Tuesday

Top 15 Arabic Songs for Americans


To western ears Arabic music sounds at first, well, foreign.  It uses beats, rhythms, and scales that our ears just aren't used to.  We didn't grow up with it so the music sounds strange.  In this post you're going to find some songs that you will likely enjoy, even if you've never listened to Arabic music before.

I've chosen mostly quick tempo songs as slower songs are often described as whiny by western listeners.  To tell you the truth, a lot of slow songs sound whiny to me too, but I know that if I say that I don't like Um Kalthum or that Fayrouz's only has a few songs I enjoy, I'm going to make the Arab readers of this post a little peeved.  I've never found a western person who will say that they like Um Kalthum though although Arabs are crazy about her.  I really believe her music is just something you had to grow up with to like.  I've decided to leave out songs from that era and go with more modern music.

These are 15 songs that I like and listen to (some so much that I don't listen to them anymore).  I've waded through a lot of songs that I didn't like over my 6 years of learning Arabic and these are the best I've found.  I have more, but people don't like long lists so I've limited it to a manageable top 15.  I've tried to get most of the regions of the Arab world represented on the list.  So, in no particular order:

1. Lebnani - Assi al Helani (لبناني - عاصي الحلاني) Lebanese

This list is a tiny bit skewed toward Lebanese songs (6 out of 15), but that's because the Lebanese have more than their fair share of popular singers nowadays.  This song is about Lebanese people being awesome.  It's got a quick tempo which, for me, makes me more likely to like an Arabic song.  I looked over my favorites list on You Tube and only 2 were slow songs.  Does this say something about Americans or just me? :)  Another good song from Assi al Helani is و اني مارق مريت.  It's worth a listen too, but doesn't pick up until minute 1:30.

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2. The Job - Qusay (الوظيفة - قصي) Saudi

In my experience Saudi music, and gulf music in general, sounds more foreign to western ears than Egyptian or Lebanese music.  Gulf music is really what I was referring to when I said earlier that the scales and rhythms are different.  Although it doesn't usually have the long مواويل (mawaweel, the part that sounds like whining to my American ears) that more traditional Levantine and Egyptian music has.  You can definitely tell that The Job by Qusay has a Saudi beat to it, but it's more of a pop song and has a quick pace so I imagine more conducive to westerners.  This is Saudi music lite.  I wish Qusay had more stuff like this, but most of his other songs are 100% English.



3. Alby w Omry - Brigit Yaghi (قلبي و عمري - بريجيت ياغي) Egyptian

Now this song could pass for an American pop song if you just changed the words to English.  I like the song (except for the cringe worthy "go dj" part in the middle).  Pepsi used this song in a commercial they did for the region. I've heard criticism that the words to the song are just fluff and are stupid, but whatever, it sounds good and that's what songs are about right?  She says things like, "I dance with him and when we finish we dance again."  It's not a deep song, but you'll like it.



4. Layky Layky - Wafeeq Habib (ليكي ليكي - وفيق حبيب) Syrian

I just realized this is the only Syrian song on the list.  This isn't because I don't like Syrian music.  It's probably tied with Lebanese music for the most dialect that I listen to.  Lebanese and Syrian sound pretty similar though.  Another great Syrian song is وطفي (Watfi).  I challenge you to hate that song.  It's this guy singing about how his girl is hot but never does any work while he slaves away in the field.



5. Ma Cherie - Cheb Rayan feat. Rima - Moroccan

I can't understand anything Rayan sings in this song as it's Moroccan.  Rima is not hard to understand, but the rest might as well be a different language.  I've looked at the transcript of the song and it's still hard for me to follow along.  The countries west of Egypt have some really good music, but I usually don't listen to them too much as I can't understand their dialect.  This song is one of the best I've heard and there's also Cheb Khalid.  A lot a singers west of Egypt call themselves Cheb and then their name.  Cheb is the way they write شاب (young guy) in French.  The "sh" becomes a "ch".  It's still pronounced "shab" though.

Cheb Khalid is Algerian.  People get mad if you call him Moroccan.  I always group them together in my mind though as it's two similar dialects that are incomprehensible to me.  I remember listening to Didi right when I started learning Arabic and thinking, "Eventually I'll be able to understand what he's saying!"  Nope.  Another great song with Cheb Khalid is Henna.  The song is half Persian and half Algerian.

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6. Al Bint Al Lebnania - Marwan Khoury (البنت اللبنانية - مروان خوري) Lebanese

Similar to the topic of the first song on the list, but this one is about how awesome Lebanese girls are.  Good song.

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7. Wahishny Eh - Myriam Fares (وحشني ايه - مريم فارس) Egyptian

Myriam Fares is actually Lebanese, but a lot of her songs are sung in Egyptian dialect.  I think singers are getting away from this somewhat, but even recently people would sing in Egyptian even if they weren't from Egypt because the Egyptian audience is the largest in the Arab world and Egyptian dialect is widely understood.  Wahishny Eh is Myriam Fares's  most popular song.  Other good ones are Ha'aliq Rahtak and Nadini.



8. Joumhoureyet Alby - Mohamed Eskandar (جمهورية قلبي - محمد اسكندر) Lebanese

This song is about a dad who's daughter wants to get a job, but he doesn't want her to because she's his little princess.  The song starts at minute 0:41 where she says بدي اشتغل (I want to work).  The mijwiz (or at least a synthetic mijwiz on a keyboard) is used in this song.  It sounds kind of like a kazoo and is commonly used in traditional music in the Levant region.  I didn't like it at first, but it's grown on me and I really like how it sounds now.  It's used a lot in debka, the Levantine dance where everyone holds hands and dances while walking around in a circle.  Here's a mijwiz mix.  This is something people would debka to.




9. Shasawi - Asma Al Munawar (شسوي - اسماء المنور) Saudi

I discovered this song while listening to MBC FM on my iPhone.  That station only plays music from the gulf so if you want to find some good Saudi songs it's probably the best radio station to listen to.  That being said, it's hard for me to find gulf Arabic songs I like.  There are a few songs I like.  This is one of them.  Asma is actually Moroccan, but sings in gulf Arabic as well.  Others that I've found are حلم رومانسيي (Romantic Dream) and كم الساعة by Shada Hassoun.

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10. Khetyar 'Ala Al Akkaze - Faris Karam (ختيار على العكازة - فارس كرم) Lebanese

Another great Lebanese song.  Faris Karam is actually my favorite Arab singer.  In fact, I've listened to his songs so much that I don't really listen to them anymore, but that just tells you how good they are.  This song is called "The Old Man on the Cane".  It's about some girl that everyone in the town is crazy about, even the old men and the kids in school.  Other good Faris Karam songs are الحمد لله and التنورة.

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11. Iyyak Tilhagni - Mona Amarcha (اياك تلحقني - منى امرشا) Saudi

Mona Amarcha is another Moroccan who sings in gulf Arabic.  This song's title means "don't chase after me".  In the song she is engaged, but there's another guy who likes her and she tells him not to bother.  Listen to the drum in this song, especially at the beginning.  That type of drumming is found in almost all gulf songs.  It's a good way to identify what type of music you're listening to.

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12. La Li Leih - Aline Kahalf (لا لي ليه - الين خلف) Lebanese

I'm not sure if the title of this song actually means anything or if it's just like "la la la".  I mean, you can translate it as "no, for me, why", but I don't know if it's supposed to be translated.  I'm guessing it's just "la la la".  That's really all I have to say about this song.  It sounds good.

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13. Wayn 'A Ramallah - Folk Song (وين ع رام الله - اغنية تراثية) Palestinian

This song is about going to Ramallah.  There's a trumpet used which is rare for Arabic music.  This is a newer version of the song which is probably why.

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14. Boos Al Wawa - Haifa Wehbe (بوس الواوا - هيفاء وهبي) Egyptian

I had to put Haifa Wehbe on here.  She's got to be the most famous Arabic pop singer of all time.  Some of her songs are decent.  I like this one and also بابا فين (Where's Dad?).  The music starts at 1:45.  بنت الوادي (Girl of the Valley) is good too.  Again, these songs are in Egyptian even though she is Lebanese.  Boos Al Wawa (Kiss the Booboo) isn't a serious song obviously.  She's babysitting a kid and then her boyfriend wants to go out to dinner, but they have to bring the kid with them.



15. Ahl Al Hima - Omar Al Abdallat (اهل الهمة - عمر العبداللات) Jordanian

This is the only Jordanian song on the list.  When I visited Jordan I bought a bunch of their folk/nationalistic songs and started to like them.  Most praise the king and the country and the army, but they sound good so I listen to them.  Omar Al Abdallat sings a lot of these patriotic songs, but there are some really good ones.  This song in particular is about the strength of the Jordanian people.  Other good songs in this vein are دير بالك ع بلادك (Look after your country).  I imagine Omar isn't so famous outside of Jordan because of the subject of his songs.  Is a Syrian going to want to listen to how great the Jordanian king and people are?  Probably not.  I just care about how the song sounds though.

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Quick Syrian Dialect Lesson

This clip is from the Syrian show رومانتيكا (Romantica) which aired during Ramadan 2012.  The words aren't really hard in this clip.  The speed is the thing that may trip you up.  When I was first learning Levantine dialect it was always the speed and the accent.  I found that I knew pretty much all of the words but just needed to get used to people speaking it.  In this clip I wouldn't have understood where she says وقعت if it were 3 years ago.  It's a bit odd because she pronounces the qaf as a hamza in that word, but then right after that she says بنقذك and she pronounces the qaf as a qaf.  Arabic is fun, huh?


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  • بتخاف ما؟  ما بتعرف تسبح (bitkhaaf maa?  ma bta'rif tisbah) - You're scared, right?  You don't know how to swim.


  • ايه عادي.  في كتير ناس بتخاف من البحر (Ay 'aadi.  fi kteer naas bitkhaaf min albahr) - Yeah, what's so strange about that?  There are a lot of people who are afraid of the sea.

- The word عادي just means "normal".  I didn't translate it that way because it wouldn't sound right in English.  Also notice that ناس is a feminine word since he says بتخاف with it.

  • طيب لا تخاف.  اذا وقعت انا بنقذك (tayyib la tkhaaf.  iza wa't ana banqizak) - Ok, don't be afraid.  If you fall I'll save you.

- Notice when she says وقعت.  Some of the hardest words to understand when starting out with the Levantine dialect are ones that have a ق and ع right next to each other, especially if the qaf is pronounced as a hamza.  Literally she says "if you fell I'll save you".

  • بالله؟!  ايه بلا حكي فاضي و خليّنا ندوّر ع الزلمي (balla?  ay bila haki faadi wu khalleenaa ndawwir 'a azzalami) - Really?!  Quit BSing and let's look for the guy.

- The expression بالله is literally "by God", but it's used to mean something like "Really?!".  You can usually tell from context what the person means when they use it because it's a word that is usually accompanied by emotion or some gesture.  بلا حكي فاضي literally means "without empty talk".  خليّنا is "let's". ندوّر is "we look for".  زلمي is "man" or "guy".  They are looking for somebody by the sea.

Thursday

Arabic Saying: We're confused, baldy. Where do we kiss you?

Ok, this saying sounds pretty strange.  In Arabic it's احترنا يا قرعة من وين نبوسك which literally translates to "We're confused, baldy.  Where do we kiss you?".  In this clip from the RoyaTV YouTube channel people give their opinions on what the phrase means.  The consensus is that it refers to someone who is difficult to satisfy. When you try to satisfy someone but they keep giving you a hard time you'd get fed up and say this saying.  The explanation they hint at in the clip is as follows:

You kiss a person on the cheek, which is a bald part of the head.  However if you are kissing a someone who has no hair their head is all bald so you don't know where to kiss them.  So, you're trying to kiss the person (i.e. do something nice for them), but since they are bald you don't know where to do it, meaning that the person is not someone who you can easily do something nice for (kiss) or satisfy them.  Really odd, I know.

Here's the thing though.  Some of the people in the clip take the saying to be talking about someone bald, اقرع. And some take it to be talking about a pumpkin قرعة.  You can see why the words قرعة and اقرع are related.  Someone bald has no hair, just like a pumpkin.  The word قرعة can mean bald too though.  So whether you take the saying to be talking about a pumpkin or a bald person, it still means the same thing.  No need to analyze the saying too much.  The important thing is that we know how it's used.  It just means someone who is hard to satisfy. 

Let's look at the clip!
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احترنا يا قرعة منين نبوسك.  يعني في حدا صعب.. فتفكيره صعب فصعب ترضيه بطريقة معيّنة.  فأظن شبهوها بالقرعة... النبتة يعني عشانها مدورة و بكل محل نفس الإشي فبتحتار تبوسها في محل.  أظن.  بعرفش
We're confused, baldy.  Where do we kiss you.  It means there's someone difficult... so his thinking is difficult, so it's hard to satisfy him in a certain way.  So I think they likened it to a pumpkin, the plant, I mean because it's round and it's the same in every place so you get confused where to kiss it in a place.  I think.  I don't know.

احترنا يا فرعة من وين نبوسك؟  قرعة شعرها محلوق.  وين نبوسك؟  ما بعرف الصراحة
We're confused, baldy.  Where do we kiss you?  A bald person, her hair is shaved.  Where do we kiss you?  I frankly don't know.


احترنا يا قرعة منين نبوسك.  مثل قديم.  ببساطة انه في ناس كثير هالايام بتحيّرك و ما بتعرف شو بدك, كيف بدك ترضيها بالاخر فبينحكى المثل هذا... بالاخر كيف بدنا نرضيك او كيف بدنا... عارف؟  احترنا يا اقرع منين نبوسك
We're confused, baldy.  Where do we kiss you?  It's an old saying.  Simply it's that there are a lot of people these days that confuse you and you don't know what you... how you can satisfy them in the end.  So this saying is said... in the end how do we satisfy or how can we... know what I mean?  We're confused, baldy.  Where do we kiss you?
((You notice that he says اقرع, bald, here instead of قرعة, pumpkin.  I think the words can be interchangeable.  Like if you called someone a pumpkin head, meaning they were bald.))

احترنا يا قرعة من وين نبوسك؟  يعني ما عرفنا كيف نرضيك او مش عارفين ايش نعمل عشان نرضيك. اظن
We're confused, baldy.  Where do we kiss you?  It means we don't know how to satisfy you or we don't know what to do to satisfy you.  I think.       

احترنا يا قرعة من وين نبوسك؟  يعني يعني يعني شخص معيّن و يكون كتير كتير بيغلّب و مهما حاولت معاه مش ضابط ولا إشي فبتحكي احترنا يا قرعة من وين نبوسك؟ 
We're confused, baldy.  Where do we kiss you?  It means... there's a certain person and he really, really gives people a hard time and no matter how hard you tried with him nothing works, so you say "We're confused, baldy.  Where do we kiss you?"

Monday

Arabic Lesson - Throw it in the Trash

In Syrian and Lebanese dialect, the way to say "throw" is كبّ "kibb".  This is used in sentences like كبّه بالزبالة (kibbu bizzibaleh) - "throw it in the trash", and كبّ الطابة (kabb attabeh) - "he threw the ball".  Kibb is the imperative.  Just like إرمي (irmi) - "throw" in MSA. Kabb is the masculine past tense, "he threw".
The following clip is from a Syrian show called رومانتيكا Romantica which revolves around a big love triangle, or more like a love pentagon.  The name of the girl yelling in the clip is تهاني (Tahani).  She's telling كوكب (Kokab) to throw away a bouquet (باقة) of flowers that was given to her.  That's all the context needed to get what's going on.

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تهاني: كوكب, كبيها كبيها
كوكب: ما بدك ياها؟
تهاني: لا.  كبيها بالزبالة
كوكب: ليش حتى كبها؟ نشّفها و بعملها زهورات

Tahani: Kokab, throw it out, throw it out.
Kokab: You don't want it?
Tahani: No.  Throw it in the trash.
Kokab: Why should I throw it away?  I'll dry them and make dried flowers (zuhurat).

So I had to look up what زهورات was.  I did a Google image search and it came back with pictures of dried flowers that people put into tea.  I imagine she's joking here when she says to dry to flower bouquet to put into tea.  You really learn something every day with Arabic. 

Saturday

Arabic Measure Chart



This Arabic verb measure chart (zoom in) is very useful when starting out with Modern Standard Arabic.  You'll need to know these forms just to look up words in the Hans Wehr dictionary.  In Arabic the verbs are usually formed from a 3 letter root, فعل for example.  There are 10 measures in Arabic, which is to say there are 10 different ways that the 3 letter root can be changed.  10 different patterns it can follow.  These changes to the root change the meaning of the verb.  For instance, if you put a shadda ّ  on the middle letter of a verb (meaning you stress that letter), it takes whatever the meaning of measure I was (the normal 3 letter root with no changes) and makes it cause measure I to happen.  As with so many things in language learning, explaining it makes little sense until you see an example.

The verb سمع (sami'a measure I) means "to hear".  If you say سمعنا صوتك (sami'na sawtak) it means "we heard your voice", but if you use سمّع (measure II) and say سمّعنا صوتك (sammi'na sawtak) it means literally "make us hear your voice".  A teacher could use this phrase when asking a student to answer a question.

Another example, the verb جمل (jamala, measure I) means "to be beautiful", but if you use measure II, جمّل (jammala), then it becomes "to beautify, to make beautiful".  You get the phrase جراحة التجميل, "plastic surgery" (literally "beautification surgery") from this measure.

So that's a quick intro into the measure system in Arabic.  The chart on this post lists the 10 measures and how they are conjugated.  The chart is a tad confusing if you aren't familiar with grammar terms.  Under ACTIVE where it says PERFECT (Past), that's past tense.  Where it says IMPERFECT (Present), that's present tense.

IMPERATIVE (Command) is how you conjugate orders and commands.  In English we just say the word.  If I want you to write, I just say "write".  In Arabic you have to change the word a little which the chart shows.  There isn't always a rule that works all the time.  Like for the command conjugation, you see under measure one for commands there are a lot of different ways to do it and they depend on the verb.  For instance, إسمع (isma') is imperative for "listen", but أُكتب (uktub) is imperative for "write".  Sometimes you just have to know and the chart won't help.

Another very important column on the chart is the VERBAL NOUN (MASDAR) column.  That tells you how to change a verb into its noun equivalent.  You'll notice earlier in the post I wrote جراحة التجميل (jirahat atajmeel).  The word تجميل is measure II, even though it doesn't look the same as جمّل .  That's because جمّل (to beautify) is the verb and التجميل (beautification) is the noun.  Usually this is synonymous with adding -ing to words in English.  Like with "write" and "the writing".  In Arabic this is كتب and الكتابة, both are measure I.  If you look at the VERBAL NOUN (MASDAR) column for measure I, you'll see فعالة which is the same form as كتابة. You'll notice there are several different patterns in the measure I verbal noun box, so the chart only gives you an idea of how it might be made.  It isn't a foolproof solution.  For measure II though, the vast majority of the time, it's تفعيل , the same measure as تجميل .  I can't even think of a word that uses تفعلة , the other pattern that it has in the measure II box.

Anyway, I hope this wasn't too confusing.  There's a lot you can analyze when talking about Arabic measures, I just went over some of the most important parts.  Measure IV is another very important one, it does the exact same thing as measure II, just looks different.  Then you have measure VII which makes the word passive, like, "it was written" versus "he wrote".  That's an important one.  The measures don't always work out and a lot of the time you just have to memorize things, but they are worth knowing.



Monday

Arab Cup Reading تبصير بالفنجان

Some people in the Arab world believe that you can tell someone's future by reading the coffee grounds left in a cup of coffee the person drank.  Most people don't believe this and it's much like tarot card or palm readings in the US.  The word for this coffee cup reading is تبصير (tabseer).  This word is really easy to remember since the root is بصر which means "to see".  To do a cup reading is measure 2, so بصّر or تبصير

In the Arab world coffee is drunk from a small cup called a فنجان (finjan).  The coffee still has grounds in it which are left over once you drink the coffee as you can see in the picture.  The person reading the cup will have the person whose cup it is put their thumb print (بصمة, basmah) in the coffee grounds and then they will tell the person's future based on the patterns in the coffee grounds.
There's also a part of the reading where they turn the cup upside down.  I'm not sure how that plays into it all, but the word they use for "turn it upside down" is طب (tub).  In the video clip below the cup reader says قوليلها طب حتى شوف لها المستور , "tell her to turn it over so I can see the hidden (meanings)".  The interpreter interprets "turn it over" as "bend over".  That's the joke. 

The video is from a Lebanese comedy show called كتير سلبي on MTV Lebanon.

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Wednesday

Egyptian Arabic Lesson from Hikayat Banat

This lesson is from the new show Hikayat Banat (حكايات بنات) which means "Girls' Stories".  The show is from the Ramadan 2012 line up on MBC and is in Egyptian dialect.  I haven't been watching it, but I went to a random episode and started listening for some speech that would make a good lesson.  This telephone soliloquy by one of the characters works well.  All you need to know as far as context goes is that she's trying to reach her husband and his secretary doesn't know where he is.


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  • يعني ايه حببتي ما تعرفيش هو فين؟
What do you mean, baby, that you don't know where he is?

يعني ايه - what do you mean? (literally "what does it mean", but we wouldn't say that in English)
حببتي - you'll notice that this is pronounced differently from MSA and Levantine dialects where it is حبيبتي .  In Egyptian they get rid of the ي in the middle and it becomes حببتي.
ما تعرفيش - the ش at the end is to negate.  ما تعرفي means the same thing, but in Egyptian they put a ش at the end of the verb too when negating it.

  • هو انتي برضه مش السكرتيرة بتاعته ولا انا فاهمة غلط؟
Aren't you still his secretary or am I mistaken?

هو - this literally means "he", but in Egyptian they will just put هو in as a filler.  It's kind of like انه in some Levantine dialects. 
برضه (bardu) - means "still" or "also".
بتاعته - "belonging to him".  The base word is بتاع.  If it's a feminine word that is possessed then it becomes بتاعت .  And then at the end you put who it belongs to.  In this case it refers to "secretary" which is feminine, بتاعت , and it's her husband's secretary, so it's بتاعته .
ولا - "or".  Does not mean "and not".


  • و هو انا كنت مستنية الفكرة العبقرية بتاعتك دي. مانا كلّمته على الموبايل و لقيته مقفول
I was waiting for this genius idea from you. I called his cellphone and it was off.

From the context the secretary must have suggested that she call him on his cellphone. 
هو - Same thing as I mentioned before.  They just throw in هو sometimes.
عبقرية - genius
دي - short for هذه .  Means "this".  For هذا they say ده (da).
مانا - she puts an م on the front of انا here.  They do that sometimes.  Don't worry about it.
لقيته - I found it.
مقفول - means "locked", but when talking about a cellphone it means "off".

  • اوكي يا جيجي.  اوكي.  لا خلاص.  انا عرفت دلوقتي ان انتي ما بتعرفيش عنه اي حاجة خالص
Ok, Gigi.  Ok.  No, it's fine.  I know now that you don't know anything about him at all.

خلاص - means "it's finished/done". 
دلوقتي - "now"
خالص - "at all".  In Syrian they would say بنوب .  In MSA إطلاقاً

  • انا هتصرّف.  باي
I'll act.  Bye.

تصرّف - to act/to behave (basically she means she'll figure it out/take care of it).  The ه at the beginning of the word is for future tense.

Sunday

Arabic Saying: Hit the Iron while it's Hot

I am subscribed to the Jordan TV channel RoyaTV on YouTube.  They put up a lot of stuff so I don't watch it all, but today I happened to click on a clip titled على رأي المثل : اضرب الحديد وهو حامي. The show is called على رأي المثل ('ala ra'i almathal) which is how you say in Arabic "as the saying goes".  They go around and ask people what a saying means.  This is absolutely perfect for those learning Arabic.  You get a bunch of different people talking about what common Arabic sayings mean to them.  Since the channel is Jordanian the responses are in Jordanian and Palestinian dialect, but these sayings mean the same thing everywhere.  The saying in this clip is "hit the iron while it's hot". 


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اضرب الحديد و هو حامي يعني ما تأجلش الموضوع. ساويه هسا او... يعني ما تأجلوش ساويه هسا
Hit the iron while it's hot means don't postpone the issue.  Do it now or... I mean don't postpone it.  Do it now.

(The ش at the end of تأجل is there to negate it.  This is used in Palestinian dialect.  ساويه means do it.  هسا means now.  It comes from هذه الساعة and in some places is said with an ع. هسع.)

اضرب الحديد و هو حامي يعني... تفوت بموضوع او... مش شرط موضوع بس... يعني حعطيك مثل.  يعني مثلا صار في مشكلة او اشي.  تروح تحكي مع الانسان بالمشكلة او بتفوت بالموضوع على طول قبل ما يبرد الموضوع.  لا؟  مش هيك؟  ما بعرف.
Hit the iron while it's hot means... enter into an issue or... it doesn't have to be an issue but... I mean I'll give you an example.  I mean for example, (if) there is a problem or something, go talk with the person about the problem or enter into the issue right away before the issue gets cold.  No?  That's not it?  I don't know.

(The phrase here مش شرط means "it doesn't have to be".  A شرط is a condition or a term in an agreement.  In حعطيك the ح indicates future tense.  على طول means "right away".)

دق الحديد و هو حامي... اذا ناويت... اي واحد اذا ناوى يعمل شغلة و فيها خير و توكل على الله يعملها على طول
Hit the iron while it's hot... if I intended... anyone if he intended to do something and it's good (he should) rely on God and do it right away.

(دق is a dialect word for hit.)

لما يضرب الحديد و هو حامي يعني لازم يعمل اشي و لساته بمحله. بوقته
When someone hits the iron while it's hot it means that one should do something while it's still in its place.  In its time.

بظن المثل بيحكي انه لما يكون عندك فرصة على طول تستغلها و ما انه ما منستنى.  ما منستنى لاشياء تصير انه عشان احيانا الاشياء ما بتتحسن.  فانه على طول لما يكون في فرصة منستغلها منشان احتمال تكون احسن فرصة.
I think that the saying says that when you have an opportunity, take advantage of it right away and don't... we don't wait.  We don't wait for something to happen because sometimes things don't get better.  So, right away when there's an opportunity we take advantage of it because it might be the best opportunity. 

(The word يستغل means "to take advantage of an opportunity".  Young people use the word انه in Jordan a lot.  It's a filler a lot of the time.  Like the word "like" in the US.  Literally it means "that".  رجائي قواس has a comedy bit making fun of this.)

دق الحديد و هو حامي معناته بس يجي بحياتك فرصة كبيرة او انه حتى لو فرصة صغيرة يعني خذها و انت واثق من حالك و احتمال تطلع انه فرصة كبيرة و بتغير بحياة الواحد
Hit the iron when it's hot means whenever a big opportunity comes into your life or, even if it's a small opportunity, I mean, take it and be sure of yourself and it's possible that it will turn out to be a big opportunity and (it could) change a person's life.

(The word تطلع here means "to turn out to be".)

يعني لحق الموضوع و هو يعني بالقمة تبعته.  يعني اذا كنت متخانقة مع حدا و بدك تعمل اشي استغل الفرصة و اعمل الاشي الي بدك تعمله
It means catch the issue while it is, I mean, at its pinnacle.  I mean if you were fighting with someone and you want to do something, take advantage of the opportunity and do the thing that you want to do.

يعنى انا و سها تخانقنا... صح؟  بروح بحكي معها دغري عشان ضربت الحديد و هو حامي
If Suha and I were fighting... right?  I (would) go talk with her right away so that I hit the iron while it's hot.
             

Thursday

Ramadan 2012 TV Shows

I always look forward to Ramadan each year, not because I am religious, but because it means new TV programs and series (مسلسلات) on the Arabic channels.  Ramadan starts on July 19th in 2012 and looking at MBC's website they have about 8 new shows:


عمر - MSA.  This show looks really good from the preview.  The production quality is really high (the preview says it's the "biggest Arab production") and stylistically it reminds me of 300, Gladiator, or Spartacus.  There's a pretty big outcry in the Arab world about this show though.  A lot of people don't want it to be broadcast because it is about one of Islam's main personalities, 'Umar bin al-Khattab.  I'm hoping the show's quality lives up to the preview.





كنة الشام و كناين الشامية - Gulf drama.  I thought this one was going to be in Syrian because it has شام in the title, but I guess that's just a last name because the show is in Gulf Arabic.



حبر العيون - Gulf drama.



الخواجة عبد القادر - Egyptian drama.




طيش عيال - Gulf animated comedy.



حلفت عمري - Gulf drama.



حكايات بنات - Egyptian drama.



خواطر 8 - MSA/Gulf educational/religious program.  This show is one that I watch each year.  My favorite season was when they went to Japan and compared the Japanese way of life to the Arab way of life and talked about how Arab countries could learn from the Japanese.  It was really interesting.  Season 8 looks to be about charity around the world and helping the poor.



These shows are just the ones that MBC is showing.  If you go to this link, you'll see all the Ramadan 2012 shows that Panet.co.il has on its site from many different channels.  There you'll find more variety.  MBC is very Gulf Arabic oriented because it's a Saudi channel.

Tuesday

Syrian Arabic Lesson: It's Out of My Hands


This lesson is on Syrian Arabic and the clip is from the show يوميات مدير عام (Dailies of the General Manager) on MTV Lebanon.  The phrase is "It's out of my hands", الشغلة مو بإيدي.  There are other things to learn from this clip though.  I learned the phrase فالج و لا تعالج , which basically means "the situation is hopeless". 



The context of the clip is that a guy is coming to a government office to turn in a form to enter some competition.  The government bureaucrat tells him that the deadline for entry has passed.  The guy keeps begging him to put the form through, but the official says there's nothing he can do.  It's out of his hands.  The transcript, translation, and explanation are below.

video

  • اليوم ما بقدر.  إمبارح كنت بقدر.  استوعبت ولا ضل عدلك ياها؟
Today I can't.  Yesterday I could have.  You get it?  Or should I keep repeating it for you?

استوعب - "to absorb or ingest", but it is also often used to mean "to understand or comprehend"
ولا - or
ضل - keep, continue (also spelled ظل)
عد - repeat
لك - for you
ياها - it

  • يعني ما رح تاخذ مني طلب المسابقة؟
So you won't take the competition request from me?

يعني means "it means", but it's really just a filler most of the time and can be translated in various ways.  Here I chose "so".
رح - indicates future tense
تاخذ - take
مني - from me
طلب - request
المسابقة - competition

  • و شلون بدي سجله اذا المهلة خلصت؟  لك و بعدين وين كنت لهلق؟  كنت نايم؟
And how am I supposed to record it if the deadline has finished?  And anyway, where have you been til now?  Were you sleeping?

سجل - to record something, to write something down
مهلة - time limit, extension
لك - this word is used to get someone's attention.  It's like "hey you".  Often it is rude.
بعدين - means "after", but here it's like "anyway"
وين كنت لهلق - where were you til now

  • ايه ما لحقت جهز الاوراق المطلوبة الا اليوم
I didn't have time to ready the required papers until today.

ايه - means yes, but he doesn't mean it here.  He doesn't mean "yes I was sleeping".  You know how sometimes you just say "yeah" and it has no meaning?  That's what this is.  It means nothing here.
ما لحقت - this is a very important phrase.  I hear it used all the time in Syrian shows.  It means "I didn't have time" or "I didn't get a chance to".


  • حلو.  و شو ذنبي انا؟
Great.  And how is that my fault?

شو ذنبي انا - literally "what is my fault".

  • دبّرها استاذ.  الله يخليلك اولادك
Work it out, mister.  May God keep your children.

دبّر - the best translation I could think of is "work is out".  There's also the common phrase دبّر حالك which is like "take care of it yourself", "work it out yourself", "do it on your own", "help yourself".  You get the idea.
الله يخليلك اولادك - this is said in a begging way here

  • لك لسا بيقلي دبّرها.  شلون بدي دبّرها اه؟  هلق انت بتقدر ترجّع عقارب الساعة لوراء؟
And he's still telling me to work it out.  How am I supposed to work it out, eh?  Now can you turn back the hands of the clock?

لسا - still
عقارب الساعة - the hands of the clock (also عقارب means scorpions)
لوراء - back

  • دبّرها. ابوس ايدك.  صارلي سنة عم بستنى هالفرصة
Work it out.  I kiss your hand.  I've been waiting for this opportunity for a year.

ابوس ايدك - I kiss your hand.  This is used when begging.
صارلي سنة - literally "it's been a year for me"
بستنى - I wait
فرصة - opportunity

  • لا حول و لا قوة الا بالله العلي العظيم.  اخي هلق انت ليش ما عم تفهم عليّ؟  الشغلة مو بإيدي
There is no strength or power but in the high and mighty God.  Brother, now why aren't you understanding me?  It's out of my hands.

لا حول و لا قوة الا بالله العلي العظيم - This is usually said when you are exasperated or at your wits end.  I did a video explaining it.
الشغلة مو بإيدي - literally "the thing is not by my hand"

  •  يعني فالج و لا تعالج
So it's not going to happen?

فالج - hemiplegia, which is when one side of your body is paralyzed.  The phrase is basically saying that the situation is like this disease and can't be treated.  The situation is hopeless and isn't going to be solved.
تعالج - to be treated (as in a disease)

  • للاسف ايه نعم
Unfortunately, yes.

Saturday

Syrian Arabic Lesson

I was going through my unsubmitted posts today.  Most of them are things that I started on by then got sidetracked or didn't feel like finishing them, but then I found this post.  I meant to post it over a year ago, but for some reason didn't. This is an excellent transcript of a very funny Syrian show called بقعة ضوء (spotlight).  The episode is called إمرأة سيئة السمعة which means "woman with a bad reputation".  Czarek, a reader and commenter here, wrote out the transcript and I did the translation and explanations.  This is definitely useful for people interested in اللهجة الشامية (Levantine dialect). This show is much more like how authentic Arabic is spoken than the dubbed Turkish soap operas that speak very clearly and without much slang. Also, it's a comedy show and if you are able to understand complex jokes in a language it's a good indicator that you have mastered the language. So why not practice on the hardest part of the language?

(Dialogue starts at 1:06 and here is the link to the YouTube video.)

video


هيفا
Haifa?

نعم حبيبي
Yes, baby?

نمتي؟
Are you asleep?

(Literally, "Have you slept?")

عم حاول نام بدك شي؟
I'm trying to sleep.  You need something?

لا لا ,بدي اسألك سؤال بس ما في شي
No, no.  I want to ask you a question but it's nothing.

اسألني تقبرني اسأل
Ask, my love, ask.

لا لا خلاص بعدين عادي يعني. بلا ما طيّرلك هلق النوم من عيونك
No, no.  Don't worry about it.  I don't want to wake you up.

(Literally, "I don't want to make the sleep fly from your eyes.")

 اسأل حبيبي انا اصلاً مو جاييني النوم
Ask, baby.  I can't fall asleep anyway. 

(أصلاً here is "anyway", not "originally".  The word أصل literally means "origin", but in my experience with dialect it is rarely used to mean that.  It's more of a filler word like يعني.  Also مو جاييني نوم literally means "sleep is not coming to me".)

 حبيبتي يعني ,قبلي ,قبل ما ادخل حياتك كان في شي حدا غيري بحياتك؟
Baby, I mean, before me, before I came into your life, was there anyone other than me in your life?

(Notice that it's قبل ما ادخل not قبل ما دخلت .  You use the present tense of the verb when you're using قبل even though in English you would use the past tense.)

حبيبي رئيفو كم مرة صرت سائلني هالسؤال؟ عشرين مرة سألتني ياه وقت الخطبة ,و جاوبتك انه لا
 Raeefu, how many times have you asked me this question?  20 times you've asked me it when we were engaged.  And I answered you no.

(The guy's name is رئيف .  She calls him رئيفو as a pet name.)

ماشي خلاص. أنا آسف يعني ,يعني آسف
Ok, fine.  I'm sorry.  I mean, I'm sorry.

معقولة رئيف,معقولة تسألني هيك سؤال و نحنا بأول يوم من شهر العسل
Really, Raeef?  Really you ask me this question while we're on the first day of our honeymoon?

(معقولة means "does it make sense" or something like that.  عقل means "mind".  The best way to translate it though is "really?!" or "are you serious?!")

لا,طبعاً انا عن جد انا "اوبين مايند" و "فري" و عندي ثقة مطلقة وعمياء فيكي بس يعني بصراحة انا سمعت شوية طراطيش حكي
No, of course (not).  For real I am "open mind" and "free" and I have absolute and blind trust in you, but, I mean, frankly I heard some rumors and talk.

حكي شو؟
What kind of talk?

يعني سمعت انك كنت تحبي ابن الجيران
I heard that you used to love the neighbors' son.

لا حبيبي ,مو انا الي كنت حاببته ,هو كان يحبني
No, baby.  I'm not the one who loved him.  He loved me.

بالله؟ و شو فرقت؟
Really?  And what's the difference?

(The phrase بالله is literally "by God", but it isn't translated like that.  It is used often when you are taken aback by something and is said with surprise.)

لاحبيبي فرقت كثير ,شلون شو فرقت؟ لو كنت انا احبه كمان ,كان اسمها مشاعر متبادلة ,بس القصة كانت من طرف واحد. ينفلج شو بعمله
No, baby, there's a big difference.  What do you mean "what's the difference"?  If I loved him too then it would be called "mutual feelings", but the story was just from 1 side.  He can do what he likes, what can I do for him?

(انفلج is like اصطفل in that is has the sense of "do what you want to do and leave me out of it".)

 ايه لا مشاعر ولا بطيخ هذا ما بيحبك هاد.هذا واحد دنيئ, واطي, ممسحة, سافل, بذاقة.هذا كان بده يوصل لغايات ثانية باسم المشاعر و باسم الحب
Feelings Schmeelings.  That guy doesn't love you.  That guy is a lowlife, scumbag, mop, shameless, and ill-mannered.  He wanted to arrive at other ends in the name of feelings and love.

(The saying لا _ ولا بطيخ is literally "no _ and no watermelon" sometimes it's بلا _ بلا بطيخ "without _ and without a watermelon".  You can put whatever you want in the blank.  The one used here is لا مشاعر ولا بطيخ which means "feelings schmeelings".  You use this construct when you think something is BS or nonsense.  Also, all those insult words can be translated in various ways.  The important thing is just to know that they are insults.  بذاقة literally means "someone who spits".  You could translate each one of them as "lowlife".  Also, the last sentence basically means "He had other things on his mind.  Not love, but sex.  He just said that he loved you.")

ولك ايه سيدي ينفلق شو ما كانت غايته ما بيطلعله. خلص حبيبي يلا نام وارتاح
Yes, sir, he can do what he wants.  Whatever his goal was he wouldn't get it.  Ok, baby, go to sleep and rest.

لا لا مو جاييني النوم بدي اطلع دخن سجارة و برجع
No, no.  I can't sleep.  I want to go smoke a cigarette and I'll be back.

3:36

هيفا
Haifa?

شو حبيبي لسا ما نمت؟
What, baby, you still haven't slept?

شو كان اسمه هذا الكلب ,الحقير ,الواطي ,الممسحة؟
What was the name of that dog, the lowlife, the scoundrel, the mop?

عن مين عم تحكي؟
Who are you talking about?

عن ابن الجيران اليييييي الي كان يحبك
About the neighbors' son whoooooooo who loved you.

حياتي رئيف شو بدك فيه هلق؟ الله يوفقك نام
My life, Raeef, what do you want with him now?  Please go to sleep.

تافه
Whatever.

حبيبي بعمل لك كاسة شاي
Baby, you want me to make you a cup of tea?

لا ما بدي ,هيفا
No, I don't want one. Haifa?

نعم
Yes?

هذا التافه الحيوان كنت تلتقي انت وياه شي
That stupid animal, did you meet with him at all?

عن مين عم تحكي حبيبي؟ عن عماد؟
Who are you talking about, baby?  About 'Imad?

لا تنطقي اسمه! ايه هذا البطيخ كنت تلتقي انت وياه شي؟
Don't say his name!  Yes.  That watermelon (insult).  Did you meet with him at all?

أعوذ بالله لا طبعا حبيبي
God forbid!  No, of course not, baby.

ماشي فوتي نامي
Ok, go in and sleep.

حبيبي اذا بدك بسهر معك بسلّيك
Baby, if you want I'll stay up with you and keep you company. (بسلّيك literally means "I'll entertain you")

لا لا فايت انا هلق نام وراكي
No, no.  I'm coming in to sleep right now behind you.

اوكي
Ok.

5:13

طالما ما انتو تلتقو مع بعض كيف عرفتي انه بيحبك؟ شو كنت تعلمي بالغيب؟
Since you never met together, how did you know that he loved you?  What, did you read his mind?  (to know something بالغيب is to read someone's mind)

لا ما علمت بالغيب
No, I didn't read his mind.

معناها صار بيناتكن لقاء على الأقل
That means there was at least a meeting between you.

حبيبي ما صار .غير بالشارع ما صادفته ولا مرة
Baby, it didn't happen.  Other than on the street I never came across him, not even once.
(صادف means "to come across/to just happen to see/to bump into (not literally)")

يعني بدك تقنعيني انو قلك ياها بالشارع
So you want to convince me that he told it to you in the street?

شو هاي؟
What's that?

كلمة بحبك
The phrase "I love you". (They will sometimes refer to something that is more than 1 word as a كلمة like he does here.)

لا حبيبي ما قلي ياها بالشارع. بعت اخته و اخته قالتلي انو هو حاببني
No, baby.  He didn't tell me it in the street.  He sent his sister and his sister told me that he loved me.

يعني انت عفرتي عن طريق اخته
So you knew via his sister?

ايه طبعاً
Yes, of course.

 ماشي
Ok.

يا ربي دخيلك شو هل الليلة؟
Please Lord, what's with this night?

6:43

شو حبيبي قررت تنام؟
What, baby, have you decided to sleep?

المراسلات بينك و بين هداك التافه كانت تتبع عن طريق اخته ما هيك؟
The correspondences between you and that moron were carried out via his sister, right?

مراسلات شو حبيبي؟ ما كان في مراسلات. هي مرة وحدة اجيت اخته قالتلي ياها و خلاص
What correspondences, baby?  There were no correspondences.  It was one time, his sister came, she told me it, and it was done.

و الحيوان اقتنع بهالشي؟ ولا ضربه صراع على موقفه؟
And was that animal convinced by this?  Or did he get mad about it?

شو بيعرفني؟ ما عاد انفتح هيك موضوع
How should I know?  The subject never came up again.

يعني انت ما عدتي سألتي اخته شو صار معه؟
So you never asked his sister what happened to him?

لا طبعا ما سألتها منشان شو بدي اسألها
No, of course I didn't ask her.  Why would I ask her?

و اخته ما عاد فتحت الموضوع و خبرتك شو كان رده؟
And his sister, she never again brought up the subject and informed you what his response was?

لا حبيبي ما عاد فتحت الموضوع
No, baby, she never brought up the subject again.

ماشي نامي
Ok.  Go to sleep.

7:44

شلون ما شفتي لهالحيوان غير بالشارع؟ ممكن تقنعيني؟
How did you only see that animal on the street?  Could you convince me?

بشو بدي اقنعك؟
What should I convince you of?

يعني طالما كان في زيارات متبادلة بينك و بين اخته, تروحي لعندها و تزوريها و تجي لعندك و تزورك.ما التقيتي فيه ولا مرة ببيتهن؟
I mean, since there were exchanged visits between you and his sister, you'd go to her place and visit her and she'd come to your place and visit you, you never met with him even once at their house?

من قلك انه كان في زيارات متبادلة بيني و بين اخته؟
Who told you that there were exchanged visits between me and his sister?

يعني بس اخته كانت تجي تزوركن؟
So only his sister would come to visit you?

لا هي كانت تجي تزورنا ولا انا كنت روح زورهن
Neither did she come visit us nor would I go visit them.

لكن هيك من هالبلكون خبرتك انه اخوها كان يحبك؟
Then just like that from the balcony she informed you that her brother loved you?

لا حبيبي اجيت هالمشوار خصوصي منشان تخبرني و خلص ما عاد اجيت بعدها
No, baby, she made a special visit to inform me and that was it, she didn't keep visiting after it.

ماشي
Ok.

يا رب
Oh Lord.

8:52

هيفا
Haifa.

حبيبي شو بك؟؟
Baby, what's wrong?

هيفا ارجوكي,لا تخبّي علي شي
Haifa, I beg you, don't hide anything from me.

شو بدي خبّي عليك؟ شو بدي خبّي؟
What would I hide from you?  What would I hide?

يعني ما في اية بنت او شب اللي بيمر التجربة بعمر المراهقة. هذا شي طبيعي. عادي. خليكي" اوبن مايند" خليكي فري
I mean there's no girl or boy who passes by this experience in the teenage years (meaning relationships/sex).  This is something natural.  Normal.  Be open minded, be free.

طيب, طيب شو؟
Ok, ok.  What?

قوليلي كوني صريحة معي
Tell me and be frank with me.

بشو؟
With what?

هدا الكلب,الحيوان ,الحقير,السافل,المزبلة.ما حاول شي مرة يعزمك او يطلع هو وياكي؟
That dog, animal, lowlife, scumbag, trash, never tried ever to invite you out (to a meal) or that he go out with you?

لا ما حاول
No, he didn't try.

هيفا رجاء اذا حاول خبريني خليني عارف منك احسن ما أعرف من العالم ,خليكي اوبن مايند,خليكي فري شو بيك؟
Haifa, please.  If he tried, tell me.  Let me know from you rather than me find out from the world (other people).  Be open minded.  Be free.  What's wrong with you!

ما حاول والله ما حاول
He never tried.  I swear he never tried.

ما حاول ولا مو متذكرة؟
He did try or you don't remember?

ايه فهمنا بقى رئيف. فهمنا. عشرين وحدة بحياتك قبلي انا اللي لازم افتح معك تحقيق مو انت
I get it, Raif.  I get it.  There were 20 girls in your life before me.  I'm the one who should open an investigation, not you!

(فهمنا بقى is like saying "enough already!")

ايه ايه لا تعيطي خلص خلص نامي ريّحي نامي
Yeah, yeah.  Don't yell.  It's through. It's through.  Go to sleep.  Relax.  Go to sleep.