Syrian Dialect from the TV show بقعة ضو (Spotlight)

Warning! This is a LONG post. I'm going to try to give you an idea of how I learn new Arabic words. These words and phrases are all from a single episode of a comedy show called بقعة ضو (Spotlight). I'm not going to play the whole episode, I'm just going to show clips to give you enough context to understand what's going on. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best way to learn (next to watching the whole episode of course). I think the hardest part for most people who haven't had exposure to Syrian dialect (or any dialect) will be actually hearing the words they're saying. I know that was (and sometimes still is) a major problem for me. To get over that it just takes a LOT of listening to a lot of different things. Even if you don't know what it all means you'll eventually be able to hear the words that are being said and at that point you can do a Google search since you'll know how to spell the word. Even if there isn't a site that says "the definition of this word is X", and sites like that are rare for the dialects, you will have a lot of uses of the word from the sites Google returns and you'll be able to figure out the meaning, in most cases, from all the new context you have. You should be able to tell that context is my favorite word. Let's dive in!First, I need to give you the plot of the show so it's not all just random clips. This woman (Reem) accidentally leaves her phone in the taxi she took to work. She calls her cellphone from work and the taxi driver (Abu Janti) picks it up. She asks him to come by her work and return the phone to her but he keeps picking up passengers and dropping them off instead. He eventually has people calling her cellphone about work matters and he takes care of the issues. He goes and picks up her French passport that was ready, he pays her phone bill, etc. At the end of the show he returns the phone and she offers him a job working for her since he did such a good job for her. He turns down the job though because he loves being a taxi driver.

That's enough for these clips to make some sense and really make the vocab stick in your head.

1. اي رد على الموبيل والله صرعنا. ولا عجبتك رنته؟ (Ay rid 'ala almoobile wallah sara'na. wala 'ajibtak rintu?) - Hey, answer the cellphone. It's driving me crazy. Or do you like its ring?

In this clip, Abu Janti (the driver) thinks that the cellphone belongs to this new passenger. However it belongs to Reem who he just dropped off at work. He says والله صرعنا which is like "by God it's driving us crazy." You can refer to just yourself as "us" in Arabic sometimes. Also, الصرع in MSA means "epilepsy", so you can remember this phrase as "you're giving me epilepsy."

The phone rings for a while before I started the clip so Abu Janti adds literally "or do you like its ring?". I would translate that to "or do you just like the sound of its ring?" to make it clearer. ولا is a common way to say "or" in many dialects. Egyptian included. It doesn't mean "and no".


2. الو؟ (aloo?) - Hello?
الو! لك مين انت؟ (aloo! lek meen intay) - Hello! Hey, who is this?
انا ابو جانتي ملك اللانسر. (ana abu janti melik alansar) - I'm Abu Janti, king of the Lancer.
لك هادا موبيلي إللي معك. (lek hada moobayli illi ma'ak) - Hey, that's my phone that's with you.
ايه عرفت عرفت. حاكيني بعد 5 دقايق. انا ماني فاضي. (ay 'arifit 'arifit. haakini ba'd khams d'aaya ana maani faadi) - Yeah, I know, I know. Talk to me in 5 minutes. I'm not free (now).
يِ! يِ! يخرب بيته! هادا شوفير تاكسي سكر بوشي (yi! yi! yikrib baytoo! hada shofer taksi sakkar ibwishi) - Yi! Yi! Destroy his house! That taxi driver hung up in my face!

Now for an explanation of some things that might not be clear. لك is basically like "hey". It can be perceived as rude. A Lancer is the model of car that Abu Janti drives. That's why he calls himself "king of the Lancer". You'll notice she says هادا instead of هذا . They change ذ to د sometimes in lots of dialects.

Also, he says انا ماني فاضي. The word ماني might be new to you, but it means the same thing as مش and مو. He could have said انا مو فاضي and it would mean the same thing. "I'm not free (to talk).

The word "yi" is an expression of surprise or astonishment. It's said mostly by women. يخرب بيته literally means "destroy his house", but it's not a terribly mean phrase and not to be taken literally. It's used when someone upsets you.

The word سكّر means to close. The full expression would be سكر الخط بوشي . "He closed the line in my face", literally, but we would translate it to "He hung up in my face". وش is how they say the MSA word وجه which means "face".


3. يِ! نسيت أساله مين دقإلي (yi! nasayt asalu meen da' illi) - Yi! I forgot to ask him who called me!
رجعي دقيله. لك ليكون غزوان دقإلك اذا بيرد و بيطلعله صوت شاب بيطبل الدنيا (rja'i di' illu. lik laykoon ghazwan da' illik izi byitla'lu soot shab byitbal addini) - Call him back! Hey, it could be Ghazwan who called you. If he answers and he gets a guy's voice he's going to be very angry.

The prominent word in this clip is دق. It means "to beat" (as in a heart beat), "to knock" as in knock on the door, but in the context of phones it means "to call". ليكون here means "it might have been" or "maybe it was".

Ghazwan is the name of Reem's fiance. Before this clip Abu Janti said that someone called Reem's phone but Reem forgot to ask who called. Reem's friend says that she should call Abu Janti back because if Ghazwan calls again and gets Abu Janti he's going to get the wrong idea.

يطلع has many different meanings. Here and a lot of the time it means "turns out to be" or "happens to be". A new phrase I learned here is يطبل الدنيا (they pronounce دنيا as dini instead of dunya). يطبل الدنيا means the same thing as كسر الدنيا (literally "to break the world"), but in actual use it means "to get really angry".


4. دخيل عينك. دخيل عينك ابو جانتي دير بالك عليه. هادا الباسبور مو اي كلام يعني. (dakheel 'aynak. dakheel 'aynak abu janti deer baalak 'aleyh. hada albasboor moo ay kalaam ya'ni) - I beg you. I beg you, Abu Janti, look after it. That is a passport, not just any old thing.
ولا تهكلي هم. حطيته بالتابلو مع اوراق السيارة (wala tihkali hem. hatteytu biltablu m'a oora' assayaara) - Don't worry. I put it in the glove compartment with the car's papers.

دخيل عينك means "I beg you". It's like please, but stronger. دير بالك means "to look out for". بال is "mind" and دير means "to wrap around". A new phrase for me is when she says that this passport is not اي كلام "any talk". From context you can tell the meaning is "not just any old thing", that it's very important.

Abu Janti responds and tells her to لا تهكلي هم . This means "don't worry". هم is a worry. There are other variations on this phrase as well. I had never heard this one specifically. I had heard however, لا تاكل هم and لا تعتل هم which mean the same thing. Respectively they literally mean "don't eat a worry" and "don't carry a worry". Those are probably mostly Lebanese though.

حطيت means "I put". And yet another new word for me that you can get from context is تابلو. It means glove compartment. Put تابلو السيارة into Google and look at the images it gives you. I tried تابلو and التابلو and it didn't give me what I wanted. That's how I make sure of a lot of words. Doing Google images searches.


5. ابو جانتي. من شان الله. الله يرضى عليك. الله يخليلك ولادك. من شان الله تاع محتاج الموبيل ضروري ضروري من شان الله (abu janti. min shan allah. allah yerda 'aleyk. allah ykhalleelak oolaadak. min shan allah taa' mahtaaj almoobile daroori daroori min shan allah) - Abu Janti. For God's sake. May God satisfy you. May God keep your children for you. For God's sake come. I need the cellphone. It's imperative. For God's sake.

Reem is really getting annoyed and she starts to beg Abu Janti to bring the phone. The things she says are very typical of what is said when someone is pleading with someone else to do something.

تاع is the Syrian way of saying تعال, "come".

محتاج means "I need".

And something that is ضروري is something necessary or something that must be done.


6. لك مع مين عم تحكي لك مع مين؟ (lek ma' meen 'am tahki lek ma' meen?) - Who are you talking to, Abu Janti? Who are you talking to?
لك الله يخليلك جانتي ان شاء الله لك بس قلي رح تجلطني يا اخي. شي بدقإلك بلاقيه مشغول شي بدقإلك ما بترد علي شو القصة؟ (lek allah ykhleelak janti in sha allah lek bes illi. rah tijlitni ya akhi. shi bda' illak blaa'eeh mashghool. shi bda' illak ma bitrud 'alayy. shu al'issa?) - May God keep Janti, inshallah, but tell me, you're going to give me a stroke, brother. Sometimes I call you and I find it busy. Sometimes I call you and you don't answer me. What's the story?

I really wish I could talk as fast as she talks at the end of the clip... even in English. The لك is just used for emphasis here and I wouldn't translate it as "hey". You could maybe translate it as "look here" but I like just leaving it out.

Janti is Abu Janti's son obviously, but coming from a western background that might not register to us right away. I know I had that problem. The word رح indicates future tense and تجلطني is a cool word. جلطة دماغية is a stroke so رح تجلطني means "you're going to give me a stroke) :D.

The word بلاقي means "I find". بلاقيه is "I find it". When she says شي you can take it to mean "sometimes" here. شو القصة is like "what's going on". I know I had a hard time recognizing it when I first started with Levantine dialect because they drop the ق so it's "shu al issa". I knew the word قصة but because they didn't say it like I had learned it in MSA class I didn't recognize it as a word I knew.

You'll find that, if you've studied MSA, a lot of words that you hear and think you don't know you actually do know, they're just said in a weird way to your ears so you don't recognize them. This problem is solved with lots of exposure to the dialects.


7. انا اذا ما كل يوم اطلعت ورا دركسيون اللانسر و حطيت الشريط إلي على ذوقي و فتلت الشام كلياتها حارة حارة و شارع شارع ما بيهنالي عيش (ana iza ma kil youm atla't wara direkesion al lancer wa hateyt ashareet illi 'ala zoo'ee wa fatelt ashaam kilayaata haara haara wa shaar'a shaar'a ma byihnaali 'aeesh) - If I didn't get behind the steering wheel of the Lancer every day and put on a tape I'm in the mood for and weave around the entirety of Damascus neighborhood by neighborhood and street by street, I couldn't live happily.

This clip is right after Reem offers Abu Janti a job for his good work that day. He turns it down even though the pay she is offering is more. دركسيون is the French word for steering wheel. ذوق is "taste", but in English you wouldn't say "I put on the tape that's on my taste", so "the tape I'm in the mood for" is a better translation.

فتل is not a word I'm familiar with, but you can get it from context that it means to go around Damascus. I looked it up in the Hans Wehr dictionary and it said to twist or weave around. الشام is Damascus by the way. They also say دمشق . I translated كلياتها as "the entirety of it", but more simply it just means "all". Just like the word كل .

Now I'm not 100% sure of the last phrase. ما بيهنالي عيش isn't something that I've heard before. But I get the idea. I'm pretty sure it's, "I wouldn't be able to live" or "I couldn't live happily". Something like that. If anyone wants to chime in (if anyone stuck with the lesson this far :P) and shed some light on that phrase I would be thankful.



Anonymous said...

I loved this post! :D And also survived till the end! ;p

I asked Viva from ATL about the ما بيهنالي عيش phrase and you were right! She said: "ma byihnali -> I wont have 'hana' contentness bas oui thats what it means, I cant live, there is no happiness to live for." ;)

Great job! Keep posting like this, please! It's a huge help for me!


Anonymous said...

A thing I wanted to ask - how on Earth can that woman talk so quickly? Ya salam! :))


chris said...

I really want to thank you for this post. It's incredibly generous of you to take the time to provide such an awesome, detailed post. So thanks. A lot.

Anonymous said...

GREAT!!! Keep up the good work man, an avid follower of your blog.

Dustin said...

Bravo! Arabic Student, best post in a long while, really loved this one.

Anonymous said...

Arabic Student, it must have taken you a while to come up with this post. Amazing stuff, you are being a huge help to me and many other people I'm sure.

I hope you keep it up in the future!

The Arabic Student said...

Thanks everyone. It took 2-3 hours to write this post and cut the videos and everything so it's good to know it's appreciated!

Anonymous said...

this is awesome! thank you so much!
also, i just wanted to ask if you could please please explain the rule of saying 3am before a verb. i really dont understand it. please take your time if you have to, and you dont have to do this either, it's just a request. thank you!!! :D

George said...

I think الله يرضى عليك means may God be pleased with you, as to satisfy is يرضي with ya and not alif maksura.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, very useful.

Old Hindi Songs said...

Nice post dude,

you made the day...

Anonymous said...

Great job bro:)you are amazing and you work is really appreaciated bo others.

I will try to respond question concerning "prefix" =3am=عم

*this prexif turns verb in the present continuous tense( ex:I am sleeping ,cooking etc.)


عم بدرس هلأ=
3am bedros/edros hall2a=I am studying (now).

عم بيكتب مكتوب=
3am byekteb/yekteb maktoob=He is writing a letter (now)

عم بتاكل=
3am btakol/takol=You are am eating (now)

في دروسي مش عم بفهم شئ=fe doroose mesh 3am bafham she2=I don't understand anything in my classes.

I spotted that in pronouncation
letter (ب) is rather silent(so this is why I gave second verb without "b".

Hope it will help a bit

Michael said...

An incredible post. Please, please, please, continue this great blog. It is much appreciated.

George said...

I have a question regarding an issue that I have been dealing with for quite some time: how do you go about your listening regarding TV Series or movies in Colloquial Syrian, or any Arabic Colloquial for that matter, as there certainly are many parts of fast speech and words that cannot be found in an MSA dictionary since they simply do not exist in MSA? And all this without the assistance of a native speaker.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely awesome. Keep blogging my friend, youre great at it (at Arabic :))

Anonymous said...


فواز said...

What a great post!
I use google the same way you do and fing it very helpful.
As for مخحتاج الموبيل, I think that's a possibility, but in my opinion she says مخحتاجة الموبيل (which is how you translated it). مخحتاج can be "needed" or "in need of", and here I think it's the active translation.

googletim said...

the site is very clear and nice.I like your topics..

Anonymous said...

Is this "Baq'at daw" or "Abu Janti"?

brandoscostumes said...

malik al-ansar? in american 'the machine'?

CST said...

Just discovered your blog. Thank you for your informative posts and videos on Youtube.
Mother Alexandra
Orthodox nun

Anonymous said...

I remember that you asked for programs in Arabic with a Jordanian dialect, its a cartoon

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or the video clips don't work? :(

Er said...

Thanks a lot.. although I'm a bit confused but it helps.. i need to read this post again and again.


Llinguist said...

Here are some random comments. I may be way off, but here goes:

Arabic speakers, as well as other language groups, especially those under, say 30, love to interject English (or other European) words or expressions (often incorrectly pronounced) into their everyday speech, especially in "rap" or "hip hop" music.

KOMISTER may be one such.

1. KOMISTER: In the video, this word is said just after we see the “girl” having coffee with the “lowlife”.

What would the girl say next?

Why, she would say KOMISTER….or…..Come Upstairs (to her bedroom)!!!.


It could be Italian/Spanish. It could be the “greeting” Come Stai? (IT) or Como Esta? (SP) meaning “How are you?”

Like in all artistic productions there doesn’t have to be a “linear” development to the story or dialog.

Thus, KOMISTER (How are you) may be what she said when she opened the door and saw the lowlife. And in the video, the person who said KOMISTER may have been referring to that scene.

If KOMISTER is used in the game hide and seek (as you said) and is uttered when you “Find” someone, the case for it meaning How Are You? from the IT or SP seems to make more sense than “Come Upstairs”

I know I'm really "reaching" here, but those are possibilities.

I asked several native Arabic speakers (not Jordinian) about KOMISTER.

Not a single one had any idea what it meant even tho they understood everything else in the video - so it must be a purely Jordanian reference referring to God knows what.

Most likely, most Jordanians wouldn't know either. It's likely an "underground" reference known only to "those in the know" (in the Hip Hop world).

One big problem with the Italian/Spanish "connection" is that, as far as I know, Jordan has never had any special relationship with IT or SP, unlike Egypt which in the not too distant past, had significant French, Greek and Italian influences and Lebanon with French (and still does).

2. قد الحيط A possible translation for this expression, given the context, could be:

“As big as life”… other words, there was the lowlife at the door with no shame, qualms or hesitation about showing up and presenting himself.

In other words, it’s not his size that is being referred to, but to his impunity or shamelessness – “as big as a wall” in Arabic, “as big as life” in English. In other words:

There was the lowlife, big as life. OR big as all get-out. OR EVEN sticking his nose in.

3. Wa Law - One of those expressions found in all languages that can have all kinds of meanings. Like the English "Right" or the German "Denn".

In this context, my translation would be: the American English slang expression WHATEVER
as in "Don't forget to brush your teeth, Tommy". Tommy answers: "Whatever" (WA LAW).

In English, this modern expression sometimes carries with it a "challenging attitude". I don't know if Arabic WA LAW does this - probably so = (And if I don't??)


The Arabic Student said...

Linguist, did you mean to post your comment on the Jordanian post? Not important. Anyway, here's what I found about Komistair with a Google search:

واحد بيسكر عنيه .. وبصير يعد للعشرة او العشرين مو مهم .. والكل يروح يتخبى .. وبعيدن يصير هاد العمو اللي كان يعد يدور ع العالم المتخبية ... ويحكي كومستير لما يشوف حدا منهم.. ووووووووووبس

"Someone closes their eyes and counts to 10 or 20 and everyone goes and hides. After that the guy that was closing his eyes and counting looks everywhere for the hiders. He says "Komistair" when he sees one of them. And that's it."

I still have no clue where it comes from.

Anonymous said...

This is the first time I came across your blog. You are doing an excellent work.

You must be dedicating a lot of time to this work. It is a charity work and God will bless you.

Keep it up.


Arabglot said...

this is really excellent. When i was in damascus over the summer i studied at an institute where the main teaching method was for the teacher to play me parts of بقعة ضوء or a similar soap and we would go through it. Its the best way to learn dialect. Well done again

Louisa said...

thank you so much for all your great posts ! I just discovered your site ( through "how to learn any language" ) ... I've been studying arabic for 3 years and currently living in Jordan, but I've got so much trouble with the dialects that I lose hope sometimes. In 10 min I learned lots of stuff on your blog !

Anonymous said...

u r the best dude!

Ilqar said...

Thanks a lot. I greet you from Baku, Azerbaijan.

Anonymous said...

thanks a lot! you have been doing a really amazing and useful work! ( Rosa from Spain )

Unknown said...

The whole thing is hilarious, but funniest of all for me was تابلو. Like an endless number of words relating to cars, it comes, I think, from the French "tableau de bord" - meaning 'dashboard'. I first discovered this affinity during a 'service' ride in Lebanon, while listening in on a lively conversation about the owner's new car. My lousy Arabic would normally have put it beyond comprehension, but the presence of words like 'al frein', 'al carrosserie', and 'al guidage' changed everything, and I even ventured a comment or two of my own. (Michel from Portland)

نعيم said...

Wow! This is brilliant! Thanks so much!

H said...

Excellent stuff. Amazing material to look at after having self-studied most of the course at . This is great material and I thank you for your efforts.

octave71 said...

Sup Boss?

I looked up حارة and it seems to mean "lanes"... so it would be "lane by lane" but that's just what I found. Does it means "neighborhoods" in the Shaami dialect then?