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Lesson Transcript

ArabicPod101.com presents Arabic Survival Phrases. This course is designed to equip you with the language skills and knowledge to enable you to get the most out of your visit to Arabic speaking countries, with particular focus on Morocco. So join us for Arabic Survival phrases. You will be surprised at how far a little Arabic will go.
Now before we jump in, remember to stop by ArabicPod101.com, there you’ll find an accompanying PDF, additional learning tools in the premium learning center, and other great Arabic language learning materials. In addition, you’ll find more information in the post. And if you stop by, be sure to leave us a comment.

Lesson focus

Table manners are a must wherever you go. As you know, some things can be offensive in other cultures even if they’re totally okay back home. And Morocco is just one of those countries where most social life takes place around a meal or a cup of mint tea. So make sure you know your manners before you go!
In this lesson we’ll cover some basic table etiquette when sitting down for a meal in Morocco.
Before beginning a meal it is very polite to say “bismi llah” (بسم الله) which translates into “In the name of God.”
bismi llah
Let’s break it down by syllable: bismi llah
Now let's hear it once again: bismi llah
The first word, bism, means “In the name of.”
Let's hear it one more time: bismi
This is followed by llah, which in Arabic is “God.”
It’s actually the word “Allah” that we’re saying but because the word that precedes it “bismi” ends with the vowel “i”, we blend the sound “i” with the beginning sound “a” of Allah, which makes it sound “bismi llah” instead of “bismi Allah.”
So altogether, both words, bism allah, literally mean “In the name of God.”
You will hear this a lot because every Moroccans say it at the beginning of every meal. And don’t be shy about it. Say it loud, you’re supposed to be heard. It’ll prove to your host that you show great respect to their culture.
Now, if you’re eating with a group of people in Morocco, it is rude to start before anyone else. So, you want to wait for that “starting signal.” Your host will usually use “bismi llah” to mean “Let’s start eating.”
Now at the end of the meal, you always say “al-ḥamdu lilah” (الحمد الله) which means “Thanks to God.”
al-ḥamdu lilah
Let’s break it down: al-ḥamdu lilah
al-ḥamdu lilah
The first word, al-ḥamdu, means “Thankfulness.”
Let's break it down and hear it one more time: al-ḥamdu
This is followed by li, which in Arabic is “to.”
So far, we have al-ḥamdu li, which means “thanksfulness to.” This is followed by llah, which in Arabic is “God.”
Now again, we meant to say Allah but for the exact same reason as before, we can link the “i” sound of li with the “a” sound of Allah and that makes it sound: al-ḥamdu lilah
All together, the phrase literally means “thanks to God.”
Cultural Insights
Now, here is something you should know - a Moroccan will always insists that you eat more when you're finish; this is part of their generosity and hospitality. My own mom will insist you eat some more 6 or 7 times, at least, to make sure that you're really full. In such an act of generosity, you don't want to just keep saying “no” to your host; you can use the expression we’ve just learn, al-ḥamdu lilah, as often as you need. It's a polite way to say “no, thank you.”
And now, here’s something that is equally important to the phrase we learned above when it comes to table etiquette. In the traditional Moroccan setting, everybody uses their hands to eat from one large dish. So because you're eating from the same dish and everyone else, you want to make sure that your hands are clean. So rule number 1, ask to go wash your hands right before you eat. Rule number 2, when I say use your hand to eat, I didn't mean any hand, both hands, or all of your fingers; you always use your right hand even if you're left-handed. This is because Moroccans believe that the devil used his left hand to eat. Next, is to use the first segment of your thumb, index, and middle finger to grab food, and never the five fingers. Using all your five fingers or your palm is the grossest mistake you can ever make.


Okay, to close out today's lesson, we'd like for you to practice what you've just learned. I'll provide you with the English equivalent of the phrase and you're responsible for saying it aloud. You'll have a few seconds before I give you the answer, so حظ سعيد, that means "good luck" in Arabic.
Ok, here we go!
What you say before a meal - bismi llah
bismi llah
bismi llah
What you say after a meal - al-ḥamdu lilah
al-ḥamdu lilah
al-ḥamdu lilah
All right. This is going to do it for this lesson of Arabic Survival Phrases. Remember to stop by ArabicPod101.com. There you’ll find an accompanying PDF, additional learning tools in the premium learning center, and other great Arabic language learning materials. See you soon, which in Arabic is - ilā al-liqāʾ.

Review Track