How to say something in Arabic شي

Many times when someone finds out that you know a language other than English they'll ask you to say something in that language. Some people I know will do just that and say whatever "something" is in their language. It's a simple answer and avoids you having to think of a random sentence to say. And if you ask them, "What do you want me to say?" then they'll usually think of the most convoluted complex jargon for you to translate. When you can't translate it they'll say, "I thought you said you knew language x?" So instead of having to deal with all that, just say today's word of the day, "something", or in Arabic, شي.

Examples for context:

1. مشينا شي 20 متر (mshayna shi 'ashreen mitr) - We walked about 20 meters.
2. ما بدي شي منك (ma beddi shi minnak) - I don't want anything from you.


Arabic Word of the Day - low واطي

The word واطي is used to mean low literally and figuratively. You can call someone low (i.e. lowdown good for nothing snake in the grass) just like you would in English, or you can use it to mean something like "lower your voice". In MSA منخفض is used to mean low. واطي is specific to Levantine dialect and isn't used at all in MSA.

1. هو واحد واطي (huwwi waahid waati) - He is a lowdown good for nothing double crossing snake in the grass.
2. وطّي صوتك (watti sootak) - Lower your voice.

I also have a question for anyone who can answer it. There's a Jordanian song sung by احمد الدرايسة (Ahmad-Al-Draysseh) that says حيطنا مش واطي واحنا اردنية. Does anyone know what حيط is?


Word with a lot of meanings - طلع

In this video I try to give a few examples of the many ways the word طلع is used. For someone first starting to learn Levantine dialect it seems like this word can just be thrown anywhere and mean anything, but with enough exposure you start to learn situations where it is used. A lot of the time it just means 'go', but there are many other uses.
1. إطلع من وشي/راسي (itla' min wishi/raasi) - Get out of my face.
2. إطلع السيارة (itla' assayyaara) - Get in the car.
3. طلّع فيي (talla' fiyyi) - Look at me.
4. بنهاية المحكمة هي طلعت بريئة (binihaayat almahkama hiyi tala'it baree'a) - At the end of the trial she turned out innocent.


Trouble Arabs have when learning English

The comment that ragtag3333/Linguist made on The Hardest Part About Arabic post got me thinking about some of the difficulties that Arabic speakers have with English. Now I've never had to learn English and am not a native speaker of Arabic so I haven't had to go through what people find difficult in English. I do remember having trouble with knowing when to put 'b' or 'd' in a word when writing it. Something about the mirror image of the letters confused me as a kid. I would write something like 'sudway' instead of 'subway', but I think that's a problem most kids have. Spelling is definitely a big problem for learners of English as well as native English speakers. The fact the bomb, tomb, comb all end in 'omb' but don't rhyme is just one example of many that attests to how convoluted English spelling is.

A specific problem to native Arabic speakers that I've written about before is differentiating between 'p' and 'b'. Since Arabic has no 'p' sound Arab speakers will often say 'p' as 'b' like banda bear or bolice.
The difference between 'f' and 'v' also comes up because, again, there is no 'v' in Arabic. So you will hear many Arabs say 'fery' instead of 'very'. This isn't as widespread at the 'p' vs. 'b' thing though.

The fact that English has many vowel sounds while Arabic only has a few is another problem. The words 'pit', 'pet', 'put', 'pot', and 'pat' might be the hardest in the entire language for Arabic speakers to pronounce and recognize. Words that are only differentiated by their vowel sound are tough. I know a guy who couldn't hear the difference between 'bomb', 'pump', and 'bump'. The 'o' and 'u' sound were hard for him as well as the 'p' and 'b'. The difference between 'six' (6) and 'sex' also causes problems. The 'e' sound in 'sex' just isn't found in Arabic. Many will say 'sixy' instead of 'sexy'.

These mistakes don't cause too much difficulty in being understood though. As long as the word that is said incorrectly is in a sentence to give it context it's fine. However if someone just asks you what X means and they're saying it wrong (like asking what pit means when they actually are trying to ask what pet means), then you can run into problems.

What are some more difficulties people and especially Arabic speakers face in learning English?

How do you say Al Qaeda القاعدة ?

When the terrorist group "Al Qaeda" first became a household name no one knew how to pronounce its name. The same kind of thing happened with Osama and Usama. The second pronunciation is closer, but for some reason the first one stuck. Today on the news you'll hear mostly "al kayda". The news anchors will change the ق to a 'k' and the ع to a 'y'. This isn't really a problem though. In fact I actually view it as somewhat pretentious when someone switches to a foreign accent just to say one word, like when people say Pari instead of Paris when they are speaking English. So I don't hold it against people who pronounce this the American way, I just figured I'd make a video to show the correct way to say it because it is a confusing word when you read it in English.

Arabic Dialects - must لازم

The word لازم (lazim) is another essential Arabic dialect word. It means "must" or "has to". It's used in many (if not all) dialects, not just Levantine, and understood by everyone. It's also a very simple word to use since you don't have to worry about conjugating it. You just conjugate the verb that comes after it.

1. لازم تروح ع الجامعة (lazim trooh 'aljami'a) = you have to go to the university
2. لازم تفكّر في الموضوع قبل ما تاخذ قرار (lazim itfakkir filmowdoo' abl ma takhuth araar) = you have to think about the issue before you make a decision
3. بكرا هو لازم يشتغل (bukra huwi lazim yashtagil) = tomorrow he has to work

Levantine Arabic - to happen صار

The word صار is one of the most important words to understand in Levantine Arabic because it is used all the time. It's used in all the Levant countries, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine, but least used in Jordan. The word is used to mean "to happen" and also has to do with time in some sentences. The example sentences should clear up the word for you. You will also hear the form of this word صاير (saayir) for example in the sentence شو صاير which means the same thing as شو عم بيصير. It's present tense.

Example sentences:
1. شو عم بيصير = What's going on?
2. رح كون جمبك شو ما صار = I will be by your side no matter what happens.
3. قدي صارلك بلبنان؟ = How long have you been in Lebanon?
4. صارلك شهرين غايب عني = You've been away from me for 2 months.


Syrian Dialect - at all بنوب

This post/video is the beginning of a new thing that I'm starting, the Arabic Word of the Day. They aren't going to be every day, but when I do post them there will be a video and sample sentences that focus on 1 word or phrase. It might be in MSA or in a dialect. The Arabic word today is بنوب and it is specific to Syria. You may see it spelled "bnoob" or "bnobe" online. It means "at all". This isn't used in all Levantine dialects although it is widely understood due to Syrian TV shows. I was thinking about it after I finished the video and the word نهائياً can be used in place of بنوب in pretty much every case and it is used in Jordan and Lebanon and other places.

The sample sentences in the video are:
  1. ما بحب هالكلام منك بنوب (ma baheb halkalaam minak ibnoob) - I don't like that talk from you at all.
  2. هلق مو وقتها بنوب (hala' moo wa'ta bnoob) - Now is not the time for that at all.


Cursing in Arabic

This post is about all the bad words that you're unlikely to learn in a language class. You have to do the research on your own or have some Arab friends who will teach you. As far as I'm concerned words like this should be taught. You don't have to use them, but it's good to know them so that you at least have an idea of what people are saying either to you or just around you. This is a touchy subject when talking about the Arabic language specifically. I've noticed that many Arabs want everyone to think that Arabic is a modest and pure language. By many it is viewed as the language of God after all. So a lot of people take offense when words like this are taught. It's not like in English where no one really cares if swearing is taught to foreigners. I don't think Americans view it as blemishing our reputation if people know that there is profanity in English, but lots of Arabs take it personally. The truth is that every language on Earth has profanity. So, view this post as a purely academic endeavor.

First are some phrases you can say when someone wrongs you. For example, you're carrying something and someone bumps into you causing you to drop and break it. You can say these in response. They aren't considered vulgar and are very mild but still said when angry:

  • يقطع عمرك (yaqta' 'omrak) - May God kill you. (يقطع means "cut", and عمرك is "your life")
  • يخرب بيتك (yikhrib beytak) - May God destroy your house. (God is implied in this and the previous phrase)
  • الله لا يعطيك العافية (allah la ia'teek al'aafia) - May God not give you health. (I was in a restaurant in Amman and one waiter said this to another when his friend spilled a drink. He was joking, but it can be said in anger too. This is also said commonly without the negation. الله يعطيك العافية - God give you health.
  • العمى (al'ama) - Literally 'blindness'. It's used like 'damn'.
Next are the vulgar words that shouldn't be said around anyone:
  • كس (kis) - vagina
  • شرموطة (sharmoota) - whore (plural is شراميط shraameet)
  • زب (zib) - dick/cock (plural is زباب zbab)
  • بز (biz) - tit (pural is بزاز bzaz)
  • طيز (teez) - ass
  • عير ('ayr) - dick/cock (There's a funny video of a news anchor mistakenly saying صباح العير instead of صباح الخير , basically 'dick morning' instead of 'good morning'. Just type in صباح العير in You Tube.)
  • خرى (khara) - shit
How these are used in phrases:
  • كس اختك (kis ikhtak) - you're sister's vagina (like English 'fuck')
  • يا ابن الشرموطة (ya ibn asharmoota) - you son of a whore
  • مص زبي (mus zibbi) - suck my dick
  • الحس طيزي (ilhas teezi) - lick my ass
  • عيري فيك ('ayri feek) - my dick is in you
  • كل خرى (kul khara) - eat shit
This list doesn't not include all Arabic curse words. There are a lot more. This is just intended to give exposure to what's out there. There are some Disney videos here that are dubbed over with cursing that are actually pretty funny. If anyone can tell me what dialect that is I would be grateful. It sounds like a mix between Levantine and Gulf dialect because they use بدي for "I want" but the accent sounds like Gulf and they say ك as 'ch'.


Lebanese/Syrian Phrases

The shows I was watching when I came across these phrases are: Dunia (دنيا) and Bab al-Hara (باب الحارة). Both of those are Syrian and there is one phrase that is only used in Lebanon in the video. I don't remember what I was watching when I caught that one.

  • انت عم بتصف معها (Enta 'am bitsaf ma'a) - You're taking her side.
  • لساتك عم تتوحمي؟ (Lissaatik 'am tatwahhami?) - Are you still having cravings?
  • انا بحبها لندا (Ana bahiba lanada) - I love Nada. (Only used in Lebanon)
  • سلملي عليه (Sellimli 'alih) - Say hi to him for me.
  • لا تفهمني غلط (La tafhamni ghalat) - Don't get me wrong.
  • مقطوع من شجرة (Maqtoo' min shajara) - Cut from a tree (someone with no family).
  • خيرها بغيرها (khayra bighayra) - Maybe some other time.

Please let me know if there's any way I can improve on these videos. Am I choosing phrases that you don't care about? Am I saying them too fast? I worry that someone beginning in Arabic might need more explanation. Am I explaining enough? Thanks much for watching and I hope you're learning something. :)