    ʾanta ʿumrī.

This expression is perfect to use once you’ve established a strong relationship and mutual love with your partner. Make sure you don’t overuse expressions like these, though! 

3. Take it One Step Further: “Will You Marry Me?” and More

A Newly Married Couple

As beautiful as it is to love someone and to share emotions, full commitment requires a legally binding agreement between you and your partner. That’s why it’s a good idea to go all in at some point and tie the knot. Here are some common Arabic love phrases you can use to express this desire to your partner.

  • I want to be with you forever.
    أُريدُ أَن أَكونَ مَعَكَ إلى الأَبَد.
    ʾurīdu ʾan ʾakūna maʿaka ʾilā al-ʾabad.

Depending on your and your partner’s ideologies, being with each other forever may or may not mean marriage. If you plan to use this expression, make sure your partner is on the same page. For addressing a female, replace مَعَكَ (maʿaka) meaning “with you,” with the feminine form: مَعَكِ (maʿaki).

  • We were meant to be together.
    قُدِّرَ لَنا أَن نَكونَ سَوِيّاً.
    quddira lanā ʾan nakūna sawiyan.

“Destiny,” or قَدَر (qadar), is a big word in Arabic-speaking cultures. Using it will make your love phrases stronger.

  • Will you marry me? [ addressing a woman ]
    هَل تَتَزَوَّجيني؟
    hal tatazawwaǧīnī?

Marriage is very sacred in Arabic-speaking cultures. Only express this when you’re ready to fully commit to your partner. 

  • Will you be my Valentine’s date?
    هَل سَتُوَاعِدني في عيد الحُب؟
    hal satuwaʿidnī fī ʿīd al-ḥub?
  • I can’t imagine my life without you in it.
    لا أَستَطيعُ تَخَيُّلَ حَياتي مِن دونِك.
    lā ʾastaṭīʿu taḫayyula ḥaīātī min dūnik.
  • You are the one I’ve been waiting for my whole life.
    أَنتَ الشَخصُ الَّذي كُنتُ أَنتَظِرُهُ طَوَالِ حَيَاتي.
    ʾanta al-šaḫṣu allaḏī kuntu ʾantaẓiruhu ṭawali ḥayatī.

4. Endearment Terms

A Man Carrying His Girlfriend Near a Waterfall

Many couples in a long-term relationship like to address each other using endearment terms. These are unique, loving words or “pet names” used to show your partner each and every day what they mean to you. Below you’ll find several Arabic endearment terms you can use. 

  • sweetheart
    حَبيبي
    ḥabībī

This is a very common endearment term among Arabic-speaking couples, and it’s one of the most popular Arabic words in the Western world. To address a female partner, you replace حَبيبي (ḥabībī) with حَبيبَتي (ḥabībatī).

  • the light of my eyes
    نور عيني
    nūr ʿīnī
  • my heart
    قَلبي
    qalbī
  • my love
    حُبّي
    ḥubbī
  • my dear [ addressing a male ]
    عَزيزي
    ʿazīzī
  • my dear [ addressing a female ]
    عَزيزَتي
    ʿazīzatī
  • my life
    عُمري
    ʿumrī

The literal translation for عُمري (ʿumrī) is actually “my age,” but it’s used in almost all dialects to mean “my life.”

5. Must-Know Love Quotes

A Happy Couple Spending Time Outdoors Together

After establishing all the traditional means of love, it’s great to spice things up with some unique love quotes every now and then. Given its very rich collection of literature and poetry—especially from the Jahiliyyah era—Arabic is one of the best languages in which to find sweet quotes and phrases for flirting. Here are some of our favorite Arabic love quotes with their English translations:

  • For you, a thousand more times. [ addressing a male ]
    مِن أَجلِكَ أَلفُ مَرَّةٍ أُخرى.
    min ʾaǧlika ʾalfu marraẗin ʾuḫrā.

To address a female, replace أَجلِكَ (ʾaǧlika) with أَجلِكِ (ʾaǧliki).

  • You are the love of my soul. [ addressing a male ]
    أَنتَ حَبيبُ روحي.
    ʾanta ḥabību rūḥī.
  • You are the love of my soul. [ addressing a female ]
    أَنتِ حَبيبَةُ روحي.
    ʾanti ḥabībaẗu rūḥī.
  • There’s so much of you in my heart.
    ما أَكثَرُكَ في قَلبي.
    mā ʾakṯaruka fī qalbī.
  • Take care of my heart because you’re in it.
    اِحرِص عَلى قَلبي لِأَنَّكَ فيه.
    iḥriṣ ʿalā qalbī liʾannaka fīh.

Talking to a female, replace li’anaka with li’anaki.

  • Your smile is paradise.
    اِبتِسامَتُكَ هِيَ الجَنَّة.
    ibtisāmatuka hiya al-ǧannah.

When speaking to a female, replace اِبتِسامَتُكَ (ibtisāmatuka) with اِبتِسامَتُكِ (ibtisāmatuki).

  • Where there is love, there is peace.
    أَيْنَما وُجِدَ الحُب، وُجِدَ السَلام.
    ʾaynamā wuǧida al-ḥub, wuǧida al-salām.

6. Conclusion

While this blog post mainly focused on couples, many expressions can be used with your other loved ones as well. Which of these love phrases did you like the most? Are you ready to try it out on your beloved?

Now that you’re armed with numerous Arabic love phrases, you can take things up a notch and work on impressing your partner with even more love expressions.

But what’s the best way to do so? Look no further than ArabicPod101

As one of the most effective online learning systems, ArabicPod101 can take your Arabic to the next level in no time.

As soon as you sign up (no catch, no credit card), you’ll gain access to thousands of short audio and video lessons categorized by topic and proficiency level. 

The best part? ArabicPod101 incorporates the latest language learning systems within our lessons. Slowed-down audio and line-by-line breakdowns of content are two examples of the perks you get when you sign up for your account.

Remember that you can also upgrade to a Premium PLUS account, which will allow you to work 1-on-1 with your own personal teacher. He or she will be able to answer all of your questions and give you personalized feedback on your progress.

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Negation in Arabic: How to Say No and More

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I get it, when learning a language we always want to be positive and say Yes! to everything that comes our way. New experiences, new skills, more language practice

However, we need to learn how to say no as well. And not just that, but also how to use negative sentences.

A Woman Holding Cards with the Words Yes and No on Them

If you want to master negation in Arabic, keep reading. In this article, we’ll look at how to… 

  • …form negative sentences in Arabic (for both nominal and verbal sentences).
  • …answer yes-or-no questions correctly and politely.
  • …use other common negative expressions such as “never,” “no one,” and “nowhere.” 

Sure, sometimes saying no isn’t easy…especially for us people-pleasers. But I assure you it will be (at least from a language-learning point of view!), after you’ve read this. 

Let’s waste no more time, then. Here’s everything you need to know about forming negatives in Modern Standard Arabic!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. What is a Negative Sentence?
  2. Negatives with Verbs
  3. Negatives without Verbs
  4. Answering “Yes-or-No” Questions
  5. Useful Negative Words and Phrases
  6. How Our Website Can Help

1. What is a Negative Sentence?

A negative sentence says that something is false or that something has not happened. In English, for example, we build negatives by adding the word “not” after a helping verb (do, have, be, etc.).

  • Dave is not happy. 
  • We did not go to work today. 

There are several different Arabic negation particles used to negate verbs. In Modern Standard Arabic, the most commonly used ones are: لا, لَمْ, لَنْ (, lam, lan).

Another thing to keep in mind when creating negative sentences in Arabic is that you’ll need to look at the type of sentence you’re negating. Is it a nominal sentence or a verbal sentence?

2. Negatives with Verbs

As we just mentioned, there are two types of sentences in Arabic. Depending on the word with which it starts, a sentence can be verbal (when it starts with a verb) or nominal (when it starts with a noun). 

A verbal (فِعْلِيَّة [fiʿliyyah]) sentence must contain at least a verb and a subject to be meaningful. For example:

أَعيشُ في مِصر.
ʾaʿīšu fī miṣr.
I live in Egypt.

Or:

يُحِبُّ هاني السَفَر.
yuḥibbu hānī al-safar.
Hany loves traveling.

Negating a sentence with a verb is quite simple: You just need to negate the verb. 

In order to perform Arabic verb negation, you just need to add the appropriate negative particle before the verb. Again, the most common Arabic negative particles are: لا, لَمْ, لَنْ (, lam, lan). 

Let’s learn how to use them!

Negatives in the Past

We use a different particle according to the tense of the verb we’re negating. The negative particle لَمْ (lam) makes a verb past tense. 

تَأكُل مَها العَشاء.
taʾkul mahā al-ʿašāʾ.
Maha eats dinner.

لَم تَأكُل مَها العَشاء.
lam taʾkul mahā al-ʿašāʾ.
Maha did not eat dinner.

Note how the tense changed from present to past even though the form of the verb didn’t change one bit. It only gained a لَمْ (lam) before it.

Two Little Girls Drinking Milk

Negatives in the Present

To negate a verb in the present tense, we can use the particle لا ().

Like the previous particle, the particle لا () does not change the verb form; it only negates the meaning when placed before it. 

أَشْرَبُ الحَلِيْب.
ʾašrabu al-ḥaliyb.
I drink the milk.

لا أَشْرَبُ الحَلِيْب.
lā ʾašrabu al-ḥaliyb.
I don’t drink the milk.

Negatives in the Future

Then we have لَنْ (lan), which makes the verb future tense.  

تَأكُل مَها العَشاء.
taʾkul mahā al-ʿašāʾ.
Maha eats dinner.

لَن تَأكُل مَها العَشاء.
lan taʾkul mahā al-ʿašāʾ.
Maha will not eat dinner.

Negatives in the Imperative

To negate the imperative form of a verb, which is used to give instructions and commands, we use the particle لا (). In this case, the verb form changes from the imperative form to the present form, conjugated according to the gender and number of the people to whom it’s directed.

اِذْهَبْ إلى الجامِعَة اليَوْم.
iḏhab ʾilā al-ǧāmiʿah al-yawm.
Go to the university today.

لا تَذْهَبْ إِلَى الجامِعَة اليَوْم.
lā taḏhab ʾiilaā al-ǧāmiʿah al-yawm.
Don’t go to the university today.

3. Negatives without Verbs

Nominal sentences (اِسْمِيَّة [ismiyyah]) are sentences that start with a noun. They usually consist of a noun, followed by either a noun, an adjective, a verb, or a prepositional phrase. Here, we’re concerned with all these combinations except for the one that contains a verb, since that one will be negated the same way that verbal sentences are negated. 

Don’t worry. You’ll need to use a different, but still simple, approach. In Modern Standard Arabic, you’ll need to insert the appropriate conjugation of ليس (laysa). 

ليس (to not be)
 EnglishStandard Arabic
SingularI am notلَستُ (lastu)
you (masc.) are notلَستَ (lasta)
you (fem.) are notلَستِ (lasti)
he is notلَيسَ (laysa)
she is notلَيسَت (laysat)
Dualwe are notلَسنا (lasna)
you are notلَستُما (lastumā)
they (masc.) are notلَيسا (laysā)
they (fem.) are notليَسَتا (laysatā)
Pluralwe are notلَسنا (lasnā)
you (masc.) are notلَستُم (lastum)
you (fem.) are notلَستُنَّ (lastunna)
they (masc.) are notلَيسوا (laysū)
they (fem.) are notلسنَ (lasna)

Here’s an example of a nominal sentence in Arabic: 

هُوَ طَوِيل.
huwa ṭawil.
He is tall.

هُوَ لَيْسَ طَويلاً.
huwa laysa ṭawīlan.
He is not tall.

A Taller Boy Standing Next to a Shorter Boy

On the other hand, Egyptian Arabic negation is quite different in this regard: You only need to insert مش (miš) between the subject and the predicate, and it doesn’t change according to number or gender, unlike in Modern Standard Arabic. Simple and easy!

أَنا لِبنانِيَّة.
ʾanā lebnāniyyah.
I am Lebanese. [f.]

أَنا مِش لِبنانِيَّة.
ʾanā meš lebnāniyyah.
I am not Lebanese. [f.]

4. Answering “Yes-or-No” Questions

There are two types of questions: open-ended and closed-ended. A closed-ended question is usually one you can answer with a “yes” or “no,” without having to give any other explanation. Let’s see how to answer these. In English, for example, we say: “Yes, I do,” or “No, I don’t.”

Logically, to answer a yes-or-no question in Arabic, we start with نَعَم (naʿam) meaning “yes” or لا () meaning “no.” In Arabic, the sentence in question is repeated again in the answer after yes or no.

 هَل ذاكَرتَ اليَوم؟
hal ḏākarta al-yawm?
Did you study today?

 . لا، لَم أُذاكِر اليَوم
lā, lam ʾuḏākir al-yawm.
No, I didn’t study today.

نَعَم، ذاكَرتُ اليَوم.
naʿam, ḏākartu al-yawm.
Yes, I studied today.

A Full Moon Over a Natural Landscape

5. Useful Negative Words and Phrases

Now that you know more about the Arabic negation system, how about we look at some commonly used expressions you’ll need to sound like a native?

Did you know, for example, that the word “never” can be translated in two different ways in Arabic, depending on the verb tense you’re using?

If you’re speaking about the past, use قَطُّ (qaṭṭ), a word that means “never,” “ever,” or “at all.”

لَمْ أَفْعَلْ ذٰلِكَ قَطّ.
lam ʾafʿal ḏٰalika qaṭṭ.
I have never done that.

If you’re speaking about the future, however, you’ll need to use another word: أَبَداً (ʾabadًan), which means “always,” “forever,” or “ever.”

لَنْ أَزُورَهُ أَبَداً.
lan ʾazūrahu ʾabadan.
.I will never visit him

Remember, قَطُّ (qaṭṭ) and أَبَداً (ʾabadًan) can only be used with the negation. 

Here are some more useful expressions to go with negative sentences: 

  • nowhere / not anywhere: لا مَكان (lā makān)
  • no one / nobody: لا أَحَد (lā ʾaḥad)
  • nothing / not anything: لا شَيء (lā šaīʾ)
  • neither…nor: لا… وَلا (lā…walā)

6. How Our Website Can Help

A Man Studying Arabic Online

If you want to learn more Arabic grammar rules and vocab, make sure you have a look at ArabicPod101.com. Here, you’ll find all the resources you need to make your language learning journey as interesting and fun as possible. 

You’ll be able to practice your listening skills with podcasts and audio lessons, expand your vocabulary with word lists and key phrases, and learn great strategies for studying Arabic more efficiently and effectively.

If you want to learn this amazing language in order to travel to an Arabic-speaking country, you cannot miss our travel Survival Course. Knowing some Arabic will help you be safe during your trip abroad, and being able to understand and communicate with the locals will make your adventures even more unforgettable… 

Of course, I hope that you’ll be able to say yes to all the invitations and offers you’ll receive… But, well, at least you now know how to say “no” correctly (from a grammatical point of view)!

And, if you’re studying Arabic for work or study reasons, make that commitment and start using our features to practice and improve every day. The content available here will keep you motivated in your Arabic studies and will help you reach your language-learning goals in no time at all!

Before you go, we’d love to hear from you. How has this article helped you? Is anything still unclear about negation in Arabic? We’ll do our best to help you out!

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How Long Does it Take to Learn Arabic?

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Everyone agrees: Learning a foreign language is an amazing (if hard) and fulfilling process. By learning to speak, understand others, and think in a language different from our own, not only do we add a new skill to our repertoire, but we can also change the way we see the outside world and our relationship to it.

Now for the question at hand: How long does it take to learn Arabic, and is it worth it?

Well, consider the fact that there are more than ten words for “love” in Arabic—and over 100 words for “camel”! I mean, these facts will certainly have an impact on the way you think about your love life…and about those amazing desert creatures!

A Caravan Traveling by Camel in the Desert

Learners of Arabic would all love to dedicate endless hours to studying the language and all its nuances. But, in our society, time is money and reality can be quite different.

Due to these time constraints, it makes sense to look for the fastest and easiest ways to learn a language so that we can start using it as soon as possible…maybe to find a better job, to travel, or to speak with a loved one.  

We would all like to know exactly what time commitment we’re looking at, so that we can make plans and have expectations… 

The truth is, however, that there’s no one best way to learn Arabic—and above all, there’s no set timetable for it! 

Everyone learns in a different way, and how quickly you can learn depends on a wide range of factors.

An Hourglass against a Dark Background

In this article, we’ll look at some of the factors that will affect your learning and how to learn Arabic efficiently to reach your goals as fast as possible.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. Experience
  2. Learning Style
  3. Approach
  4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced Level?
  5. How Our Website Can Help

Experience

One of the most important factors that governs how long it takes to learn Arabic (or any language) is your personal experience with languages. 

The Language(s) You Speak

What is your native language? And what other foreign languages do you speak? 

Yes, this will actually make a difference in how fast you learn Arabic. If, for example, you already speak Hebrew or Amharic (which are Semitic languages, like Arabic), you’ll learn much faster than you would as a native English speaker. Also, if you speak French, it will be easier to learn Arabic dialects that borrow heavily from French, such as Moroccan Arabic and Algerian Arabic.

If, however, you’re a native speaker of any Indo-European language, you’re in no luck… Arabic is considered one of the most challenging languages to learn.

Don’t worry, though. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, just that it’s a good challenge.

So get down to it! 

A Woman Holding Flowers in Front of Her Eyes

Your Previous Language Learning Experience

Another essential aspect to take into consideration is your previous experience in language learning. 

Have you ever studied another language before?

If you already speak a foreign language fluently, or were raised bilingual, it will probably be easier and faster for you to learn Arabic. Several studies have shown that bilinguals are able to learn a third language with more ease because they’re naturally more used to being exposed to a new language. 

Even if you’re not bilingual, having studied and learned another language might help, even if we’re just talking about high school French. Being accustomed to memorizing words and looking at different letters and symbols is a good skill that your language-learning mind will remember.  

So, the skills that you develop in one language will actually help you gain fluency in another, even if the two are completely unrelated!  

Your Previous Grammar Knowledge

One of the first steps you should take is to find out how the language works. This means knowing and understanding its structure and grammar. 

If you already have experience studying syntax and grammar, even if it was only in your native language, it will make it easier and quicker for you to study the grammar and syntax of another language. 

So, it’s always a good idea to gain some grammar foundations if you plan to start learning Arabic (or any other language).

A Woman Studying with Her Laptop and a Book in the Grass

Learning Style

The way you learn and study is another essential factor in determining how long it will take you to become fluent in Arabic. 

Your Methods

If you limit your learning and studying to a classroom setting, even if you attend every day, it will probably take you longer to feel confident using your language skills. 

Try to expose yourself to Arabic outside the classroom and you’ll substantially reduce the time you need to learn it! 

Try reading the news, watching movies and series in Arabic, or listening to Arabic podcasts about topics that interest you. Of course, finding a language-exchange partner to practice your conversation skills with will also be very useful and make you fluent faster! 

Your Time

There’s another aspect we haven’t yet mentioned, but it’s the most important one when determining how long it takes to learn Arabic: the time you spend studying it!

If you want to learn fast, it goes without saying that you’ll need to dedicate as much time as you can to studying.

Daily practice is an ideal setup, and research has proven that learners who can dedicate an hour a day to learning—whether memorizing new words, studying grammar rules, or watching a series on Netflix—learn significantly faster than those who only attend classes.

A Woman Watching a Funny Movie on Netflix

And of course, if it’s an option for you, full immersion is best. If you can travel to an Arabic-speaking country and live there for a short (or long) period of time, that will make a big difference!

Approach

Another key factor that will determine how fast you learn Arabic is your approach. It can really make a huge difference!  

Your Motivation

It’s no secret that staying motivated is essential for learning any new skills, and this is all the more true for foreign languages.

Why do you want to learn Arabic?

Try to have this clear in your mind and, for maximum efficiency, set weekly (or even daily) goals that remind you of it. This will help you stay motivated so that your interest in learning does not fade. 

Your Attitude

Keeping your motivation up will help you feel like you’re learning more easily and quickly, and it will be essential for maintaining a positive attitude during your language learning journey! 

To see learning as a fun and interesting activity that you’re choosing to do, rather than a chore you’re forced to do, is key. 

Remember: Learning a foreign language will open your mind and your horizons, and give you a great set of skills you’ll be able to use in your day-to-day life. 

When you think about it this way, the process will be more enjoyable and much quicker! 

How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced Level?

So, let’s get to the point. 

Even if it’s hard to say for sure, we’ve tried to make an estimate as to how long it might take you to reach different levels of Arabic (beginner, intermediate, and advanced).

For English speakers, Arabic may be one of the most difficult languages to learn, but that makes it all the more exciting and rewarding!

A Man Studying Late at Night

Beginner

A beginner speaker of a language will be able to introduce themselves, understand simple sentences when spoken slowly and carefully, and ask basic questions (probably making some mistakes along the way). 

If you just want to be able to greet people and order a meal, you can get by with the basic reading and speaking skills you gained achieving this level. 

FSI learning timeline findings estimate that, to achieve the beginner level in Arabic, you’ll need approximately 700 hours of study. This means that if you dedicate about 15-20 hours a week to learning Arabic, you’ll achieve this level in about 8 months.

Intermediate

At the intermediate level, you’ll be able to engage in most everyday conversations (if spoken slowly) and ask questions as needed to make sure you understand. This level will also allow you to read the news and watch videos in Arabic without major problems. If you’re traveling, you’ll be able to have interactions with the locals about familiar subjects, as well as ask for and follow directions.

To reach an intermediate level, it’s estimated you’ll need 1000-1200 hours of study time (including classes, homework, and practice time). 

If you’re serious about learning Arabic fast and are motivated, you can do this in about a year by dedicating at least 20 hours a week to studying.

Advanced

If you want to achieve fluency, this is what you’re aiming for. With advanced language skills, you’ll be able to navigate any kind of situation that may arise in your daily life and have complex conversations with native speakers

You’ll be able to watch films without subtitles and read all kinds of books in Arabic. You’ll basically be fluent (even if there will always be something more to learn about this intricate and beautifully complex language).

It’s estimated that for an English speaker to learn Arabic properly, at least 2200 hours of Arabic classes are required. This means that, if you want to speak Arabic fluently in a year, you’ll need to study it full-time.

If you’re not in a rush, you can learn the language in about two years with around 20 hours a week dedicated to studying and practicing.

That said, all these timeframes are estimates and one’s language learning progress really depends on many different factors.

How Our Website Can Help

What are you waiting for? The best time to start learning a new language is now! 

The sooner you start learning, the faster you’ll start speaking Arabic and achieve your language goals!

On ArabicPod101.com, you’ll find all kinds of language learning content to make your journey smooth and easy to navigate: lessons for all levels, vocabulary lists, a dictionary, blog posts, etc.

ArabicPod101 Image

How long it takes to learn Arabic mainly depends on how much time you’re willing to dedicate to it. 

Our Arabic courses and resources are specifically designed to offer you all the right tools to learn the language as quickly and easily as possible, so you can know that you’re spending your precious time well!

Whether you’re a beginner looking for a full-immersion approach or an advanced speaker who just wants to refine your skills, you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for here.

Before you go, let us know in the comments if this article helped you. Do you feel more prepared now to take on the challenge of learning Arabic? We look forward to hearing your thoughts! 

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Impress Native Speakers With These Arabic Proverbs

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Proverbs are popular sayings that provide a little dose of wisdom, a truth that is sometimes so obvious that it’s overlooked. 

Can you think of a proverb in your native language that touched you in an important moment of your life?

The Arabic language is so rich and so widely used that it offers countless idiomatic sayings and expressions. If you want to sound like a native speaker, you’d better learn some of these Arabic proverbs yourself! Doing so is a great way to let your language skills shine, and it will help you better understand the culture so you can fit right in!

Egyptian Flag in a Speech Bubble

As they say, “There is no time like the present”! Learn the thirty most used Arabic proverbs now and you’ll be certain to leave a good impression! 

Keep in mind that most of the entries on our list are Egyptian Arabic and Levantine Arabic proverbs. 

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. Bedouins, Belly Dancers, and Dogs: Egyptian Arabic Proverbs
  2. Bald Men, Roosters, and Paradise: Levantine Arabic Proverbs
  3. Bonus: A Modern Standard Arabic Proverb
  4. Conclusion

1. Bedouins, Belly Dancers, and Dogs: Egyptian Arabic Proverbs

There are some truths in life that are best expressed through vivid imagery. Let’s start our list with several unique Egyptian Arabic proverbs about life, friendship, and more. 

القِرد في عين أُمُّه غَزال

el-ʾerd fī ʿen ʾommoh ġazal
Literal translation: The monkey is a gazelle in the eyes of his mother.
English equivalent: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Meaning: This classic proverb means that the perception of beauty is subjective.

A Mother Cradling Her Baby

أَدعي عَلى وَلَدي وأَكرَه مِن يِقول آمين

ʾadʿī ʿalā waladī wʾakrah men yeʾūl ʾāmīn
Literal translation: I curse my own child, but I hate whoever says “amen.”
Meaning: This proverb is about having the right to criticize those closest to you…but then jumping to their defense if someone else criticizes them. We all know the feeling!

آخرِةْ المَعروف الضَرب بِالكُفوف

ʾāḫret el-maʿrūf el-ḍarb belkofūf
Literal translation: The end result of a good deed is a slap with the palms.
English equivalent: No good deed goes unpunished.
Meaning: This is usually said when your kindness backfires on you. For example, when you do a good deed but get nothing in return—or worse, you get a “slap” (hopefully in a metaphorical sense!).

إللي إيدُه في المَيَّة مِش زَيّ إللي إيدُه في النار

ʾellī ʾeīdoh fī el-mayyah meš zayy ʾellī ʾīdoh fī el-nār
Literal translation: The one whose hand is in fire is not like the one whose hand is in water.
English equivalent: Easier said than done.
Meaning: You can’t really compare the actions (or reactions) of those personally involved in a difficult matter (with a hand in the fire!) to those who are not directly affected and just commenting on it (with their hand in water).

لَمّا اِتفَرَّقِت العُقول كُلّ وَاحِد عَجَبُه عَقلُه، ولَمّا اِتفَرَّقِت الأَرزاق ماحَدِّش عَجَبُه رِزقُه

lammā etfarraʾet el-ʿoʾūl koll wāḥed ʿagaboh ʿaʾloh, w lammā etfarraʾet el-ʾarzāʾ māḥaddeš ʿagaboh rezʾoh
Literal translation: When brains were passed out, everyone was pleased with their brain; but when fortunes were given out, no one was satisfied with their fortune.
Meaning: This means that people are often dissatisfied with their lot in life, but they rarely question their way of thinking.

إللي يِتلِسِع مِن الشوربَة يِنفُخ في الزَبادي

ʾellī yetleseʿ men el-šūrbah yenfoḫ fī el-zabādī
Literal translation: Whoever gets burned by soup blows on yogurt.
English equivalent: Once bitten, twice shy.
Meaning: This refers to the fact that an unpleasant experience induces caution.

إمشي في جَنازَة، وَلا تِمشي في جَوَازَة

ʾemšī fī ganāzah, walā temšī fī gawāzah
Literal translation: It’s better to arrange a funeral than a marriage.
Meaning: This saying is used to dissuade people from playing the match-maker. If you arrange a marriage and it doesn’t work out, you’ll get blamed for it. In that context, attending a funeral would be much easier!

الدُنيا زَيّ الغازِيَّة، تِرقُص لِكُلّ وَاحِد شِوَيَّة

el-donyā zayy el-ġāzeyyah, terʾoṣ lekoll wāḥed šewayyah
Literal translation: The world is like a belly-dancer: it dances a little while for everyone.
English equivalent: Every dog has its day.
Meaning: Let’s admit it, the Arabic version is a bit more poetic! The proverb means that everyone is successful at some point in life.

A Belly-Dancer

إللي عَلى راسُه بَطحَة يِحَسِّس عَليها

ʾellī ʿalā rāsoh baṭḥah yeḥasses ʿalīhā
Literal translation: Whoever has a head-wound keeps feeling it.
English equivalent: The tongue ever turns to the aching tooth.
Meaning: As the tongue turns to the aching tooth or a wounded person keeps checking their wound, our thoughts keep returning to those things that worry us most.

نِقول تور يِقولو اِحلِبوه

neʾūl tor yeʾūlū eḥlebūh
Literal translation: I say to him, “It’s a bull,” and he responds “Milk it.”
Meaning: This hilarious saying makes a good point. It refers to a situation where someone goes on and on with the same argument, even though he has already been contradicted repeatedly.

إذا كان حَبيبَك عَسَل ما تِلحَسوش كُلُّه

ʾezā kān ḥabībak ʿasal mā telḥasūš kolloh
Literal translation: Even if a friend is honey, don’t lick them all up.
Meaning: We all know how important friends are in life. But, even if they’re as sweet as honey, we shouldn’t abuse their kindness.

كُلُّه عَند العَرب صابون

kolloh ʿand el-ʿarb ṣābūn
Literal translation: For the Bedouin, it’s all soap.
Meaning: People without taste (poor Bedouins, in this case…) can’t really distinguish if something is of good quality or not.

Bedouins Riding on Camels

إللي ما يِعرَفش، يِقول عَدس

ʾellī mā yeʿrafš, yeʾūl ʿads
Literal translation: He who doesn’t know, says “lentils.”
Meaning: Those who don’t know what really happened will just say anything as an explanation (“lentils” is probably just the first thing that came to mind!).

بَعد ما شاب وَدّوه الكُتّاب

baʿd mā šāb waddūh el-kottāb
Literal translation: After his hair went gray, they took him to school.
English equivalent: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Meaning: This means that it is often hard to teach older people new ways and habits, and that it might be too late.

صاحِب بالين كَدّاب وصاحِب تَلاتَة مُنافِق

ṣāḥeb bel-īn kaddāb ūṣāḥeb talātah monāfeʾ
Literal translation: ِA person of two minds is a liar, and a person of three minds is a hypocrite.
Meaning: According to this saying, a person who tries to do two things at a time is fooling himself, and a person who tries to do three things at once is even more self-deceived.

2. Bald Men, Roosters, and Paradise: Levantine Arabic Proverbs

In case you were wondering, this creative use of language is quite prominent in Levantine Arabic proverbs, too. Let’s dive in! 

البَحصَة بِتِسنِد خابيَة

el-baḥṣah betesned ḫābyah
Literal translation: A pebble can support a barrel.
Meaning: This proverb expresses that even a little effort can go a long way.

الديك بِيْموت وعينو بِالمَزبَلَة

el-dīk beymūt wʿīnū belmazbalah
Literal translation: The rooster dies with his eye still on the dunghill.
English equivalent: A leopard can’t change its spots.
Meaning: This proverb conveys the idea that no one can change their nature. It’s most often used to describe negative qualities and behaviors.

الحَرَكَة بَرَكَة

el-ḥarakah barakah
Literal translation: Movement is a blessing.
Meaning: If you want to get things done, you need to act!

كُل ديك عَ مَزبَلتُه صَيّاح

kol dīk ʿa mazbaltoh ṣayyāḥ
Literal translation: Every rooster crows on its own dunghill.
Meaning: Roosters again. This time, though, the proverb is about how it’s easy to feel confident on your home turf. Everyone does.

A Rooster

إللي بياكُل العُصيّ مِش مِتل إللي بِيعِدّها

ʾellī byākol el-ʿuṣeī meš metl ʾellī beīʿeddhā
Literal translation: Receiving (blows from) a stick is not the same as counting them.
Meaning: This is similar to the “hand in fire, hand in water” we saw earlier on. Definitely not the same. So do not comment on someone’s actions (or reactions) when you’re not the one going through a hard time.

الدَم ما بِيصير مَي

el-dam mā beyṣīr maī
Literal translation: Blood does not become water.
English equivalent: Blood is thicker than water.
Meaning: This proverb means that family bonds are always stronger than love or friendships.

التِلم الأَعوَج مِن التور الكبير

el-telm el-ʾaʿwag men el-tūr el-kbīr
Literal translation: The crooked furrow is caused by the big bull.
English equivalent: A fish rots from the head down.
Meaning: This one means that leadership is always the root cause of an organization’s failure.

ما تقول فول لَيْصير بِالمَكيُول

mā tʾūl fūl layṣīr belmakyūl
Literal translation: Don’t say “beans” until they are on the measuring scale.
English equivalent: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
Meaning: Don’t count on something before you’re certain it’s going to happen.

الإسكافي حافي والحايِك عِريان

el-ʾeskāfī ḥāfī welḥāyek ʿeryān
Literal translation: The shoemaker is barefoot and the weaver is naked.
nglish equivalent: The shoemaker’s children always go barefoot.
Meaning: This saying describes how we tend to neglect the things closest to us, or fail to apply the advice we give others to our own lives.

اِحتَرنا يَا قَرعَة مِن وين بِدنا نبوسِك

eḥtarnā yā ʾarʿah men weīn bednā nbūsek
Literal translation: Oh bald man, we’re confused about where to kiss you.
Meaning: This funny proverb describes someone who’s hard to please. It’s like saying, in English: “There’s no pleasing you.” The strange (and quite humorous) assumption here is that a bald person has more kissable spots on his head to choose from, hence the confusion!

A Bald Man Thinking about Something

ابنَك هُوَّ وِزغير رَبّيه وهُوَّ وِكبير خاوِيه

ebnak howwa wezġīr rabbīh w howwa wekbīr ḫāwīh
Literal translation: Discipline your son when he’s young, and be his friend when he grows up.
Meaning: This is pretty straight-forward, but still good parenting advice!

إللي بِدّو يِلعَب مَع القُط بِدّو يِلقى خَرامِيشُه

ʾellī beddū yelʿab maʿ el-ʾoṭ beddū yelʾā ḫarāmīšoh
Literal translation: Whoever plays with a cat will find his claws.
English equivalent: If you play with fire, you’re going to get burned.
Meaning: As we all know, this is a warning that dangerous or risky actions often lead to injury.

الحَكي مِش مِتل الشوفَة

el-ḥakī meš metl el-šūfah
Literal translation: Speaking is not like seeing.
English equivalent: A picture is worth a thousand words.
Meaning: Like its English counterpart, this saying stresses the fact that complex situations and ideas are sometimes best conveyed through sight rather than words.

الجَنَّة بِدون ناس ما تِنداس

el-gannah bedūn nās mā tendās
Literal translation: A paradise without people is not worth stepping foot in.
Meaning: This proverb reminds us to be kind and understanding toward each other, and that misanthropic conduct may lead to misery! What kind of paradise would it be without anyone to share it with?

Sun Setting Against a Snowy Landscape

3. Bonus: A Modern Standard Arabic Proverb 

There are also proverbs in Modern Standard Arabic, but dialect proverbs are used more often. An example of a Modern Standard Arabic proverb is:

لَوْلا اِختِلاف الأَذواق، لَبارَت السِلَع

lawlā iḫtelāf ul-ʾazwaq, labārat al-selaʿ
iteral translation: Were it not for differences of taste, goods would go unsold.
English equivalent: Variety is the spice of life.
Meaning: Different tastes and perspectives give things more value.

4. Conclusion

“All good things must come to an end…”

But it’s not really the end, is it? There’s so much more to learn about the Arabic language! 

“Practice makes perfect,” so keep practicing your Arabic skills on ArabicPod101.com. Using all the features we offer (audio podcasts, videos with transcriptions, word lists, a dictionary, and more), you’ll pick up this beautiful and interesting language in no time. 

And remember: A pebble can support a barrel, and even a little effort goes a long way. So start practicing

Before you go: Which Arabic proverb was your favorite, and why?

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A Magnificent Chaos: Cairo Travel Guide

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Cairo (القاهرة‎) is the chaotic capital of Egypt, a city that feels like it’s built on contradictions and stuck between timelines.

With a population of 22 million living in its metropolitan area, Cairo is the biggest African city and the sixteenth-largest metropolis.

Buildings in Cairo, Egypt

But the capital of Egypt is not only vast and chaotic. It’s also one of the richest cities in world history, a place where the past intertwines with the present and where many different cultures mix like nowhere else in the world. In this Cairo travel guide, we’ll show you the best way to navigate this beautiful mix! 

In the words of Aldous Huxley: “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”

So, ignore everyone’s opinion about the city, and discover it your way! 

In this guide, we’ll give you some tips on the ten best places to visit in Cairo, so that you have the foundation you need to go out there and discover this magnificent (and sometimes infuriating) city for yourself!

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Table of Contents
  1. Tips Before You Go
  2. Must-See Places for a 1-3 Day Trip
  3. Highly Recommended Places for a 4-7 Day Trip (or Longer)
  4. Arabic Survival Phrases for Travelers
  5. Conclusion

Tips Before You Go

A key step in planning a visit to Cairo is to become familiar with the city, know what to expect while there, and prepare accordingly. Here are some useful tips to give you a head start. 

When

The best time to visit Cairo, and Egypt in general, is between October and April. The temperatures are cooler during this period, but still pleasantly warm!

If you want to avoid the crowds, visit at the end of March or in October/November. This is the quietest time of the year, and even the prices are lower.

Remember: The workweek in Cairo is Sunday through Thursday, so Fridays are relatively quiet in the afternoon but very busy in the evening. The Egyptian weekend is Friday and Saturday.

Visa

In order to visit Egypt, you will need a visa. Tourists from most Western countries are able to fill out an application before their trip to receive a visa once they arrive. 

For more info about your visa, check out this website.

Tips

  • Egypt uses the Egyptian pound (LE or EGP) for currency.
  • Egypt is a Muslim country, and the vast majority of restaurants do not serve alcohol. Sometimes, they’ll let you bring your own. Call in advance to find out. 
  •  Consuming or possessing drugs, including marijuana, is illegal in Egypt.

Must-See Places for a 1-3 Day Trip

Chances are, your stay in Cairo will be short. After all, there are so many other places to explore in Egypt! 

To give you a hand putting your itinerary together, we’ve compiled a list of the best places to visit in Cairo for a shorter trip. Backpackers and resort tourists alike will find something here they’ll love! 

Giza Pyramids and Sphinx (مجمع أهرامات الجيزة)

The Sphinx

One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, this is probably the first thing you think about when planning a trip to Egypt. 

These astonishing structures were completed over 4,500 years ago and are testament to the power, organization, and engineering genius of Ancient Egypt. 

The Giza Pyramids, each named after the Pharaoh who ordered its construction, stand on the Giza necropolis together with the famous Sphinx. 

You can easily enjoy spending an entire day here, and it’s worth staying for the evening sound and light show. During the show, you’ll learn about the history of the Sphinx and pyramids while taking in the magnificent view of the monuments lit up with bright lights.

The surrounding desert plateau is home to other pyramids that are also open to the public, like those in the Saqqara necropolis, which are considered to be the oldest pyramids. 

The Egyptian Museum (المتحف المصري)

This is another unmissable stop for your visit to Cairo. Also called the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, it’s home to the largest collection of Ancient Egyptian artifacts, including the famous Tutankhamun collection with its beautiful gold death mask and sarcophagus, and the royal Mummy room. 

The opening of an even more stunning collection—the Grand Egyptian Museum—is planned for 2021. 

The Citadel

Also known as the Saladin Citadel of Cairo (قلعة صلاح الدين), this is a medieval complex full of architectural wonders that dates back to the twelfth century. Today, it is also an UNESCO World Heritage site. 

If you’re interested in the Islamic past of Cairo, this is the place to visit. Here, you’ll find the stunning Mosque of Muhammad Ali, also known as the Alabaste Mosque. 

Take your time to visit the interior and the terrace, which is one of the best viewpoints over Cairo. 

Another must-see inside the citadel is the Al-Nasir Muhammad Mosque, built in the fourteenth century. This mosque is quite unique, with two ornate minarets and mosaic decorations, which do not appear in any other mosque in Cairo. 

Khan el-Khalili (خان الخليلي‎)

Khan el-Khalili

This bustling market district, or souq, is located in the heart of Old Cairo and won’t be hard to find. 

Its narrow, cobblestone streets and labyrinth-like alleyways create a magical atmosphere in which the past gets intertwined with the present, the old with the new. 

Here, you’ll have the most adventurous shopping experience you’ve ever had (or even imagined!). 

You’ll also find a wide range of restaurants and cafés serving authentic Egyptian food, so choose one and go try new flavors to take a break from the busy streets. Or better yet, ask a trusted local for recommendations.

Highly Recommended Places for a 4-7 Day Trip (or Longer)

Once you start to feel the slightly overwhelming charm of Cairo, you may decide to stay a little longer. Here are our recommendations for where to visit in Cairo when you have a little more time. 

Al-Azhar Park (حديقة الأزهر‎)

This park is literally an urban oasis. Built on what was dust and rubble for over two centuries, it now offers a much-needed 30-hectare expanse of greenery. 

Take a break from the city and explore its gardens, pavilions, and alleys. There’s even a small lake to sit by and relax. The views over the city are fantastic at sunset.

Mosques Next to Citadel

Sultan Hassan Mosque (مسجد ومدرسة السلطان حسن‎) is one of the finest examples of Mamluk architecture in the world. With its abundance of stalactite detailing and intricate arabesque features, it’s Arabic artistry at its best.

Directly opposite the Sultan Hassan Mosque, you’ll find the El-Rifai Mosque (مسجد الرفاعى). It was built in 1912 to house the tomb of Khedive Ismail and constructed to replicate its older neighbor. 

Alexandria (اسكندرية‎)

A Castle in Alexandria, Egypt

This is a wonderful day trip from Cairo, during which you’ll learn more about the history of Egypt and its conquest by Alexander the Great. This is also where the famous Cleopatra lived. 

Alexandria served as the capital of Egypt until Roman conquest, and it’s home to the remains of the world-famous library of Alexandria. You could also visit the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina built in 2002 to commemorate the old one—and while you’re at it, you could visit the nearby Citadel of Qaitbay, a fifteenth-century fortress that has stood the test of time.

The Hanging Church (الكنيسة المعلقة‎)

This is an interesting sight for its cultural significance. Did you know that more than ten percent of Egyptians are actually Christian? 

Egypt has its own church (the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria), of which the hanging church—so called because of its nave suspended over a passage—is probably one of the oldest places of worship. It was built in the late seventh century and is home to over a hundred icons. 

Boat ride down the Nile (النيل)

Downtown Cairo

Gliding on the Nile’s waters is a beautiful way to spend an afternoon in Cairo. If you’re tired of the city and want some rest with splendid views, hop on one of the cruises. 

You can choose between many options, one of which includes riding on a traditional felucca boat. You might even get to see some wildlife (maybe a crocodile!) while on the water. 

Zamalek (Gezira Island)

Gezira (الجزيرة) actually means “island” in Arabic, and it’s the Nile’s main island in central Cairo, home to the district of Zamalek (الزمالك‎).

Zamalek is Cairo’s top dining destination, and it features art boutiques and fancy shops. At the southern tip of Gezira, you’ll also find some art galleries to explore, as well as the Cairo Tower where you can enjoy an amazing view of the Nile River from the top floor. 

Arabic Survival Phrases for Travelers

In the more touristy areas, you’re likely to find locals who speak some English. That said, you’ll have a much better trip and smoother communication if you learn some Arabic

Here, we’ve put together some easy-to-learn words and sentences that will help you make the most of your trip. 

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes while there; locals always appreciate foreigners who make an effort to speak with them in their native language! Here are some helpful Egyptian Arabic phrases:

salāmo ʿalīkom!سَلامُ عَليكُم!Hello!
ʾezzayyak?إزَّيَّك؟How are you? (speaking to a man)
ʾezzayyek?إزَّيِّك؟How are you? (speaking to a woman)
wenta?وإنتَ؟And you? (speaking to a man)
wenty?وإنتِ؟And you? (speaking to a woman)
ʾenta mnīn?إنتَ منين؟Where are you from? (speaking to a man)
ʾente mnīn?إنتِ منين؟Where are you from? (speaking to a woman)
ʾanā men ʾamrīkā.أنا مِن أمريكا.I’m from America.
šokran!شُكراً!Thank you!
šokran gazīlan!شُكراً جَزيلاً!Thank you very much!
ʿafwan!عَفواً!You’re welcome!
momken tesāʿednī?مُمكِن تِساعِدني؟Can you help me? (speaking to a man)
momken tesāʿdīnī?مُمكِن تِساعديني؟Can you help me? (speaking to a woman)
ʾanā tāyeh.أَنا تايِه.I’m lost.
el-ḥammām fīn?الحَمّام فين؟Where is the bathroom?
bekām dah?بِكام دَه؟How much is this?
law samaḥt.لَو سَمَحت.Excuse me.

Conclusion

We’ve now introduced you to the best places to visit around Cairo, no matter how long your trip will be. So, are you ready to go out there and make up your mind about Egypt and its chaotic capital, Cairo? 

Travelingit leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. (Ibn Battuta)

And I’m sure that after visiting Cairo, you’ll have countless stories to tell—especially if you’re able to communicate with the locals during your stay! 

What are you waiting for? Start learning Arabic now on ArabicPod101.com

Here, with the help of highly qualified teachers, audio podcasts, word lists, and more, you’ll be able to start adding another language to your repertoire. And not just any language, but one that will make your experience in Egypt even more unforgettable. 

Learning a language changes the way you think, it opens your mind, and it’s certainly the best starting point for understanding a country, its culture, and its people.

Start now, and you’ll realize that picking up Arabic is easier than you think!

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Everything You Should Know About English Words in Arabic

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You’re studying English, right? Or was it Arabic?

When you look at certain types of Arabic words, it can be hard to notice the difference. 

The English language has left its permanent mark on Arabic, just as it has on many other languages around the world. In every Arabic-speaking country, people at all levels of society mix English with Arabic from time to time. Even people not fluent in English do some mixing now and then.

How exactly does this mixing work? What’s involved, and what should an Arabic learner look out for? That’s exactly what you’ll find out in our guide to English words in Arabic!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. The Basics of English Words Used in Arabic
  2. Arablish Examples
  3. English Loanwords in Arabic
  4. How to Pronounce Brand Names in Arabic
  5. Arabic Words in English
  6. Outro

The Basics of English Words Used in Arabic

A Bookshelf Holding Many Books

As in many societies the world over, English is considered a prestigious language in Arabic-speaking countries. It outpaces French as the most-learned foreign language by a significant margin, and a foreign traveler to the capital cities anywhere between Morocco and Iraq can expect to get around pretty well using English.

Part of this popularity is because of the perceived economic or cultural benefits that come with speaking English as a second language, though necessity also plays a huge role here.

English speakers are spoiled when it comes to global communication. The English language has always been a primary language of software development, and as such, electronic devices tend to support English first and foremost. Arabic has sadly been left far behind in this area. It took a while for popular operating systems to start supporting Arabic, and even in 2020 there are significantly fewer fonts, programs, and websites with Arabic display options.

Therefore, computer usage in Arabic is intrinsically linked with English. Not just in the typing of Romanized Arabic words using the Latin alphabet, but also in the vocabulary of computers, software, and the internet.

In a similar sense, the language of business is also linked with English. With the rise of globalization and internationalization, many firms based in Arabic-speaking countries are used to using English as a common language when dealing with other companies.

And, following the natural progression of the two points mentioned above, prestige and internet culture have led to “new” and “cool” companies readily adopting marketing and business terms from English wholesale—and expecting to be understood.

Naturally, when a word is adopted into another language, there’s not always a perfect equivalent of the original meaning.

Let’s look at a few examples of English words in Arabic whose meanings have shifted slightly along the journey.

Arablish Examples

Someone about to Click

There are a few domains of language, such as business and technology, where English loanwords have been adopted into Arabic with slightly different meanings. Here are some of the common ones you’ll hear:

1. “Message” / مِسِج 

When you use the word “message” in English, you might mean any number of things: a short note left on someone’s desk, a popup box on a computer program, a voice message on an answering machine, or of course a text message. The Arabic word refers specifically to phones and internet messages. Because the meaning is preserved in these contexts, it would be easy to assume that all the senses of the loanword have been carried over to English, when this is not the case.

2. “Goal” / جول

In a similar way, the word “goal” in English as spoken by Arabs only refers to a sports goal. Since there are other words in the business sphere, like “creative,” that have been totally adopted into modern marketing Arabic, it’s reasonable to assume that a phrase like “meet your quarterly goal” could be used directly in Arabic as well as in English.

How do you learn something like this in depth? Well, you pick it up through immersion. Articles like this are only going to have a couple of examples of these at a time, and the meanings of loanwords change fast in today’s world. There is nothing better than firsthand experience to help you get the hang of how to use something as complex as ‘Arablish.’

English Loanwords in Arabic

A Vlogger Editing Videos for YouTube

Now let’s flip the script a bit. Here are some words that either roughly match the Arabic sound system already, or that have been modified slightly for easier pronunciation.

These pronunciation features allow English words to enter the Arabic language more naturally than if they stood out as “foreign words.” Gulf Arabic speakers, in particular, feel quite at home using the following words.

  • شَيِّك (chayek) – “review” 

Note that this first one does not mean “check a box.” It only means to look something over for mistakes or suggestions.

  • أَكَنسِل (akansal) – “cancel” 

It’s possible to use this word as an equivalent to the English “to close a program.”

  • أَفَرمَت (afarmat) – “format” 
  • أَدَلِّت (adallet) – “delete” 

Next, the words “creative,” “confirm,” and “focus” are frequently used in business Arabic—to such an extent that foreign learners can become frustrated at the lack of pure Arabic they get to hear! Here are two example phrases:

First is an example of how “creative” would be used in Egyptian Arabic.

الديزاينَر الجِديد كِريِيتيف أَوِي.
el-dīzāynar el-gedīd keryeītīv ʾawī.
The new designer is so creative.

Here is an example of what would be said in a small conversation in an office in Gulf Arabic:

رَح نِنشُر التَحديث بَعدما يِشَيِّكو المُدير.
raḥ nenšor el-taḥdīs baʿdmā yešayyeko el-modīr.
We will publish the update after the manager checks it.

How to Pronounce Brand Names in Arabic

A Sketch of the Facebook Logo

In addition to loanwords, branding often undergoes serious translation and localization as well. Localization as a trend—and even as an academic field—has never been more popular than it is today. More and more brands want to connect with the world on the other side of language barriers.

Many brands have been localized into Arabic with expert logo designers creating great-looking Arabic versions of well-loved logos. Naturally, when people read these words aloud, they’re going to pronounce them in Arabic, which may be odd to hear if you’re only used to the originals.

One of the classic examples of this is “Pepsi.” The Arabic language doesn’t have an aspirated P sound like English does, so this is actually pronounced bebsi in Arabic. If you’re speaking fluent Arabic and you pronounce this word with the original English pronunciation in the middle of a sentence, it may be a bit jarring or sound like you’re being overly correct!

Here are some other examples of Arabic pronunciations of foreign brand names:

McDonald’s
ماكدونالدز
makdonaldz

Olympics
الأولِمبياد
al-olimbiyyad

Facebook
فيسبوك
feisbuk

iPhone
آيفون
ʾāyfūn

In the 1980s and 1990s, it was pretty rare in big metropolitan areas to see an Arabic name for a new and “modern” business, but now there’s a trend toward Arabization of business names. Picking a business name in Arabic is a big deal for companies that want to go global but still want to retain something that speaks to their mother tongue. As Arabic popular culture takes greater hold on the world, the Arabic language is becoming more accessible and will hopefully be even trendier in the future.

Arabic Words in English

Complicated Algebra Equations Written in Blue Pen

Loanwords don’t only flow one direction, you know. And Arabic has had a huge start on English in that regard.

Most Arabic loanwords in English are totally integrated into the language, since they were adopted many centuries ago and have undergone the same vowel shifts and usage changes as native English words have.

One such word is “cotton,” originally from the Arabic word qutun, which was brought to England around the time of the Crusades. Later on, during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the words “algebra” and “algorithm” entered the English language. Their al­- prefix gives them away as Arabic words at first sight. Another example is “elixir,” from the Arabic word al-iksir, which has undergone one of those vowel changes we mentioned.

Words related to Islam and food are among the most common Arabic words used in English today. These include hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), fatwa (religious decree), Fattoush (Levantine salad), and falafel (balls made of chickpeas).

Outro  

When it comes to something as slippery as loanwords, it’s hard to really sit down and study vocabulary.

Sure, you can read articles like this one to get an overview, but it mostly has to come with time. After all, what’s in vogue now may not be nearly as popular in the future.

For that reason, the best way to pick up natural use of English loanwords in Arabic is to have a good understanding of standard Arabic first. Only then should you branch out into consuming more songs, TV, and movies that have more colloquial Arabic in them (complete with loanwords).

And the best way to get this solid knowledge base is to use ArabicPod101, the world-famous podcast-based Arabic course! We’ll lead you step by step from basic to advanced Arabic with vocab lists, flashcards, video lessons, and more, including interesting cultural articles like this one. Sign up now and see just how natural your Arabic can get with ArabicPod101!

Which of these English words in Arabic were you the most surprised to find out about? Are there any we didn’t mention that you think your fellow learners should know about? Let us know in the comments!

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Egyptian Mother’s Day: From Deities to Mortals

Considering the fact that Mother’s Day likely arose from deity worship in Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, it should come as no surprise that we have one day a year where we pamper our mothers. 

In this article, you’ll learn about Mother’s Day in Egypt and how this tradition got its start in modern-day Arab countries. Let’s get started.

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1. What is Mother’s Day?


Two Children Kissing Their Other on the Cheek

Odds are, you’re already familiar with the concept of عيد الأم (ʿiyd al-ʾum), or Mother’s Day—this holiday is widespread, celebrated in numerous countries around the world. While exact traditions and connotations may vary from one culture to another, one thing remains constant: Mother’s Day is a time to honor and show appreciation for one’s mother. But do you know the origins of this holiday?

Mother’s Day in Ancient Egypt

Deity worship played a major role in Ancient Egypt, with royalty and common folk alike worshipping a plethora of gods and goddesses. Many of the goddesses were viewed as Egyptian symbols for motherhood, femininity, sexuality, life, and even death—for this reason, women who wanted children would often pray to their goddess (or goddesses) of choice for their blessing and the general population would present offerings at their temples on a regular basis. Two of the most popular goddesses throughout Ancient Egypt were Isis and Hathor, both of whom had festivals held in their honor. Many believe these festivals to have been the precursor of Mother’s Day celebrations.

The worship of these goddesses died down over time, and people began to transfer their adoration and respect toward their own mothers. However, the idea of an official Mother’s Day in Egypt did not grow popular until 1943, when an Egyptian journalist named Mustafa Amin brought it up in his book Smiling America. The idea was largely rejected until 1956, when Mother’s Day was officially made a holiday. Keep reading to learn what prompted this change!

Today, Mother’s Day in the Arab world takes place on March 21 to correspond with the first day of spring. 


2. Mother’s Day Celebrations in Egypt

Chocolate Squares

In Egypt, Mother’s Day is celebrated much like it is in the rest of the world. Younger children often present their mothers with a gift of some sort, either handmade or bought from a store. Common Mother’s Day gifts in Egypt include flowers, cards, and شوكولاتة (šūkūlātah), or “chocolate.” Grown children are encouraged to go and visit their mother on this day, sometimes with gifts and other times just to catch up. 

It’s not uncommon for schools to hold a special إحتفال (ʾiḥtifal), or “celebration,” to honor mothers. During these events, the children perform songs dedicated to the topic of mothers.

But the celebration doesn’t end with one’s own أم (ʾum), or “mother”! It’s common for children to give cards or other gifts to their female teachers or other prominent female figures in their lives. In addition, some people choose to brighten the day for those women who either don’t have children or whose children have neglected them. They do this by visiting their homes and giving gifts, just like they would for their own mother. 

Because of the focus on gift-giving, the streets of Egypt—and, in fact, those of most Middle Eastern countries—are filled with flower boutiques, confectionery shops, and other places where you can go to purchase nice gifts for your mother. 

3. From Idea to Implementation: The Backstory

As mentioned, Egyptian Mother’s Day was first introduced by the journalist Mustafa Amin but was largely rejected for over a decade. Do you know what prompted people to begin taking it seriously? 

Not too long after the publishing of his book Smiling America, Mustafa Amin heard a real-life story of a إبن (ʾibn), or “son,” who left his devoted mother all alone and rarely visited after getting married. The mother’s heart was completely broken because she had given everything for him. Saddened by the story, Amin worked even harder to popularize his idea of Mother’s Day. Because he was so driven, he was able to change people’s minds and the holiday was implemented in 1956.


4. Essential Mother’s Day Vocabulary

A Single Red Rose

Whether you’re trying to impress an Arabic-speaking mother-in-law or just want to add some new words to your arsonal, here’s some Arabic Mother’s Day vocabulary you should memorize!

  • عشاء (ʿašāʾ) – “dinner” [noun, masculine]
  • الأحد (al-ʾaḥad) – “Sunday” [noun, masculine]
  • ابنه (ibnah) – “daughter” [noun, feminine]
  • إبن (ʾibn) – “son” [noun, masculine]
  • وردة (warda) – “rose” [noun, feminine]
  • شوكولاتة (šūkūlātah) – “chocolate” [noun, feminine]
  • يحب (yuḥib) – “love” [verb, masculine]
  • أم (ʾum) – “mother” [noun, feminine]
  • هدية (hedeyyah) – “present” [noun, feminine]
  • عيد الأم (ʿiyd al-ʾum) – “Mother’s Day” [noun, masculine]
  • يحتفل (yaḥtafil) – “celebrate” [verb]
  • حب (ḥub) – “love” [noun, masculine]
  • فطور في السرير (fuṭūr fī al-sarīr) – “breakfast in bed” [phrase, masculine]
  • كارت عيد الأم (kārt ʿīd al-ʾum) – “Mother’s Day greeting card” [noun, masculine]
  • إحتفال (ʾiḥtifal) – “celebration” [noun, masculine]

To hear and practice the pronunciation of each word, please visit our Mother’s Day vocabulary list

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about Arab Mother’s Day traditions and the history behind this worldwide-famous holiday. How do you celebrate Mother’s Day? 

If you would like to continue delving into Arab culture and holidays, we recommend the following pages on ArabicPod101.com:

Whether you have an Arabic-speaking mother-in-law you need to impress or you just enjoy learning about languages and cultures, know that ArabicPod101.com can help you reach your goals. On our website, you’ll find tons of fun and useful lessons, vocabulary lists, and blog posts just like this one. Create your free lifetime account today and start learning Arabic like never before!

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The Top Arabic Quotes to Impress Arabic Speakers

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Arabic is a language of learning and a language of the learned. 

For centuries, Modern Standard Arabic has been used by the greatest thinkers of the Middle East and North Africa to write novels, essays, plays, and speeches of the highest quality. 

When you have a language with such a powerful literary history as Arabic at your fingertips, you want your own Arabic to measure up. But it can be a little difficult if you’re only starting out. In fact, it can be difficult even if you’ve been working on Arabic for a while!

Arabic quotes and sayings can be a great way to remedy this, providing you with cultural insight and more opportunities for growth. The ones we’ve compiled here are ideal for more formal situations, where you need to borrow someone else’s words to spice up your own. Many of them come from famous people, some are translations of well-known foreign quotes, and others are as old as the language itself.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. Quotes About Success
  2. Quotes About Life
  3. Quotes About Happiness
  4. Quotes About Patience
  5. Quotes About Family
  6. Quotes About Friendship
  7. Quotes About Food
  8. Quotes About Health
  9. Quotes About Language Learning
  10. Conclusion

1. Quotes About Success

We’ll start our list with a couple of quotes in Arabic about being successful. These actually speak for themselves without using much flowery language. 

الأَفعالُ أَبلَغُ مِن الأَقوَال.
al-ʾafʿalu ʾablaġu min al-ʾaqwal.
“Promises should be backed by actions.”

This is a classic quote of leadership, and it’s well-known all across the Arab world. In more colloquial English, this would be the equivalent of: “Actions speak louder than words.”

إنَّ مَفاتيحَ الأمورِ العَزائِم.
ʾinna mafātīḥa al-ʾumūri al-ʿazāʾim.
“The key to all things is determination.”

In this quote, the word mafātīḥ literally means “keys.” As you can see, the metaphor holds up in both English and Arabic. Another useful word is ʾumūr, meaning “matters” and coming from the root ‘-m-r (having to do with commanding or instructing).


2. Quotes About Life

A Ship in the Aegean Sea

The following Arabic quotes about life shed light on important truths concerning the world we live in. 

الإسكافي حافي و الحايِك عِريَان.
al-ʾiskāfī ḥāfī wa al-ḥāyik ʿiryan.
“The shoemaker is barefoot and the weaver is naked.”

This quote exists in many languages, even though the English version “the shoemaker’s children go barefoot” isn’t used very often. It’s used to describe a situation where someone doesn’t pay attention to the things nearest them. It’s understandable, though—who wants to work all day at a workbench and then come home to make shoes again in their free time? 

عُصفورٌ في اليَد خَيرٌ مِن عَشَرَة عَلى الشَجَرَة.
ʿuṣfūrun fī al-yad ḫaīrun min ʿašarah ʿalā al-šaǧarah.
“A bird in your hand is better than ten on the tree.”

This quote is pretty similar to its English equivalent: “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.” The minor difference is in the number of birds.

تَجري الرِياحُ بِما لا تَشتَهي السُفُن.
taǧrī al-riīāḥu bimā lā taštahī al-sufun.
“Winds blow counter to what ships want.”

The word rih (“wind”) is an ancient Semitic word with cognates in both Hebrew and Aramaic. Appropriately, this quote is attributed to Al-Mutanabbi (المتنبي), an enormously famous and successful tenth-century poet who lived in what is now Iraq. The quote basically means that you can’t always get what you want.

3. Quotes About Happiness

Feeling down? Read through these two Arabic quotes about joy and happiness. 

وَمَن يَتَهَيَّب صُعودَ الجِبال يَعِش أَبَدَ الدَهرِ بَيْنَ الحُفَرِ.
waman yatahayyab ṣuʿūda al-ǧibal- yaʿiš ʾabada al-dahri bayna al-ḥufari.
“He who is scared of climbing mountains lives among hills forever.”

This quote means that if you never challenge yourself, you never expand your own horizons. By never leaving your hills, you never get to discover the beauty of the mountains.

اِتَّقِ شَرَّ الحَليمِ إذا غَضِب.
ittaqi šarra al-ḥalīmi ʾiḏā ġaḍib.
“Beware the level-headed (calm/patient) person if they get angry.”

This quote is useful advice, but if you say it when you get angry, you’ll come off as pretty threatening—it’s better to just turn the other cheek.


4. Quotes About Patience

A Woman Doing Yoga at Sunset

Here are a couple of Arabic quotes on patience that shed light on the benefits of waiting with a calm attitude. 

إن غَداً لِناظِرِهِ قَريب.
ʾinna ġadan lināẓirihi qarīb.
“Tomorrow is nearby if one has patience.”

The word “patience” doesn’t actually appear in this quote; instead, it means something like “tomorrow is in sight.” Use this quote at the end of a long day when you’re nearly finished with what you have to do.

اِصبِر تَنُل.
iṣbir tanul.
“Be patient (and you’ll reach your goal).”

On the surface, these two words are just “have patience.” However, this is actually a well-known set phrase of a quote that can be found on tons of Arabic Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media posts. 

5. Quotes About Family

Family is extremely important in Arab culture, and the relationship between parents and children is often much more conservative than what’s expected in the West. Check out these Arabic quotes about family to gain some cultural perspective on the topic!

ابنك هو وزغير ربّيه وهو وكبير خاويه
Ibnak hwa zghir rabih, whwa kbir khaawih.
“Discipline your son when he’s young, and be his friend when he grows up.”

This quote reflects the perspective of many parents. You should guide and correct your child, but when they become an adult, you can treat them as equals.

طب الجرة ع تمّها بتطلع البنت لإمّها
Tob aljara eala tamha, btitlaea lbint la’imha.
“Turn over the jar, and the daughter comes out like her mother.”

In English, we tend to say “like father, like son,” but this quote from Egypt gets the same meaning across when used for women. 


6. Quotes About Friendship

Two Friends Walking in the Dark

Friends are one of life’s greatest joys and necessities. Read these Arabic quotes about friendship to see how friends are perceived in Arab culture.

إذا كان حبيبك عسل ما تلحسوش كله
Idha kan habibak easal matlahsush kolo.
“Even if friends are honey, don’t lick them all up.”

This is a nice twist on classic sentiments about how friends are valuable/golden/etc. Even if that’s the case, don’t take advantage of your friends—if you do, you’ll have no “honey” left!

المشي مع صديق في الظلام أفضل من المشي وحيداً في الضوء. 
Almashyo maea sadiqi fi dhalam afdali min almashyi wahidan fi daw’.
“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

This poetic quote shows us that friends are valuable in dangerous or worrisome situations. In addition, even during happy times, it’s always better to have a friend by your side than to be alone.


7. Quotes About Food

Some Beans

Who doesn’t love to sit down and enjoy some good food now and then? Here are a couple of unique Arabic quotes that touch on the topic of food.

أَقلِل طَعامَك تَجِد مَنامَك.
ʾaqlil ṭaʿāmak taǧid manāmak.
“Eat less food and you’ll get more sleep.”

You might be a little surprised to see this quote, as stereotypes would certainly dictate that you eat as much delicious Arab food as possible. However, everyone knows it’s rough to sleep on a full stomach: life needs balance.

ما تقول فول لَيْصير بِالمَكيُول.
mā tqūl fūl layṣīr bilmakyūl.
“Don’t say ‘beans’ until they are on the measuring scale.”

In this vegetarian alternative to “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched,” you’re once again at a marketplace. Imagine somebody asks “What are you buying?” Even if you fully intend to buy fawal (“beans”), you don’t actually have any beans until they’re being measured out to you. 

8. Quotes About Health

A Sick Girl Wrapped in a Blanket

One should always prioritize their health, as good health is mandatory in completing other important goals. 

الصِحَّة تاجٌ عَلى رُؤوس الأَصِحّاء لا يَراهُ إلّا المَرضى.
al-ṣiḥḥah tāǧun ʿalā ruʾūs al-ʾaṣiḥḥāʾ lā yarāhu ʾillā al-marḍā.
“Good health is a crown worn by the healthy that only the ill can see.”

We normally think about being healthy as the default state, but from the perspective of a sick person, health is as far away as being a king seems to a poor person.

اِللي عَلى راسُه بَطحَة يِحَسِّس عَليها.
illī ʿalā rāsuh baṭḥah yiḥassis ʿalīhā.
“Whoever has a head-wound keeps feeling it.”

Hopefully you haven’t got any head-wounds to verify whether this quote is true or not! This somewhat gruesome quote is attributed to Egyptian Arabic, so you may not run into it in other countries. Imagine that you’ve got a bunch of soldiers lined up and you want to test who is the toughest. Well, if one of them has a wound, they’ll probably keep inadvertently cradling it. For this reason, the quote means: “A guilty person always gives themself away.”

9. Quotes About Language Learning

To close, here are three quotes about language learning. Successfully learning a language is a serious challenge that can teach you about life, so you’ll find that these are also pretty inspiring quotes in general.

لُغَةٌ جَديدَة هِيَ حَياةٌ جَديدَة. 
luġaẗun ǧadīdah hiya ḥaīāẗun ǧadīdah.
“A new language is a new life.”

الرَجُل اَلَّذي يَعرِف لُغَتَيْن يُساوِي رَجُلَين. 
al-raǧul allaḏī yaʿrif luġatayn yusāwi raǧulaīn.
“A man that knows two languages is as good as two men.”

مَعرِفَةُ اللُغات مَدخَل إلى الحِكمَة. 
maʿrifaẗu al-luġāt madḫal ʾilā al-ḥikmah.
“Knowledge of languages is the doorway to wisdom.”


10. Conclusion

You can’t really grasp the entirety of Arabic literary culture through just a handful of quotes—but you can get a nice glance of the surface. 

In choosing to learn Arabic, you’ve decided to go beyond what a lot of people are willing to do, and the reward for that is pretty hefty.

Now, as for the rest of the language…

Several of these quotes come directly from ArabicPod101 lessons, and that’s not all the site has to offer. With articles, videos, and the famous podcast, you’ll be well-equipped to build the foundations you need to master the Arabic language. 

Which Arabic quote was your favorite, and why? Let us (and your fellow Arabic-learners) know in the comments!

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Is Arabic Hard to Learn? Yes and No.

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“You’re learning Arabic? Wow, I could never do that!”

You’ve probably heard that sentiment, or something like it, dozens of times. Or perhaps you’ve become intimidated hearing it said to other people. 

For English-speakers, Arabic has a reputation for being an incredibly tough language to learn. Nobody offers Arabic classes in middle school, and nobody talks about picking up Arabic from watching cartoons.

But does Arabic deserve such a reputation? Is Arabic hard to learn? Could it be that there’s more to a language than its perceived difficulty? Let’s find out!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Arabic Table of Contents
  1. Is Arabic Really the Hardest Language?
  2. Why Arabic is Hard to Learn
  3. Why Arabic is Easier Than You Think
  4. What Every New Arabic Learner Should Know
  5. How to Start Learning Arabic
  6. What ArabicPod101 Can Do for You
  7. Conclusion

1. Is Arabic Really the Hardest Language?

A Boy Listening to Music After Getting a Good Grade

The United States government seems to think so.

The Department of State in the U.S. has spent decades teaching languages to people who want to go abroad and serve in the military or as part of the diplomatic corps. According to them, it takes the average motivated learner about eighty-eight weeks of full-time study to become proficient in Modern Standard Arabic.

That’s on the same level as Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean—languages which are also famous for not being a walk in the park.

And when you consider that you might not be quite as motivated as a future diplomat, nor have the resources available to you to study full-time, you might start to get a little worried about your chances.

There’s one more thing that should give you pause. Think about how many Arabic language classes there are available to you, compared to language classes for other, “easier” languages. If Arabic were easier, wouldn’t more people be studying it?

But wait—if Arabic is so hard, how come it’s one of the most-spoken languages on the planet? How come you can go to a mosque in practically any city in the world and find people who can comfortably explain what Classical Arabic scripture means?

As it turns out, the Arabic language is hard in some areas, but it has some easy parts too, which balance out the load. 

2. Why Arabic is Hard to Learn

A Kid Stressed Out with His Homework

First, though, some details on why Arabic has its reputation.

The first impression that most people have is that Arabic sounds hard. For people used to the consonant-vowel rhythm of Spanish or Japanese, the numerous consonant clusters and rare sounds in Arabic can cause learning difficulty.

Arabic has some “pharyngeal” consonants that are literally made by constricting the throat. Now, it’s important to note that there’s nothing inherently difficult about sounds made from the throat—little children who grow up speaking Arabic do it all the time.

But you probably aren’t used to it if you grew up with a European or East Asian linguistic background (though Danish does actually have some pharyngeal sounds). That means it takes some serious conditioning to make these sounds in isolation, and even more to speak fluently with these sounds in the middle of words.

Another thing that makes the Arabic language hard to learn is the case system.

Cases are word endings that give additional information about which words in the sentence are the subjects, objects, and direct objects. This information is invisible in English, but it’s clear in languages with cases.

For instance, look at these simple sentences:

“The house is hot.”
البَيْتُ جَميل.
al-baytu ǧamīl.

“I entered the house now.”
دَخَلتُ البَيتَ الآن.
daḫaltu al-bayta al-ʾān.

As you can see, the word البيت (al-bayt), meaning “house,” changes in the second sentence because it’s the direct object, as opposed to the first sentence where it was the subject. Modern Standard Arabic-learners have to remember these changes for every noun and adjective—and for both genders!

If all of this has been putting you off, don’t run away just yet. It’s not all bad news when it comes to learning Arabic! 

3. Why Arabic is Easier Than You Think

A Woman All Finished with Her Homework

Fortunately, there are definitely some parts of Arabic that are easier to learn than others.

Chief among these is probably the loanwords. In today’s Arabic-speaking world, there’s nobody going around saying that you absolutely must use pure Arabic vocabulary dating back centuries. Take a look at any of the Arabic vocabulary lists floating around, and you’ll see plenty of loanwords, like al-intarnet for “Internet.”

There are also dozens upon dozens of Arabic words that you already know, thanks to language transfer happening in the opposite direction.

Words like سبانخ (sabanekh), or “spinach,” and مطرح (matrah), or “mattress,” have changed over the centuries, but they’re just a few examples of the rich vocabulary brought to Europe from the Middle East.

Another pretty cool thing about learning Arabic is the triliteral root system. Most everybody who’s thought about learning Arabic has heard of how words tend to be formed with three (sometimes up to four or five) consonants, which then stay consistent as vowels and consonants are added in-between the root letters to make other words.

It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you fully understand the system, you’ll see that there’s actually a lot of value in it.

Take a word like ‘-l-m, which has to do with “knowing.” You could learn the words ‘alima (“to know”) and ‘allama (“to teach”) as separate words, but that might be pretty confusing.

However, the consonant being doubled is actually a pattern (called the second form), and it refers to causation and verb transitivity. Teaching is “causing to know,” and that pattern will hold true for tons of other Arabic verbs! 

4. What Every New Arabic Learner Should Know

Casablanca in Morocco

The big question for most Arabic learners is “MSA or dialect?”

That’s because there are many, many articles out there with strong opinions on one side of the debate or the other.

People just learning Arabic should be aware of the fact that Modern Standard Arabic isn’t used day-to-day in Arabic-speaking countries. It’s considered the formal language appropriate for writing and news broadcasts, not for chatting with others.

On the other hand, it’s tough to find good, comprehensive resources for the dialects of Arabic that are actually spoken everywhere in the Middle East and North Africa.

For that reason, ArabicPod101 focuses on both Modern Standard Arabic and spoken dialects of Arabic. This allows you to have a strong base, but also be able to communicate with locals in a natural spoken dialect.

MSA is much more difficult than any dialect, by the way. A lot of grammatical features (such as the cases) have been simplified considerably in actual spoken dialects.

You won’t need to actually speak or write MSA unless you find yourself taking a job in Arabic media, or if you really want to make an impression of formality.

So don’t worry about learning how to produce the complexities of MSA that you see. You’ve just got to be able to understand them. 

5. How to Start Learning Arabic

A Man Listening to Music with Headphones

Given the difficult sounds that exist in the Arabic language, you should definitely focus on pronunciation first.

If you can’t correctly hear and produce each sound, then you’ll go through your whole Arabic career with two big problems—you’ll have a heavy accent and you’ll have a really hard time telling similar words apart.

Next, use a good course like ArabicPod101 to guide you through the process of slowly building up your vocabulary and learning to understand the nuances of grammar.

At the same time, make sure to listen to a lot of Arabic through kids’ shows and news broadcasts. It’s totally fine if you don’t understand everything at first, because you’ll notice yourself starting to understand more and more over time. 

6. What ArabicPod101 Can Do for You

ArabicPod101 has a huge library of content in excellent MSA. A typical lesson breaks down a conversational topic and introduces a new grammar point as well as a little bit of new vocabulary.

In the supplemental materials, you’ll see related vocabulary with a romanization and a recording of a native speaker pronouncing the word. Once you’ve created an account, you can add these to your flashcards and review them at any time.

This way, when you come across a troublesome word in your daily Arabic study, you can look it up on ArabicPod101 and see if there’s an article or podcast episode about it for you to review.

By the way, there’s a great resource you can take advantage of right now: the ArabicPod101 YouTube channel! Of particular value are the listening comprehension videos, where you can follow along with English, Arabic, and romanized subtitles. 

7. Conclusion

In the end, you’ll find that thinking of Arabic as easy or hard has to do with perspective.

Languages aren’t really learned. They’re acquired.

Sure, a language like Modern Standard Arabic, with its relatively artificial grammar, does have some elements that need to be “learned,” but you can also just lay back and let the language come to you.

Languages are only “easy” or “hard” when you put a time limit on yourself to try learning them. If you want to be speaking Arabic fluently within six months, you’ll find it much harder than if you just enjoy your progress and keep your expectations managed.

And if you have the help of a great learning aid like ArabicPod101, you’ll be well-equipped to make that a fun-filled journey. 

What things in Arabic do you struggle with the most? Which parts are easier for you? Let us, and your fellow Arabic-learners, know in the comments!

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