List of Best Levantine Dialect Lessons

This list includes the best Levantine dialect (Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian, Palestinian) lessons that I've done on this site over the past few years. The lessons are all taken from Arabic media, mostly TV shows, that way you hear how the words are actually said and you get them in context.

Just a side note, if you're learning Lebanese, for example, the Syrian lessons will still help you and vice versa. The Levantine dialects are so similar that there is a ton of shared vocabulary and the pronunciations are nearly the same.

*Updated April 18, 2012*


Lesson from the TV show بقعة ضو (Spotlight)
Lesson from جميل و هناء (Jamil and Hanaa)
"From your mouth to the gates of heaven"
Children Song اسناني واوا (My teeth hurt)
Comedy from فزلكة عربية (Fazlaka Arabia)
Children Song بابا تليفون (Dad! Phone!)
Another lesson from بقعة ضو (Spotlight)
"Don't talk about me"
Lesson from الحب المستحيل (Impossible Love)
Lesson from عليا (Aliya)
"Have a little shame"
"What can I tell you"


Lesson from اجيال (Generations)
Lyrics from "This Car Won't Run" by Fairouz
Lesson from Dr. Hala
Lesson from جويل (Joelle)
Lyrics from Dominique Hourani song معقول مش معقول
Jokes from اهضم شي (The Nicest Thing)
Lyrics from ختيار على العكازة (The Old Man on the Cane) by Faris Karam
Lyrics from الواوا (The booboo) by Haifa Wehbe
Haifa Wehbe talks about her love for Hasan Nasrallah
Lyrics from Libnani by عاصي الحلاني
Lyrics from Ouf Ouf by Nelly Makdessi


Lesson from Jordanian comedy group بث بياخة
Bedouin folk song by Fu'ad Hijazi


Palestinian Jokes Explained in English


Arabic Pod 101 Giveaway!

Edit 11/13/2011: Zachary won 1st prize and Camilo won 2nd prize. Thanks everyone for entering and I hope to do more giveaways in the future!

We had the Rocket Arabic giveaway a few weeks back and I think it went well as the first giveaway I've done on the site. There were 40 entries and the winner was very happy with her prize. Now Arabic Pod 101 contacted me about doing a giveaway! This time 2 prizes will be awarded. The first prize is a 1 month premium subscription (I seriously just typed subscribtion and had to delete it. Arabic has effected my brain.) to Arabic Pod 101. This includes access to their 203+ lesson archive for which new lessons come out weekly, lesson notes + review quizzes, 2000 core words and premium tools - flashcards, word bank, and just a ton of resources in general. Second prize will be your choice of 1 item from the Arabic Pod 101 store.


On the last giveaway I had people submit a comment with their name and email address which I viewed but didn't post to the site. This time I'd like entries to be a comment with your name and email in a format like thearabicstudent (at) yahoo (dot) com, or some other format that isn't going to be immediately recognizable to a web crawler as an email address.

You'll have a week from today to enter and I'll randomly draw the 2 winners on Friday, November 11. Thanks and good luck. :)


Black and White Faces

So, today there are 3 phrases that all have related meanings. These are Levantine, but are probably used outside the region as well.

1. بيّضتولي وشي قدام الناس - You made me look good in front of the people. (Literally, "you (plural) whitened my face for me in front of the people.")

2. سوّدتولي وشي قدّام المدير - You embarrassed me or made me look bad in front of the manager. (Literally, "you (plural) blackened my face in front of the manager.")

3. شي بيرفع الراس - Something that makes you proud. (Literally, "something that raises the head.")

  • بيّض - to make something white
  • سوّد - to make something black
  • وش - face (from the MSA وجه)
  • قدّام - in front of (think of the MSA word امام which means the same thing)


Rocket Arabic Giveaway!

Edit 10/24/2011: There were 40 entries into the drawing and the winner of the language software is bcbeaveratheart! I used a random number generator to pick the winner. I will be contacting them to give them their prize.

I was recently contacted by Rocket Languages and they want to do a free giveaway of their Arabic language software. I did a review of their program here and it will get you a great foundation in Egyptian Arabic. Egyptian dialect is a great choice since Egypt is the most populous Arabic country by a wide margin. It's also used widely in Arabic movies and TV shows and knowing Egyptian will make it easier to learn other dialects as well as MSA. Almost 5 years ago I began my journey to learn Arabic by studying MSA. If I had it to do over again I would have gone with a dialect, either Egyptian or Levantine. MSA is what you need to know if you plan to watch the news, or select TV shows (some cartoons and historical shows are done in MSA), but if you only know MSA and walk down the street in any Arabic speaking country, everything you hear around you is going to sound like gibberish. So, starting off with Egyptian is a good way to go.

Giveaway Rules:

All you need to do to enter the drawing is make a comment to this post. Don't post as Anonymous. Choose a name. Include your email in the post so I have a way to contact you if you win. I won't approve the comment so that no one else can see your email address. The winner will be randomly chosen and announced on Sunday, October 23 and then he/she will have 5 days to email me back and claim the prize.

Prize details:
  • 1 membership to the online version of Rocket Arabic Premium
  • the membership lasts a lifetime
  • the membership is activated with a valid email address
  • the prize does not include hardcopy 20 CD pack (Only online access - although all files are downloadable)


Levantine Dialect: You came in the nick of time

So phrases are an important thing in any language. These phrases are used at least in the Levant region, but possibly in other Arabic speaking countries as well. However, everyone will understand what you are saying no matter which country they are from, even if they themselves would say it a little differently.

1. جيت و الله جابك (jeet wa allah jaabak) - You came in the nick of time.

Literally this phrase means "you came and God brought you", meaning you got there right when you were needed.

2. جيت بوقتك (jeet ibwa'tak) - You came at the right time.

Literally this says "you came at your time". It has pretty much the same meaning as جيت و الله جابك .

Syrian Dialect Lesson

This post consists of clips taken from Jamil wa Hanaa (جميل و هناء), a Syrian comedy. As I was watching this episode (episode 25, season 1) I made note of some words and phrases that are useful. They're all said at normal speaking speed and the show is intended for native Arabic speakers, so it may be difficult, but if you listen to each one several times you'll get it. This dialect is Syrian, but it's close enough to other Levantine dialects to be understood in many places.

1. نص ساعة دعايات ربع ساعة برامج. خلصونا بقى (nus sa'a di'ayaat rub'a sa'a baraamij. khalisoona ba'a) - Half an hour of commercials and a quarter hour of shows? Come on!


The woman's name is ام محمود (Im Mahmud). She bought a lotto ticket and is watching the TV show to see if she won or not. She's annoyed because there are more commercials than actual show.


نص is نصف in MSA and means "half"
دعاية - commerical; دعايات - comercials
خلصونا بقى - you can translate this as "come on!" here; it is normally used when you're fed up with something

2. العمى! حطيت 70 ليرة عالفاضي (al'ama! huttayt 70 lira 'al faadi) - Damn! I spent 70 lira for nothing.


It turns out that ام محمود 's ticket didn't win in the first round so she is upset.


العمى - literally it means "blindness", but it's used like "damn" when something you don't like happens
حطيت - I put.
عالفاضي - combination of على "on" and فاضي "empty". Literally the sentences says "I put 70 liras on nothing". عالفاضي is used to expressed wasting something or getting nothing in return.

3. ام محمود؟ ام محمود؟ ياه! وين راحت؟ ما في بالعادي تطلع برات البيت و تترك باب الشقة مفتوح. و هاي عكازتها. ما تقدر تمشي بلاها! شو القصة (im mahmood? im mahmood? yah! wayn raahit? ma fee bil 'aadi titl'a barraat albayt wa titrik bab alshi'a maftooh. wa hay 'akaazita. ma ti'dar timshi balaaha. shoo al 'issa?) -

Im Mahmud? Im Mahmud? Yah! Where did she go? It's not normal for her to go outside the house and leave the apartment door open. And here's her cane. She can't walk without it. What's going on?


On the last drawing Im Mahmud's ticket won so she had a mini stroke and her neighbors took her to the hospital. The lady in this clip is another neighbor wondering where she went.


ما في بالعادي - it's not normal/usual
تطلع برات البيت - (for) her to go outside the house
عكازة - cane/walking stick
بلاها - without it
شو القصة - literally "what's the story?", but means "what's going on?"

4. جارتنا, الله يرضى عليكي. انتي خليكي هون شي ساعة ساعتين. اذا ماتت ام محمود خبرينا (jaaritna, allah yirdaa 'aleyki. inti khaleeki hoon shee saa'a saa'atayn. Iza maatit im mahmood khbreena.)

Neighbor, may God be pleased with you. You stay here an hour or 2. If Im Mahmud dies, let us know.

ليش؟ انتو وين بدكن تروحو؟ (leesh? intoo wayn bedkun troohoo?)

Why? Where are you guys going?

منروح عالبيت. دق خلقنا. صارلنا زمان هون (minrooh 'albeyt. da' khili'na. saarlna zamaan hoon)

We're going home. We're fed up. We've been here for a long time.


The man is Jamil. He and Hanaa, his wife, brought Im Mahmud to the hospital and have been waiting there for a long time. He's tired and ready to leave.


جارتنا - our neighbor
شي ساعة ساعتين - the word شي means "about" here. "About an hour or 2"
دق خلقنا - a saying that means "we're fed up"
صارلنا زمان هون - we've been here a long time

Arabic Pod 101

Arabic Pod 101 is a subscription site that teaches Modern Standard Arabic with audio and video lessons. The site is geared toward an absolute beginner to intermediate level, so if you can watch TV shows or the news in Arabic and miss very little then this site isn't for you. This site is good for those starting out in Arabic. Their native speakers who read the words and sentences for you are Egyptian, so some of the things they say have an Egyptian flavor to them, but it is still definitely MSA not dialect.

One thing I found very helpful about this site is the 2000 most common word list. It's not just a list of words, how they're spelled, and what they mean. They also have someone say the word and a few sentences to give you context on how the word is used. Seeing and hearing words used in context is the best way to learn a new language and I wish I had this list when I started learning Arabic. You can also have a word of the day sent to your email address. I've been doing that for a while and there have been a few I didn't know, like today's word ردهة الفندق (rudhat ulfunduq) - hotel lobby. I had never seen the word ردهة before. They have audio and context for the words of the day as well.

They have a free 7 day trial going so you don't have to pay anything to see if Arabic Pod 101 is going to be useful for you. If you decide you like it they have 2 different subscription options. The Basic option is $4/month and the Premium option is $10/month. Both options give you access to all the lessons, but the Premium subscription gives you some extra perks like access to their vocabulary videos where they give you a picture of a thing or an action, have someone say the word, and have the word written. It's a good way to pick up vocabulary. The Premium option also gives you access to the list of the 2000 most common Arabic words that I mentioned.

For their free trial, go here.

Syrian Lesson: Jamil Wa Hanaa

This lesson is taken from the Syrian comedy show Jamil and Hanaa (جميل و هناء). The main premise that I've gotten from the show so far is that Jamil, Hanaa's husband, is shy around women that are not his wife and gets upset when Hanaa would like him to be more open around other women and even flirt with them. There's another couple that's the opposite of them. The husband always hits on other women and the wife gets upset. I'm on episode 7 and I really like it. It's not like most Syrian shows that I've seen that are very conservative. I mean in Jamil and Hanaa they aren't wearing revealing clothes or anything, but the kinds of things on the show are a little risque by middle eastern standards today. There's lots of flirting for example.

The clip starts with Jamil reading from a book trying to give Hanaa a hint that she should do what he says and care about him more or else he might divorce her. The parts he's quoting from the book are in MSA. The rest is Syrian dialect:

جميل: لم تهتم به فطلّقها. نبّهها. لم تصغي إليه فطلّقها. قال لها (lem tahtam beehee fa tallaqaha. nabbahaha. lem tusghi ileyh fa tallaqaha. qaala leha)

Jamil: She didn't care for him so he divorced her. He warned her. She didn't listen to him so he divorced her. He said to her...

هناء: تفضل (tfaddal)

Hanaa: Here.

جميل: يسلمو ايديكي... ردي عالتليفون (yislamu eedayki... riddi 'al tilifoon)

Jamil: Thanks. Answer the telephone.

هناء: قوم رد انت و اذا رفيقة من رفقاتي بدك تحكي معها و تسلّم عليها! قوم بقى (oom rid entay wa iza rfee'a min rif'aati beddek tahki m'aa wa tsellim 'aleyha. oom ba'a.)

Hanaa: You get up and answer it. And if it's one of my friends you're going to talk to her and say hello! Get up!

جميل: انا ما رح ارد قومي ردي انتي (ana ma rah arid oomi riddi inti)

Jamil: I'm not going to answer. You get up and answer.

هناء: ما رح ترد؟ (ma rah trid)

Hanaa: You're not going to answer?

جميل: لا ما رح ارد (la ma rah arid)

Jamil: No, I'm not going to answer.

هناء: ايه مو على كيفك. بدك ترد يعني بدك ترد! بطللي عادة هالخجل! قوم رد لشوف! يلا قوم (ay moo 'ala kayfak. beddek trid y'ani beddek trid. battilli 'aadat hal khajal. oom rid lashoof. yalla oom.)

Hanaa: It's not your choice. You're going to answer means you're going to answer! Stop this habit of shyness! Get up and answer! Come on, get up!

جميل: هناء قومي ردي و تعرفي كلمتي كلمة. ما رح ارد يعني ما رح ارد (hanaa oomi riddi wa t'arifi kilimti kilmi. ma rah arid y'ani ma rah arid.)

Jamil: Hanaa, get up and answer and know that I mean what I say. I'm not going to answer means I'm not going to answer.

هناء: ايه لنشوف (ay linshoof)

Hanaa: Ok. We'll see.

جميل: لم تصغي إليه فطلّقها (lem tusghi ilay fa tallaqaha)

Jamil: She didn't listen to him so he divorced her.

هناء: رد (rid)

Hanaa: Answer.

جميل: الو. اهلين يامو. الحمدلله الحمدلله. إمسكي إحكي مع امي بدهاياكي (alu. ahlayn yaamoo. hamdilla alhamdilla. imsikee ihkee m'a immi bidayaakee)

Jamil: Hello. Hi, Mom. Thank God. Thank God. Take it and talk with my mom. She wants you.

هناء: الو. اهلين مرة عمي. كيفك. الله معك. سلامة (alu. ahlayn mart 'ammi. keefik. allah m'aik. salaami.)

Hanaa: Hello. Hi, mother in law (literally "my uncle's wife"). How are you? (I cut out the phone conversation.) God with you. Bye.

جميل: رغم أنه يحبها, لم تهتم به فطلّقها (rughma annahu yuhibuha lem tahtam bihi fa tallaqaha)

Jamil: Even though he loved her, she didn't care for him so he divorced her.

هناء: تعرف لو كنت محل امك انا؟ كنت زعلت منك و ما عاد كنت حكيت معك بنوب (t'arif lo kint mahal immak ana. kint iz'alt minnak wa ma 'aad kint hakayt m'ak ibnob)

Hanaa: You know if I was in your mom's place? I would have gotten mad at you and not talked to you anymore at all.

جميل: ليش؟ شو قلت انا؟ (laysh? shoo ilit ana?)

Jamil: Why? What did I say?

هناء: ما قلت شي. و لأنك ما قلت شي كانت لازم تزعل منك (ma ilit shee. wa li annak ma ilt shee kaanit laazim tiz'al minnak)

Hanaa: You didn't say anything. And because you didn't say anything she should have gotten mad at you.

جميل: ليش لحتى تزعل؟ (laysh la hatta tiz'al)

Jamil: Why should she get mad?

هناء: الحمدلله يامو الحمدلله. هذا حكي واحد بيحكي مع امه؟ (humdilla yaamoo alhumdilla. hada haki waahid byehki m'a immu)

Hanaa: "Thank God, mom. Thank God." Is that what someone says to their mom?

جميل: شو بده يحكي مع امه الواحد يعني؟ (shoo beddu yehki m'a immu alwaahid y'ani)

Jamil: What should someone say to his, mom then?

هناء: بيقلها كيفك؟ شو اخبارك؟ كيفه ابي؟ (bee illa keefik. shoo akhbaarik. keefu abi)

Hanaa: He should tell her "How are you?","How are things?", "How's dad?"

Vocabulary List:

  • أصغى (asgha) - to listen to, to pay attention to
  • طلّق (tallaqa) - to divorce someone
  • يسلمو ايديكي (yislamu eedayki) - literally "may God bless your hands", a way to say thank you when someone does something for you or gives you something
  • قوم (oom) - imperative "get up/stand up"
  • رفيقة (rfee'a) - female friend
  • كلمتي كلمة (kilimti kilmi) - literally "my word is a word" but it means "when I say something I mean it" or "I mean what I say"
  • يامو (yaamoo) - Syrian way of saying "mom"
  • زعل (za'al) - to get mad


Video Gaming in Saudi Arabia is HUGE

In the past few years video gaming has exploded in Saudi Arabia. I first learned about this fact by stumbling upon Saudi Gamer's podcast. I'm very excited about this trend because as someone interested in the Arabic language it gives me material to watch that I'm actually interested in. There are a ton of You Tube channels of Saudi gamers recording themselves playing different games and commenting as they go. I don't know why, but the majority of videos like this that I've seen are from Saudis and thus they are in Saudi dialect. The dialect was difficult for me to understand at first because I'm used to Egyptian and Syrian, but like with anything I got used to it over time and now I understand most of what is said.

(Pictured above is Abd Al-Latif Al-Himili from Saudi Arabia who recently placed second in the Street Fighter championship at Evo 2011, the largest fighting game tournament in the world.)

I couldn't find anything from any country other than Saudi Arabia having to do with video games. I searched for what Egyptians subscribed to on You Tube in the way of video games and found that they subscribed to channels in English. If anyone knows of video gaming sites from Arab countries other than Saudi Arabia, please let me know. Also, if you know of sites/channels that cover games aside from Call of Duty I'd be happy to know about them. Saudi's sure do love their CoD. :)

1. Saudi Gamer:

I've mentioned Saudi Gamer here before as they were the first Arabic gaming site/podcast I discovered. They even talked about one of my videos about Saudi dialect in podcast #93 (minute 1:43). This is my favorite Arabic gaming site. They cover all the topics that an English gaming site like IGN would cover. Their podcast is the main attraction.

2. Z-pad:

This website is similar to Saudi Gamer. I don't know which came first or which is more popular. I enjoy both but just found out about Z-pad. Their Zpadcast uses a green screen which they stand in front of and play game footage on which looks really professional. They have their podcast as well as game news. Here's an example of the Zpadcast:

3. xJIoIKeIR:

This channel run by Abu Kahl and is the 20th all time most subscribed You Tube channel by Saudi's with about 12,000 subscribers. His channel is dedicated to Call of Duty: Black Ops (كول اوف ديوتي: بلاك اوبس) which seems to be a common thread for Saudi gaming. CoD has to be the single biggest video game there. The videos are of him playing online multiplayer and talking about either the game or other random things that come to his mind. He's an entertaining guy. In the video below he plays Call of Duty while talking about what makes a friend a true friend.


Check out this channel for something other than Call of Duty. He's done commentaries on Minecraft, Fifa 11, HomeFront, and Battle Field: Bad Company. He started his channel just 6 months ago and is at about 10,000 subscribers. I learned how to say "cracked" (مكرّكة) as in "a cracked version of a game" in Arabic from this guy with this sentence:

لتلعب اون لاني لازم تكون اللعبة عندك اصلية مو مكرّكة

"To play online your game has to be original, not cracked." (One that you bought and didn't download for free. Go to 2:30 in the video below to hear him say it.)

Here's one of his Minecraft commentaries. Go to minute 1:35 to see the little guy he made lol.

5. M4jedHere:

This channel does CoD, but also has a series of Portal 2 commentaries. He goes through the whole game commenting on it in Saudi Arabic. M4jedHere has about 4,000 subscribers. Here's the first video in his Portal series:


Egyptian Lesson 3: Why are you looking at me?

So, the phrase for today is "Why are you looking at me?" I did a You Tube video about it and I've taken a clip from the Egyptian comedy show Al Bab Fil Bab الباب في الباب that uses the phrase. Watch them. Learn how to pronounce it. It's important. So, here's my video:

And here's the clip from Al Bab Fil Bab:

She says ايه هشام؟ بتبص إلي ليه؟ (What, Hisham? Why are you looking at me?). In my video I was saying بتبص إلي كده ليه؟ (Why are you looking at me like that?). The only difference is the كده and the ايه؟. So, to break down the phrase.

ايه (eeh)- "what"

بتبص (bitbus) - "you are looking" or "you look". Don't confuse this with بس (bes) which means "but" or باس (baas) "he kissed" and يبوس (yiboos) "he kisses". They all sound very similar. The only difference is the "s" sound used. Just for kicks, بصبص means "to ogle".

إلي (ili) - "at me"

كده (kida) - "like this" or "like that". It comes from combing the MSA ك "like" and هذا "this". In Saudi they say كذه with a "dh" instead of a "d" which is closer to its MSA roots.

ليه (leeh) - "why"

And in the You Tube video I added:

يا راجل (ya raagil) - man

يا عم (ya 'am) - uncle

يا حج (ya hagg) - hajji (someone who has been to Meca for the Haj)


Saudi Arabia Starting on the World's Tallest Building

It seems like Saudi Arabia is taking the example of Dubai and trying to attract tourism with amazing buildings. Have a look at this article that talks about Saudi Arabia beginning work on the tallest building in the world. It will dwarf the current tallest building that was recently finished in Dubai, but it's not going to be completed for over 5 years, so Dubai's Burj Khalifa can hold on to its title for a little while longer.


A Star Trek Theme Park in... Jordan??

This article doesn't provide many details, but it says that work is about to get underway on a $1.5 billion Star Trek theme park in Aqaba, Jordan on the Red Sea! I thought I had seen all the tourist stuff in Jordan, but if this thing does get built it gives me a reason to go back. It's known that King Abdullah II is a big Star Trek fan and he even had an appearance as an extra on Voyager so I imagine this had a lot to do with the decision.

I'm all for anything science fiction related being done in the Middle East. It might encourage more scientific endeavors there and show people that science is cool in a part of the world where it doesn't seem to garner much interest. Sci-fi isn't just imaginary, far fetched entertainment. It actually encourages kids to get into science and engineering which would be great for the region.


Egyptian Saying About Men and Money

Every culture has sayings about money. I learned this one while watching عايزة أتجوز on MBC's website. The show is about a girl who can't find a husband. The context for the clip is that she finally meets a man who wants to marry her. He's a trash man (زبّال) and really annoying, but he has a lot of money because he owns the trash company. She tries to convince herself that money is all that matters to her with this phrase: الراجل ما يعيبوش إلا جيبه (arragil ma ya'eeboosh illa gaybu) which means, "A man has no shame except his pocket." Basically, it doesn't matter what a guy is like as long as he has money. Here's the clip for some context and how to pronounce it:

إللي قبلنا قالو, الراجل ما يعيبوش إلا جيبه. عندهم حق. الصراحة, عندهم حق. اه, اه, اصلا هيفيد بايه بقى التوافق في المستوى الإجتماعي و الثقافي و التعليمي و الكلام الفارغ ده هيفيد بايه؟ أهم حاجة الشبكة بكم و الفرح فين و بعد الجواز هنتغدى ايه انهرده و هنتفسح فين الاسبوع ده و هنصيف فين السنادي. أه

Those before us said, a man has no shame except his pocket. They were right. Frankly, they were right. Yes, yes, I mean what good is a sharing a similar social, cultural, or educational level and this empty talk, what good is it? The most important thing is how much is the engagement present and where will the wedding party be and after the wedding where are we going to eat today and where are we going out this week and where are we going to have summer vacation this year? Yes.

عيب - shame
توافق - matching or on similar level
هيفيد بايه؟ - what good is it? literally "it will benefit by what?"
الشبكة - wedding gift
الفرح - wedding party. Also means happiness.
انهرده - today (Egyptian). Comes from النهار هذا
تفسّح - to go out, like out on the town
صيّف - to take summer vacation
السنادي - this year (Egyptian). Comes from السنة هذه

This clip is when the trash man is asking Ola (عُلا) to marry him. He's listing his qualifications.

الراجل ما يعيبوش إلا جيبه و أنا جيبي مليان

A man has no shame except his pocket, and my pocket is full. (He's rich.)


Can You Get Rid of Your Accent?

Accent is something people ask me about from time to time. They want to know how I learned to speak with a good accent in the Arabic language as this is a part of language that most learners can't seem to nail down. This is the most difficult question to answer with regard to language learning. Why do some people have foreign accents when speaking a 2nd language while others are able to minimize or completely eliminate their accent. I haven't eliminated my accent completely, but I've minimized it enough so that if I'm speaking to a native Arabic speaker they will usually just think I am from a different Arabic country than they are. For example, in Jordan people thought I was Lebanese or Syrian or maybe that I had 1 parent who was Arab and another American.

No one is sure why some people have accents and others do not. A person can move to another country when they are 30 and live there until they die and have an accent their entire life while others eliminate their accent very soon after starting to learn the language. I believe it has to do with the music of the language. I'd be willing to bet that musicians are more likely to get rid of their accent than others. Language is a lot like music in that there are different stresses, intonations, and rhythms. Good musicians have an ear for these things. You can, however, learn to be a good musician as well as a good mimicker of accents.

Most people learn a language to communicate, but I wanted to learn Arabic because it just sounded cool. It's sounds were nothing like English and that exotic factor appealed to me. That was my number 1 reason for choosing it. And while learning Arabic the main thing I focused on was where the stress went in words and sentences. It may sound corny and ingenuous, but I viewed Arabic as a song. I was slower to get the meaning of words and slower to understand what people said to me than the others I was learning with, but my pronunciation was always spot on because I viewed the language as music, as a kind of chant. Equally important to me as the definition of a word was being able to reproduce it the way the speaker said it, exactly the way we will try to sing a song on the radio the way the singer himself sings it, putting the emphasis where the singer does and drawing out the syllables that the singer draws out.

I think some language learners go into a new language oblivious to these kinds of things. They learn the meanings of words and the grammar, but pronunciation is secondary. Pronunciation needs to be focused on, at least in the beginning, as much as the meaning of the language. In fact, I would not even go over what the words mean until after spending a few weeks on how to pronounce things and where emphasis goes on the syllables. This will keep the students from focusing on the meaning and ignoring pronunciation since you aren't giving them any definitions yet. In this way Arabic will be viewed as a song first and as a language second. After a few weeks when you start to introduce meaning into this way of singing called Arabic, the students will be versed in how things are supposed to sound.

An Iraqi friend of mine who speaks English fluently, but can immediately be pointed out as a foreigner because of his accent, showed me a program that goes deeper into all of the stresses, rhythms, and flow of language in order to get the correct accent. He says it's really helped him with his accent and I have noticed a difference in the way he speaks as well. I guess sometimes all it takes it raising a persons awareness to the little things they are overlooking. The program he uses is called The American Accent Audio Course and I really wish there was one for Arabic as well. (Hmmm, this gives me an idea :P)

I mention the program because I know there are native Arabic speakers who read this blog and some may benefit from it. I took a look at the program and it's a pretty advanced course which covers all the little things that give someone away as not being a native speaker, such as the correct intonation and stress on different words in the sentence and how these can change meaning or just make the sentence sound weird to Americans, the American 't' that can be pronounced as 't' or 'd' depending on where it is located in the sentence, and a lot more little things that American English speakers take for granted and so would probably never bring up in a class because they don't even notice them themselves. You can get the course here. If you use it please let me know if it helps you as much as it helped my friend.


Fifa 12 will have Arabic audio

I was listening to the Saudi Gamer podcast and they announced the news that EA has chosen to give the game Fifa 12 Arabic audio commentary and menus. EA hired two actual soccer commentators, a Tunisian Issam Chawali (عصام الشوالي) and a Saudi Abdullah Alharbi (عبدالله الحربي). This choice makes sense as the Arab world is a huge market for all things soccer. I'm really excited about this step and I hope it sets a precedent for more video games to have audio in Arabic. I've always been jealous of people learning Japanese because they can augment their learning by playing a lot of video games in Japanese, but for Arabic you don't have that option. I might actually buy this game for my Xbox to learn some soccer jargon even though I'm definitely not a soccer fan. I'm sure it's more exciting than watching an actual game though :P.


Arabic Phrase: What can I tell you to tell you?

Today's post is all about a phrase that's used a lot in Levantine Arabic (Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian, Jordanian). The phrase is شو بدي أحكيلك لأحكيلك (shoo beddi aHkeelak la aHkeelak) and sometimes شو بدي أحليلك تأحكيلك (shoo beddi aHkeelak ta aHkeelak).

They both mean the same thing and are used before you're about to explain something or don't really know what to say. The phrase means, "What can I tell you?" or "What can I say?". It's literally, "What can I tell you to tell you?" There are two examples below to give you more context on how it's used. The first is from the Palestinian movie Paradise Now and the second is from season 5 episode 21 of the Syrian drama Bab al-Hara.

سها: السلام عليكم
ابو فلان: اهلا سها. كيفك؟ وين هالغيبة؟
سها: شو بدي أحكيلك تأحكيلك. مفاجآت الحياة كتيرة

Suha: Peace by upon you.
Abu So-and-so: Hello Suha. How are you? Where have you been for so long?
Suha: What can I tell you? Life has many surprises.

فلان (fulaan): "so-and-so". I don't know the guy's name so I just wrote ابو فلان .

وين هالغيبة (wayn hal gaybeh): This is like "long time no see". Literally it's "where this absence?", like "where have you been during this absence?".

ام جوزيف: بس يللي صار معي... آخخ صعب كتير كتير.
البنت: خير خير خير إن شاء الله! والله غليتيلي قلبي. شو يللي صاير معك؟
ام جوزيف: آخخخ. شو بدي أحكيلك لأحكيلك؟

Im Joseph: But what has happened to me... akhkh is very difficult.
Girl: I hope everything is ok! You've made my heart boil. What's happened to you?
Im Joseph: Akhkhkh. What can I say?

خير (khayr): "good". Here it's like "I hope everything is ok." Say you tell your friend that you just got a call from the hospital. He might say خير or خير ان شاء الله meaning that he hope's everything is ok.

غليتيلي قلبي (ghalayteelee albi): literally "you've made my heart boil". She means here that she's worried her.


Arabic jokes from Ahdam Shi

Ahdam Shi (أهضم شي) is a comedy show on the Lebanese channel MTV. They spend about 2 hours going back and forth telling jokes with a little bit of dancing and music thrown in. I believe that if you can understand comedy in a language then you've mastered the language which is why I watch a lot of comedy shows. Also they're just more entertaining to me than the soap operas that most of Arabic TV is saturated with. A lot of the jokes on Ahdam Shi are rated R and have to do with sex which might be surprising to most people learning Arabic. After all, Arabs are supposed to be very conservative, right? Lebanon is different. At least parts of Lebanon are. That's another reason why I like this show. It's not as stuffy as a lot of Arabic media. Here are two jokes from the most recent airing of the show along with the translation and explanation of some words.

قال مرة, وحدة واقفة على طرف الطريق ناطرة سيارة و ما حدا عم بيوقّفلها. بعد شوي بيوقّفلها شب. بيقلها "فضلي مدموزيل إطلاعي." بتطلع. بيقلها "ليكي. ما تخافي. أنا مهذّب. أنا جنتلمن. أنا كتير محترم. ما تفكريني مثل هول الشباب يللي ما بيوقفو إلا للبنات الحلوين."

Once there was a woman on the side of the road waiting for a car and no one was stopping for her. After a while a young guy stops for her. He says to her, "Please, mademoiselle, get in." She gets in. He tells her, "Look, don't be afraid. I'm polite. I'm a gentleman. I'm very respectable. Don't think that I'm like those guys who don't stop except for pretty girls."

قال مرة - I take this to mean "once" or "one time". Lots of jokes start with this. It literally means "one time he said", but you wouldn't translate it like that.

طرف الطريق - "side of the road"

نطر - "to wait"

راح زلمي فاتح محل بطاطا. إجا لعنده صاحبه. قاله كيفك. قاله ماشي الحال. قاله قديش صارلك فاتح محل هالبطاطا؟ قاله شي 3, 4 سنين والله ما بيع غير بطاطا. قاله احوالك منيحة؟ قاله الحمدلله. قاله معك تديّنلنا شي 500 دولار؟ قاله لا بقدرش. قاله كيف ابتقدرش؟ عم بتقلي احوالك منيحة؟ قاله ايه بس ابقدرش. قاله ليش؟ قاله شفت البنك بالواجهة هنيك؟ قاله ايه. قاله في كونتراكت أنا وياهن. لا أنا بقدر ديّن مصاري و لا هن فيهن يبيعو بطاطا.

A man went and opened a potato store. His friend came to him. He said to him, "How are you?" He said to him, "Fine." He said to him, "How long has it been since you opened this potato store?" He said to him, "About 3 or 4 years. I only sell potatoes." He said to him, "Are you doing well for yourself?" He said to him, "Thank God." He said to him, "You have about $500 you can loan me?" He said to him, "I can't." He said to him, "What do you mean you can't? You're telling me that you're doing well for yourself." He said to him, "Yes, but I can't." He said to him, "Why?" He said to him, "You see that bank across the street there?" He said to him, "Yes." He said to him, "There's a contract I have with them. I can't loan money and they can't sell potatoes."

إجا لعنده صاحبه - "His friend came to him." He says this in a strange way. He doesn't pronounce the إ in إجا

ابقدرش - "I can't." In some places of Lebanon and Syria they will put an ا instead of ما before the verb to negate it. This means the same thing as ما بقدر . Some places also put the ش at the end to negate verbs just as Egyptians do.

واجهة - "face" as in the face of a building or shop.

وياهن - "with them"

مصاري - "money". The way he says it sounds like مشاري.


This guy really wants a visa!

This guy Alaa Wardi (علاء وردي) wrote this song about being bored in Saudi Arabia and wanting to leave but not being able to get a visa. It's pretty funny. And no offense to anyone from Saudi Arabia. I wrote out the lyrics, translation, and some explanations. He's singing in Jordanian dialect.

انا علاء وردي قاعد بالسعودية
باكل بشرب بنام و عالفيسبوك بسهر (الله يلعن هالفيسبوك)
من كثر ما انا قرفان كتبت هالاغنية
كمان 8 اغاني زيها و كبيتهن بالزبالة

I am Alaa Wardi here in Saudi Arabia
I eat, I drink, I sleep and I stay up all night on Facebook. (God curse this Facebook.)
Because I'm so bored I wrote this song.
And 8 other songs like it that I threw in the trash.

- The word قاعد literally means "sitting", but in Jordanian, Iraqi, and Saudi dialects it isn't used to always literally mean sitting down. For example, انت قاعد تشرب؟ doesn't mean "you're sitting down drinking?". It really just means, "you're having a drink?". قاعد is thrown in in various places. So, he doesn't literally mean he's sitting in Saudi Arabia. He just means he's there.

- The word بسهر (bashar) has 2 meanings. It can mean "to stay up late" or "to be partying at night", like a "soiree". The word has both of those connotations. Here he means that he stays up all night on Facebook. Also he is sarcastically saying that he "parties" on Facebook.

- قرفان is "bored".

- To كب something in the trash (زبالة) means "to throw it in the trash".

يا شباب انقذوني
يا شباب طلعولي فيزا
يا شباب حلقولي شعري
و قبل ما انجن

Guys, save me.
Guys, send me a visa.
Guys, they cut my hair.
Before I go insane.

صارلي 9 شهور قاعد بالرياض
و مش شايفلي بنت من زمان
كان بدي روح على كندا بس ما طلعلي فيزا
قاللي روح ايراني معفن قلتإله (كس اختك

I've been here in Riyad for 9 months.
I haven't seen a girl in a long time.
I wanted to go to Canada but they didn't give me a visa.
He told me, "Get out of here you stinking Iranian." I told him, "Go fuck yourself."

- من زمان - "for a long time"

يا شباب انقذوني
يا شباب طلعولي فيزا
يا شباب النجدة النجدة
و قبل ما انجن

وصلت الفكرة

Guys, save me.
Guys, send me a visa.
Guys, help, help.
Before I go insane.

You get the idea.


Red Bull Arabs Drifting

Red Bull Car Park Drift

The reactions these people have are hilarious! Redbull put a camera in the dashboard of a car while the driver drifts all over the place. The driver is Lebanese and it seems like this was filmed somewhere in the Gulf. UAE probably. My favorites are the first hot Lebanese girl, (the driver keeps telling her to quit touching him because he's married lol) and the 3rd guy in the Kufiya who almost craps his pants from fear.

Here's a translation of the 3rd dialogue:
  • So you're telling me you already do drifting right
  • Yeah
  • So it's nothing new to you, you have no fear. God bless! .....
  • This is normal to you right?
  • yy.yyeah
  • You're not afraid of this, right. Good. ...
  • Everything good right?
  • huh?!
  • You're not feeling anything right? ...
  • You're not afraid right? Everything good. ...
  • Are you trying to tell me something?
  • Nn...nno ...
  • You don't look afraid at all...
  • Nnn..nno..nooo


Lebanese Lesson from Dr. Hala

Dr. Hala (مسلسل دكتور هلا) is a drama that airs on MTV Lebanon about love and relationships. It might not be your cup of tea, but it will help you learn the language. The dialect is Lebanese and the show has actors that appear in many Lebanese TV series. Among them are Rita Barsona (ريتا برصونا) and Peter Semaan (بيتر سمعان). There are only so many Lebanese actors and actresses so you will see them again and again.

This clip from the show is 1 minute 45 seconds long. Below the clip is the translation and explanations of words I felt might be new or difficult. The English translation is in blue below the Arabic and the explanations are below that.

غادي : انا ما بشوف انه الفن بعده مثل أيام زمان و انه و ما بيطعم خبز و الواحد لازم ياخده كهواية مش كمهنة. و هالاخبار إللي ربّونا عليها انه الفن بعبع. اوعى يا بابا تفكّر انك تطلع فنان و اوعى يا ماما تفكّري انك

Ghadi: I don't see that art is still like it used to be and that it doesn't put bread on the table and that one must take it as a hobby and not as a profession. And this news that we were raised on that art is a boogy man. Don't think about becoming an artist, son! And don't think, daughter, about...

بعده - "Still". Ghadi doesn't think that art is "still" like it used to be when you couldn't make a living at it.

بيطعم خبز - literally "to feed bread", but a better translation is to figuratively "put food/bread on the table".

بعبع - "boogy man" or "monster". Art was a "boogy man" in that no parent wanted their child to become an artist.

ايام زمان - this is a phrase that means "back in the day", and often "back in the good ole days" when someone is reminiscing about days past.

اوعى - "beware!" or "don't!". اوعى تروح بنص الليالي - don't to go out in the middle of the night!

يا بابا و يا ماما - It might seem strange that he's literally saying "Mom, don't become an artist." and "Dad, don't become an artist.", however, in Arabic countries a mother will call her children "mom", and the same thing with a father. He'll call his kids dad sometimes when speaking to them. It's strange at first, but you get used to it. I didn't translate it as "mom" and "dad" because it wouldn't make sense. He's pretending that he's a dad and then a mom talking to their children.

غسان : شو لكان انه صار الفن هلأ عم يطعم خبز؟

Ghassan: So what then? Art now is able to put bread on the table?

شو لكان - Here this means something like "what are you talking about?" or "so what then?" لكان is a word you get a feel for after hearing it used a lot. Used alone it can mean "of course." If Ghadi replied to Ghassan's question with لكان , that's what it would mean. "Of course."

غادي : يعني القصة منها قصة خبز. اصلاً ما بقى حدا ياكل خبز. الكل عالدايت و التوست

Ghadi: I mean it's not about bread. Actually no one eats bread anymore. Everyone's on a diet and toast.

منها - "It is not." This is spelled exactly like "from it", من ها , but this is different. Here منها means "it isn't." The ها refers to القصة

اصلاً - People will tell you that this means "originally", and in MSA is does most of the time, however a better translation here is just something like "I mean" or "actually". It doesn't literally mean "originally."

بقى - Here, the بقى translates as "anymore".

غسان : ببلادنا أكيد مش لازم الشب او البنت يعملو فنانين. اصلاً انا اذا بجيب ولاد أكيد ما بخليهن يطلعو فنانين

Ghassan: In our country, of course young boys and girls shouldn't become artists. I mean if I have kids I definitely won't let them become artists.

بلاد - It's the plural of بلد , but Ghassan still means "country" and not "countries". He's talking about Lebanon. Even though this is the plural, it's best translated as "country". You might also go with "in our lands", but that sounds like something from Lord of the Rings.

هلا : اوف اوف اوف! عم بتحكي جد غسان؟ اول مرة بعرفك ضد الفن و الفنانين

Hala: Oof, oof, oof! Are you serious Ghassan? This is the first time I've know you are against art and artists.

اوف - word that expresses surprise or being fed up

جد - seriously

البنت : يعني لو انا اختك ما كنت بتخليني غني؟

Girl: I mean, if I were your sister you wouldn't let me sing?

غسنان : أكيد لا. و لا بخلّي ليون يطلع بس موسيقي

Ghassan: Of course not. And I wouldn't let Leon become just a musician.

ليون : شو قصدك بموسيقي و بس؟

Leon: What do you mean by "just a musician"?

شو قصدك - "what do you mean?" If someone says عن قصد it means "on purpose".

غسان : يعني تتكل عالموسيقى و بس. لازم تشتغل مهنة مهمة و بأوقات فراغك بتدق موسيقى

Ghassan: I mean relying on music alone. You have to work an important profession and in your free time you can play music.

تتكل - "rely on". Heard a lot as تتكل ع الله "rely on God".

ليون : أوقات فراغي؟ تعرف قديش لازم تدرس سنين و سنين و تتمرن ايام و ليالي تتصير موسيقي مهم؟

Leon: My free time? You know how long you have to study, years and years, and practice days and nights to become an important musician?

تتصير - "in order to become". The ت at the beginning of this word may seem out of place. The Lebanese shorten حتى sometimes to just ت . They get rid of the rest of the word. So what he's saying is حتى تصير موسيقي مهم "in order to become an important musician". As far as I know this is Lebanese only. Even other Levantine countries don't do this.

غادي : هيدا اذا ضل عندك وقت فراغ لما تكون عم بتشتغل بشغلة مهمة هالقد. أنا مش من رأيك دكتور. أنا بشوف لو طالما الفنانين ببلدنا ما بيمتهنو الفن ما رح نتطور بشكل كبير. و كمان الراضية اذا بيشتغلو شو ما كان بنهار و بيجو عاشية تيلعبو ماتش فوتبول ما رح تزبط معنا. كلنا رح نضلنا هاويين و مش محترفين

Ghadi: That's if you have free time when you're working such an important profession. I'm not of your opinion, Doctor. I see that as long as the artists in our country don't take art as a profession, we won't develop in a big way. And also the athletes, if they work whatever job in the day and come in the evening to play a game of soccer, it's not going to work for us. All of us will stay hobbyists and not professionals.

هالقد - "this much". In this sentence is translates to "such" as in "such an important job" شغلة مهمة هالقد

طالما - "as long as". This is MSA as well.

شو ما كان - "whatever it is". I translated this a "whatever" in the sentence. If the athletes work "whatever job" or "some job" in the day time.

تيلعبو - "to play". This is the same thing as earlier. It's really حتى يلعبو but they shorten حتى to just ت

ما رح يزبط - "it's not going to work". The MSA spelling is ضبط . The ض changes to ز in Levantine dialects.

هلا : مزبوط. كل إللي عم بتقوله مزبوط غادي

Hala: Right. Everything you're saying is right, Ghadi.

غسان : عن جد؟ و ليش حضرتك استاذ بتشتغل شغلتين؟

Ghassan: Really? Then why, sir, do you work 2 jobs?

حضرتك - a polite way of saying "you". It's something like "sir". Ghassan is being sarcastic here though. A polite way of saying "me" is محسوبك

غادي : لانه بحب الشغلتين كتير و ما كان بدي اترك وحدة كرمال التاني. بس بالأساس شغلتي الاساسية صحافي و اعطيها تلت رباع حياتي

Ghadi: Because I love the 2 jobs a lot and I didn't want to leave one for the sake of the other. But really my main job is being a journalist and I give it 3/4 of my life.

كرمال - "for the sake of" A synonym you might hear is فدا

تلت رباع - three fourths

غسان : ع كل حال ما رح نضل لكل السهرة نتشارع بهيدا الموضوع لأنه ما رح اقتنع. خصوصاً اني شايف المثل الواضح قدّامي. شب و بنت بيحبو بعضهن, إمتهنو الفن, و بعدهن لهلأ ما معهن يمشو

Ghassan: Anyway, we're not going to keep arguing all night about this matter because I'm not going to be convinced. Especially because I see the clear example in front of me. A guy and girl who love each other, they took art as a profession, and even until now it hasn't worked for them.

ع كل حال - anyway

قدّام - "in front of"

Fazlaka Arabia: Syrian Comedy Show

I finished watching all the episodes of بقعة ضو (Spotlight) that were available at Shahid MBC and so I've moved on to another Syrian comedy. It's called فزلكة عربية (Fazlaka Arabia). I don't know the best way to translate that. فزلكة is like "joking around". Anyway, this show is difficult to understand just like بقعة ضو is. The shows are made for Syrians and has a lot of local terminology. To me this is a good thing as the dialogue isn't simplified. It's very authentic speech.

I've taken one of the sketches from the show and given a transcript. This is one of the few sketches where I understood all of what was being said. In most of them I get the idea and the joke, but there are individual words that I'm not sure of so I don't feel comfortable writing out the dialogue.

هلق رح يشرّفنا يا مفتّش و بتمنى, بتمنى من كل قلبي أنو ما تسوّدو وشي - Now we're going to be honored with an inspection and I hope with all of my heart that you don't embarrass me.

(ما تسوّدو وشي literally means "don't blacken my face". وش is وجه in MSA.)

حاضر آنسة - Yes, miss.

(حاضر is used as "right away", "yes", "I'll do it", things like that. Mainly subordinates say it to the people over them when they are told to do something)

لنشوف... اهلا وسهلا - We'll see. Hello and welcome!

يعطيكي العافية. جلوس. كيف المستوى؟ ان شاء الله عم بيتحسّن بالنطق عندهن - God give you health. Sit. How is the level? Hopefully their pronunciation is improving.

تمام التمام و النطق عندهن سليم - It's great, their pronunciation is correct.

(تمام التمام is a way of saying that something is really good. It's the same idea as عال العال which also means "really good"; literally "highest of the high".)

طيب. رح اختبر انا بنفسي شوف. وقف حبيبي لشوف. انت اي انت. شو اسم الكلب الصغير؟ - Ok. I'm going to test it myself to see. Stand, my dear, let's see. You, yes, you. What do you call a young dog?

(صغير is "small" but can mean young too. I didn't put "small dog" because جرو is a puppy and a "small dog" could be any age of small dog, but you wouldn't use جرو for an old chihuahua since it isn't a puppy.)

درو - "Daru".

(The kid is pronouncing the word with a "d" instead of a "j")

جرو حبيبي بالجيم. جرو - "Jaru" with a jeem. "Jaru".

اي بالديم درو - Yeah, with a "deem". "Daru".

قلي جرجير حبيبي - Say "jarjeer" for me, my dear.

(Jarjeer is the vegetable "arugula"; "rocket" in Britain)

دردير - "dardeer"

بالجيم. جرجير - With a "jeem". "jarjeer"

دردير - "dardeer"

معنتها لازم تبذلي جهد اكبر معهم. يا آنسة هذا مو معقول - This means you have to exert more effort with them. Miss, this is unbelievable.

(The word بذل is pretty much always used with جهد or جهود "effort/s". بذل جهود "to exert effort".)

بصراحة يا أستاذ عم ببذل معهم أقصى طاقة ممكنة بس هالولد بالذات غبي و رح يدنني - Frankly, sir, I'm exerting the maximum effort possible but this boy specifically is stupid and he's going to drive me crazy!

(The word طاقة is power, energy, effort, things like that.)

The joke was that the teacher wasn't pronouncing the "j" correctly which is why the student was getting it wrong. What she meant to say was رح يجنني "he's going to drive me crazy".


Bad mouthing men in Arabic

Today's post covers 2 phrases from Levantine Arabic and more specifically Syrian dialect although they are used in the neighboring countries as well. The clips are from an episode where a girl's friends tell her all the bad things they've learned about men so that she doesn't fall for her boyfriend's tricks. These are taken from بقعة ضو (spotlight) which is a Syrian comedy show.

1. وحدة ما باس تمها غير امها (wahdi ma bas timma gheyr imma) - Someone who has never been kissed except by her mom (i.e. a virgin).

وحدة means "someone" for a female. واحد is how you say "someone" when referring to a male.

باس is "to kiss" or "he kissed". The present tense is يبوس (yboos).

تم is the Levantine way to say "mouth". فم (fem) is the word for mouth in MSA.

About the clip:
The girl's friends are trying to teach her about men and how evil they are.

حبيبتي الشب بيتسلى بالبنت مثل السيجارة و بس يشبع منها بيروح لعند امه لتخطب لوحدة ما باس تمها غير امها (habeebti ashab byetsalla balbint mithl assigara wa bess yeshb'a minna beerooh l'and immu latakhtub lawahdi ma bas timma gheyr imma) - Honey, a guy enjoys himself with a girl just like (he does with) a cigarette. And once he gets his fill he goes to his mother to get engaged to someone who has never been kissed except by her mom.

يتسلى (yetsalla) - to have fun or play with

شبع - to become full, to satisfy one's appetite

2. يا مآمنة بالرجال مثل المي بالغربال (ya imaamni birijaal mithl almai balgirbal)- Don't trust men. (Literally this is "trusting men is like trusting water in a sieve". Here are pictures of sieves.)

مآمنة is belief or faith or trust. It's from the same root as مؤمن (mu'min) which is a believer. Most of the time a believer in God.

مثل - sometimes this is said متل (mitil) instead of مثل (mithil) in dialect. Also, the word زي sometimes replaces مثل when this phrase is said. زي and مثل mean the same thing; "like".

مي - this is the dialect word for water. The MSA word is ماء (ma').

غربال - sieve; I think of it as a sifter or a colander because those are things I'm familiar with that are pretty much the same as a غربال

About this clip:
This is from the same episode and the same topic. Bad mouthing men.


Arabic Proverb - Lion Fangs

This proverb, parable, saying or whatever you want to call it is a very popular one. If you say this to an Arabic speaking friend they will be very impressed with you, even if it's the only thing you know how to say in Arabic!

If you see the fangs of a lion showing, don't think the lion is smiling.

اذا رايت نيوب الليث بارزةً فلا تظن ان الليث يبتسم

There are 2 words used here that have common synonyms. The word you probably know for lion is أسد (asad). ليث means lion as well. Also, the word used here for fangs is نيوب , but أنياب (anyaab) is used as well.


Lebanese Soap: Ajyal أجيال

The word أجيال (ajyal) means "generations". The singular, "generation", is جيل (jeel). Ajyal is a soap opera shown on the Lebanese station MTV. Simply put it's about beautiful people having romantic and dramatic relationships. There's lots of yelling and crying which turns me off to this show. However it is very popular in Lebanon. To tell you the truth I just skip to the parts with Nadine Njeim (نادين نجيم) and Dalida Khalil (دليدا خليل). This lesson covers a conversation in Lebanese Arabic from the show.

You don't need a lot of context to understand what's going on here. The woman in the clip is a widow and has 3 kids. The man is trying to make his move. She pushes him away.

بعرف انه زيارتي مفاجأة بس – I know that my visit is a surprise, but…

تفضل تفضل بليز – Please, please, please

سوري عن جد ع عجقة الاوراق بس عندنا عشية حلقة ع الهوى و بعد عندي شي 200 سؤال بدي حضرهن - I'm really sorry about the clutter but this evening we have an episode live and I still have like 200 questions I need to prepare.

(عجقة ('aj'a) means congestion or "a lot of stuff everywhere". I've normally seen it used as عجقة سير meaning "congested traffic" or "a traffic jam".)

عن جد بعتذر انه جيت بلا تليفون حتى – I apologize for coming without even a telephone call.

(telephone rings)

هدول الولاد. الله يستر. الو؟ اي ماما؟ - It’s the kids. God protect. Hello? Yes, Mom.

(The phrase الله يستر is said when you want God to make sure everything is alright or help with something. The root ستر has to do with pulling curtains or a veil over stuff to hide or protect. ستارة means curtains.

In Arabic it is common for a mom, dad, aunt, uncle, etc to address kids by using their own name. Like we see here, the mom calls her child "mom". I don't think there's anything like that in English.)

احمد عم يضربها لنور – Ahmad is hitting Noor.

(This means the same thing as احمد عم يضرب نور . In Levantine it can be said like this as well, though.)

طيب حبيبي ما تخاف هلق رح شوف شو بدي اعمل. سوري بس لحظة. ابو ناجي؟ كيفك انا فرح. عمول معروف فيك تطللي ع البيت شوف بس ليش احمد و نور عم بيخبطو بعضن؟ الله يخليلياك ابو ناجي. إذا في شي خبرني. اوكي باي – Ok, baby. Don’t worry. Now I’ll see what I can do. Sorry. One moment. Abu Naji? How are you? This is Farah. Do me a favor. Can you look in on the house for me and see why Ahmad and Noor are fighting? God keep you for me, Abu Naji. Let me know if there’s anything. Ok bye.

(عمول معروف means "do me a favor". You can't really look at it and figure out what it means. You just have to memorize it. If you use MSA rules then a معروف is "a known". "Do me a known" makes no sense.)

انا من شان هيك جايي لعندك – This is why I came.

(لعندك literally means "to you")

لانه الولاد عم بيخبطو بعضن؟ - Because the kids are fighting?

لا. بصراحة من شان عدة اشياء. اولاً بدي اشكرك على الربورتاج عن جد كتير حلو لو ما بستاهل قد ما سببتلك مشاكل بيوم التصوير. و شغلة تانية كمان بدي اعتذر على إللي سببتلكياه بالبيت. كمان بدي قلك انه احمد بده متابعة. و الدكتور زوين -سامعة فيها مو هيك؟ - هي معالجة نفسية للاطفال يللي بتطلع ع التلفزيونات و هي بتطلع عندكن هون كمان – No. Frankly for a few reasons. First of all I want to thank you for the report. It was really very nice even though I don’t deserve it because of how many problems I caused you on the day of filming. And the second thing, I also want to apologize about what I caused for you at your house. I also want to tell you that Ahmad needs looking after. And Dr. Zwain - you’ve heard of her, right? – she is a psychologist for children who goes on TV and she’ll come to you here too.

(بستاهل means "I deserve")

بعرفها – I know her.

اي فهي بنت عمتي و... فإذا بتريدي... – Yes, she’s my cousin and… if you want…

مرسي كتير. عم عذبك كتير معي – Thanks a lot. I’m torturing you a lot.

("I'm torturing you" is basically like saying "I'm putting you out")

ولو ما في عذاب ابداً – No way. It's no torture at all.

بس بصراحة انا ما عم بفهم إهتمامك الزايد – But frankly, I’m not understanding why you care so much.

بصراحة انا انسان كتير صادق. ما بخطط للاشياء. بس حس انه بدي اعمل شي بعمله من دون لا سؤالات و لا جوابات – Frankly, I’m a very truthful person. I don’t plan things. When I feel that I want to do something, I do it without questions or answers.

مسيور تيو إذا انت انسان صادق, انا انسانة صادقة و صريحة كمان. اولاً بدي اشكرك على اهتمامك فيّ و بالولاد. و تانياً بتمنى عليك تضلك بعيد عننا لانه انا مرأة ارملة و وضعي مش كتير بيسمحلي ابني صداقات مع رجال و خاصةً زيارات مفاجأة هيك بالشغل و حتى عندنا بالبيت – Mr. Theo, if you’re a truthful person, I am a truthful and frank person as well. Firstly, I want to thank you for your caring about me and about the kids. And secondly I want you to stay away from us because I’m a widow and my situation doesn’t much allow me to build friendships with men and especially surprise visits like this at work and even at our house.

Very Egyptian Phrases

Egyptian is a very distinctive dialect. There are several words that give it away. You've got فين (feen, where), كده (kida, like this), أوي (awi, very), and they pronounce all their ج (j) as English G's. It's hard to confuse Egyptian with another dialect once you've had some exposure to it. This post is basically a sampling of some very Egyptian phrases.

1. يا راجل انت جننت ولا ايه؟ (Ya Ragil enta gannent wala ee) - Man, have you gone crazy or what?

The word ولا means "or" in Egyptian and in other dialects. It's a combination of و (and) and لا (no), but just remember that it means "or". جنن means "to go crazy". The word مجنون (crazy) which is usually one of the first words any Arabic student learns comes from the same root.

2. بقلك ايه (ba'ulak ee) - I'll tell you what...

This is used the same way we use it in English. You can say it before you tell someone something.

3. هو ده الكلام (huwa da alkalaam) - That's what I'm talking about

Literally this means "that is the talk". When something goes the way you want it to or someone says something you agree with you can use this phrase.

4. مش كده (mish kida)- Isn't it like that? مش هيك, أليس كذلك

It takes a lot of exposure to different Arabic dialects before you can differentiate between accents, but before you can do that there are words that are very specific to certain dialects. The word كده is specific to Egyptian. If you hear it then you are definitely listening to Egyptian dialect. كده literally means "like this".

5. ايه إللي جابك هنا (ee illi gaabak hena) - What brings you here?

This can be said in a mean way or if you're just wondering why someone is there. It's all about tone.

6. بجد (bigad) - For real

This is the same as Levantine عن جد. It can be translated as "really", "for real", "seriously", etc.

7. بصو بقى يا جماعة (busu ba'a ya gamaa'a) - Look, everyone.

This would be said to get the attention of a group of people. بص means "look". بقى is a strange word that basically just gives emphasis. It also means "to become" in some sentences.

8. رايحة فين يا حببتي (rayha feen ya habibti) - Where are you going baby?

I put this one here because it's very Egyptian. فين is "where". It comes from في اين which is MSA. Also, the way they say حببتي (habibti) instead of حبيبتي (habibati).

9. وحشتني قوي (wahashtani awi) - I missed you very much.

This phrase took a while to wrap my mind around. You would think it would be وحشتك (wahashtak), right? After all, in English we say I missed you. But in Egyptian they do it the other way around. So if you wanted to say "Did you miss me?" you'd say وحشتك؟ , but "I missed you" is وحشتني. I think of it as "You made me miss you." The action is being done to the other person.


From your mouth to the gates of heaven

Today's post is about the phrase من تمك لأبواب السماء (min temek labwaab assama) which means "from your mouth to the gates of heaven."

It's used pretty much the same way that الله يسمع منك (allah yesma' minek) "may God hear you" is used. You can reply with this phrase whenever someone says something that you want to happen. You're basically saying that you hope God/heaven will hear what the person just said and make it come true. The phrase is at least used in Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian, and Palestinian, but I don't know if it's used elsewhere. I have 2 example clips to help with pronunciation and to give some context.

  • In this first one the man and the women are complaining about making too much money. The man says that he heard the government is going to lower wages and then the woman responds من تمك لأبواب السماء.

يا ستي طمني بالك. سمعتإلك من مصادر موثوقة أنو في قرار قريب لتخفيض الرواتب (ya sitti tumini baalik. ism'atilik min masaadir mawsoo'a anu fi qaraar 'areeb litakhfeed arawaatib) - Madam, don't worry. I heard from trustworthy sources that there will soon be a decision to lower wages.

من تمك لأبواب السماء (min temek labwaab assama) - From your mouth to the gates of heaven.

Ok, so the guy calls her يا ستي . This is his wife he's talking to. The word ست is more often used to refer to your grandmother or more formally to a woman. Think "my lady".

طمني بالك means "don't worry". Literally, "calm your mind".

مصادر موثوقة is "trusted sources". You'll notice that he pronounces the ث as an س which is very common.

  • This second example happens after these guys' team wins in a soccer semi-final. The guy on the left has just said that he hopes the team will have the same results at the next match. The guy on the right replies من تمك لأبواب السماء.