Introduction to Levantine Arabic

Levantine Arabic is spoken in the Levant region which is composed of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan. The dialect isn't as different from Egyptian as it is from, say, Iraqi or Gulf Arabic. A few important facts about the Levantine dialect are,
  1. Levantine Arabic changes the ق to a ء in most words.
  2. ة is changed to ي in most words.
  3. The word عم adds -ing to the verb after it.
  4. The letter ب is added before present tense verbs in most cases. This basically just makes the words flow together better.

Here's a list of some high frequency words in the Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian, and Palestinian dialects. Since it's really not very helpful to just see a list an not know exactly how to pronounce the words I've made a video of the correct pronunciations of the words along with sentences to show their uses in context.

  • What - ايش/شو
شو بدك؟ - What do you want?
ايش عم بيصير؟ - What's going on?
  • Where - وين
لوين رايح - Where are you going? (said to a male)
  • Why - ليش
ليش ما بترد على جوالك؟ - Why don't you answer your cellphone?
  • When - إمتى
إمتى رح ترجع من شغلتك؟ - When are you returning from your job? (basically, when are you coming home from work)
  • Who - مين
مع مين عم تحكي - Who are you talking with?
  • How - شلون/كِيف
كيف الأجوا الرمضانية - How is the Ramadan atmosphere?
  • How much - قًدّيش
قديش الساعة؟ - What time is it?
  • Now - هَلّق
هلق انا صرت جاهز - Now I'm ready. (literally, now I've become ready)
  • Good - مْنيح
الجو اليوم مش منيح - The weather today is not good.
  • Tomorrow - بُكْرة
بكرة رح بتشوفيني - Tomorrow you will see me. (said to a female)
  • Yesterday - مْبارِح
وَصَلْتْ مبارح - I arrived yesterday
  • Also - كمان
و شو كمان؟ - And what else?
  • Only - بَس
بس بدي اشرب الحليب - I only want to drink milk.
  • But - بَس
بس ما عرفت إسمه - But I didn't know his name.
  • Not - مش
شكلها مش بطال - She doesn't look bad. (مش بطال means "not bad")
  • Still - لسة
لسة عم ببرم عليه - I'm still looking for him
  • Outside - بَرّا
برا البيت - Outside the house
  • Inside - جوّا
جوا قلبي - Inside my heart
  • With - مع/وَيّا
عم بحكي وياهن - I'm talking with them.
  • Which/Who - إللي/يللي
يللي بيلبس القميص الأصفر - The one who is wearing the yellow shirt.
  • To be able to - فيّ
ما في اركض بسرعة - I can't run fast.
  • In order to/for/because of - عَشان
عشان خاطري فكري شوي - for my sake think a little bit
  • After that - بَعْدين
رح أروح لعند الحكيم و بعدين رح أرجع لعندك - I'm going to go to the doctor and after that I will return to your place. (عند means the "house" or "place of" in this case. حكيم in MSA means "wise man", but in Levantine it means "doctor".)


Anonymous said...

This was very helpful. Would you be willing to write somethig out for me and show me how to say it??

Helio said...

Thank you, this an awesome lesson, very well structured & pronunciated.

Your blog was very helpful in making my own blog in spanish

Aaron said...

This is a great post! Thanks a lot for putting the video, too.

Anonymous said...

I've been using this vocab list quite a bit. So thanks!

Anonymous said...

wow this is soo help ful!! shukran ya habibi!! wallah

Anonymous said...

Thank you SO much for this...keep up the good work dude!

zak said...

well done dude, your blog is fantastic, an inspiration. keep it up!!!!

Anonymous said...

Excellent job. Keep it up my friend.


Anonymous said...

I lived in Palestine for a few months, but I only had MSA resources. NOW it all makes sense!!!! This is GREAT!

Anonymous said...

You're accent is amazing.. its a mixture of Lebanese, Jordanian, and Syrian all at the same time!
Absolutely amazing video! I'm actually arabic, and the words and context you put them in is perfect !

Swabe3 said...

انت بتحكي منيح كثير

Kevin said...

I wish there was a way to follow you, i can't find one. I loved this post tho! I'm going to lebanon this summer, and this will help out a lot!

İstanbullu İngiliz said...

Man, you're a lifesaver!

I spent a year around Lebanese in London. I'm now in Turkey so I don't get to use my Arabic much but I don't want to let it die. I don't care much for theoreticals, I only care about MSA insofar as I'm gonna need it, and in my heart I know Lebanese is the only one for me :)

It took me that year in London to realise that as a foreigner you have to approach written and spoken Arabic as two different languages. (They're further apart than Azeri and Turkish, for instance, and nobody questions that they're separate languages.) Problem being that most Arabs don't realise this and there's a dearth of materials for spoken Arabic.

When I watched this lesson, I felt like somebody took the blindfold off my eyes. So many words from that year in London!

وَيّا (the books only ever tell you مع)

بَرّا and جوّا instead of the "dahil" and "hariç" I'd always been using because they're the same as in Turkish.




So familiar and yet a mystery to me until now...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

C said...

I know other people have commented on your accent, but i feel the need to throw in my two cents. It. Is. Fantastic. I know a lot of people who have studied Arabic or other languages and they don't even come close to having a natural accent or fluency, even after years of exposure. As someone who genuinely loves foreign languages and cannot get enough of them, i have a very deep appreciation of your accent and flow because both feel far more natural than what i typically hear from Americans.

So long story short- kudos to you. I'm really glad i stumbled upon your blog. It's made my day.

Anonymous said...

Thx for what you are doing. It's great!

There was once a radio show in Syria about a married couple Abdurrahman and Hadiya and I have got a few episodes from it. They are funny though I don't understand half of what they say. Would you be interested in making a couple of lessons on it? I could send the files over to you. My email

Anonymous said...

I posted just 1 episode of that Syrian show. Plz check it out and let me know if you are interested in the other episodes. There are only 21 of them.

Anonymous said...

Someone asked what RAH meant. It's the future tense marker. So RAH ROH means "I will go."

Pimselur uses HA instead of RAH, but a SYrian friend of mind tells me that HA is antiquated.

dktreesea said...

Nice accent. And thanks for making such a good effort.

Anonymous said...

You're awesome! Can you get/do you already have a podcast or something?

Either way super excited about ur vids shuks!

Anonymous said...

Can you discuss the substitution of numbers in texts for arabic letters? e.g. 3 is ayn, 7 is Hah...I haven't figured them all out yet : )

By the way thank you so much for this, you have no idea just how valuable this blog is. My knowledge of MSA has not prepared me for trying to understand dialect and your site is SOOOO helpful

The Arabic Student said...

Here's a post about the numbers being used as letters:

Unknown said...

I'm new here. Thanks loads, you have a great site. I'm interested to know how you went about learning the language, and why.

Unknown said...

Salem wa alakyam,
I am from yemen, and yeah gulf Arabic and Levantine do share some word's which includes the Levantine Arabic words/phrases that you know and have taught. I do acknowledge that there a small to big differences in them.

Naama said...

Doesn't في also mean "have"?

Anonymous said...

Super awesome lessons. Thanks a million. I'm in Jordan right now and wanted to mention something about using ق. Women say "adesh," but men usually change the letter to a "G" sound and say "gadesh," and still don't pronounce the letter like in fos-ha, unless I misheard you. But all Syrians seems to change the letter to aleph or hamza and say adesh.

Anonymous said...

I came across the word ودي which i think is levantine, can anyone tell me what it means?

Anonymous said...

"waddi" means "I want" (literally "my desire") in more eastern and southern Arabics. It is the equivalent of Levantine "baddi/biddi" (which likewise are from bi-waddi, bi-widdi). waddi is the more eastern and southern Arabic dialects' way of expressing "uriid", but you've heard it in parts of Jordan or Syria where the badawi blends into the shami.

dannypanzer said...

Excellent post and I want to echo previous commenters' compliments on your accent. Having studied Levantine for a while now I would just point out a few finer points where the accents differ a bit across the region:

1) "want" is sometimes "badd" + pronoun as you explained, but equally if not more frequently it is "bedd-" or "bidd-"

2) 1st and 2nd person singular past tense markers are very often pronounced with a bit of a schwa instead of a sukkun, which also has the effect of shortening the first vowel. So whereas you might say "katabt" many Levantine natives would say something that sounds a lot more like "ktabit". Or "3araft" vs "3rifit"

3) the pronunciation of taa marbuta varies by 2 factors:
a) in some dialects as you noted the change is to "eh" in place of "ah" but in Palestinian quite often you will hear a long "ee" vowel, so newspaper will become "jreedee", strange as that seems
b) even though the pronunciation changes to "eh" and "ee" in many words, there are still some words where the "ah" pronunciation is retained and this often is predictable based on the letter before the taa marbuta. for example, the emphatics usually retain "ah" as in "la76'ah" not "la76'eh".

Anonymous said...

First of all, your blog is awesome. I especially like your analysis of short video clips from real tv shows. This is so much fun after all the artifical dialogs from beginner books I went through.
I have a general question regarding the dialects:
If I watch an interview of a lebanese TV presenter with some Arab living outside of the Levantine area, what language/dialect would they usually speak?
I watched f.e. one video where the guy that was interviewed repeatedly said اتكلم. I thought this would be an MSA word?
If they speak MSA then I am wondering because some other online teacher tells us that learning MSA is not a good thing because nobody would speak it and it would sound like Shakespeare. But I can not imagine that TV interviews are hold in Shakespeare-like language??? Can you shed some light on this? Thanks in advance, Nicolas

Unknown said...

It can but not always. depends on the situation or how you use it. In dialect yes but in regular classical arabic it normally means "In".