Advanced Syrian Dialect Lesson

This lesson is a more advanced one. You can learn something from it at any level, but the clip is kind of difficult in places because a woman is basically cursing someone out. The clip is from the Syrian TV show Jamil wa Hanaa (جميل و هناء). You get really good authentic Syrian dialect watching it. The show was intended for Syrians and not for the entire Arab world, so they don't shy away from throwing in phrases specific to the region.

I've transcribed the clip's dialogue and translated it. A big part of learning Arabic dialects is actually knowing what words they are saying. You may know all the words, but they may say them in such an accent or string them together in such a way that you don't understand them. Transcripts help a lot with that.

To give you some context to the clip, there is a married couple, Jamil and Hanaa. Jamil is the boss at a government office and Hanaa is his jealous wife. She is at his office checking up on him when a woman walks in with a form she needs signed. Hanaa doesn't like the way the woman is acting toward Jamil and she goes off on her.

There are a few places in this clip where I'm not sure of a word or its meaning, so if anyone can clear it up I would be grateful.


يعطيك العافية استاذ - God give you health, sir.
الله يعافيكي - God give you health.

With a lot of the Arabic greetings there's not a perfect way to translate them since in English we basically just say hi when greeting someone. We would never say "peace be upon you" or "god give you health", so it sounds strange to literally translate Arabic greetings which can sometimes go on for a very long time. You could just as easily translate this exchange as "hello, sir" and "hello".

Also, if you're finding it hard to hear what the woman says here, it was hard for me too. I didn't know what she said until Jamil responded with الله يعافيكي which means she would have had to have said يعطيك العافية to him since that is the response.

لو سمحت استاذ, شفلي هالطلب - Please, sir, look at this request for me.
و ليش ما حطيتيه عند السكرتيرة؟ كان دخّلتليياه بالبريد - And why didn't you put it with the secretary? She would have brought it in with the mail. (He's trying to not get yelled at by his wife.)
مظبوط - Exactly.

I think دخلتليياه may need explaining. It looks really long and unwieldy compared to MSA words, but it's really several things combined. دخّلت لي ياه - "she brought it in for me". The لي is "for me" and the ياه means "it" and is referring to الطلب , the request. If it was referring to a feminine thing it would have been ياها . This is something done exclusively in Levantine dialect. It's not really complicated but does take getting used to.

Also, كان doesn't have a gender a lot of times in Levantine dialect. I'd say most, if not all of the time, they just say كان even when, as in this case, كانت would be the correct way in MSA.

سوري استاذ. لو لقيت حدا برّا ما كنت دخلت لعندك - Sorry, sir. If I found anyone outside I wouldn't have come in to you.
منيح اللي ما لقيتي ههههه. هاتي هالطلب. هاتي لشفوف. - It's good that you didn't find (anyone). Hahaha. (Hanaa grabs him.) Give me the request. Let's see.
فضّل - Here.

Don't ask me why he says اللي here. I thought at first he was saying انك which would make more sense to me. منيح انك ما لقيتي . But I kept listening trying to hear what I wanted and I just didn't hear it. Either way, if he says اللي or انك he means the same thing. He's making a joke that he's glad she came in to see him, which gets him in trouble with his wife.

The phrase هات لشوف means exactly "let's see". It's used a lot.

على مهلك علي. ماشي. انت مرّي لعندي... لعند السكرتيرة لعند السكرتيرة بعد بكرا و ان شاء الله بتلاقي طلبك جاهز - Take it easy on me. Ok. Come to me... to the secretary. To the secretary the day after tomorrow and God willing you will find your request ready.
عفواً استاذ انا مسافرة اليوم. فيك توقّعليياه هلق؟ - Sorry, sir. I'm traveling today. Can you sign it for me now?

The phrase على مهلك can mean to "go at your own pace" or "go slowly", but here it's used to mean "take it easy".

The word توقّعليياه may look imposing just like دخّلتليياه , but it's the same principle. توقّع لي ياه - "you sign it for me".

يا ريتني فيني اخدمك بس موضوعك بده تشكيل لجنة و اللجنة ما بتتشكّل اليوم. ما منلحق يعني - I wish I could serve you but your issue needs the formation of a committee and the committee doesn't form today. Meaning we can't get it done.
دبّرها استاذ. من شاني - Take care of it, sir. For me.

The phrase يا ريت or in MSA يا ليت means "I wish" or "if only". Also, I'll mention here that in Syrian they use فيني to mean "I can", while in Lebanese they will say فيي without the ن to mean the same thing. Just a slight difference.

The word لحق is used in different situations, but can often be translated as "to get it done".

The word دبّر is also used in the phrase دبّر حالك which means "get it together" or "get ready".

When the woman says من شاني (for my sake), Hanaa really gets mad.

بلّا شو؟؟ شو بك انت؟ شو بك؟ فيكي تفهّميني؟ عم يقلك الاستاذ شغلتك ما بتخلص غير لبعد بكرا. تقدري تستني اهلا و سهلا. ما بتقدري, خوذي الملف تبعك حلي عننا. - What?? What's wrong with you? Can you explain that to me? He is telling you that your issue can't be finished except til after tomorrow. If you can wait, you're welcome to. If you can't, take your file and leave us.
شو قلت استاذ؟ - What do you say, sir?

Ok, from here on things can't be translated exactly word for word. The words start to have a feeling associated with them and not necessarily a definition. For instance, when Hanaa says بلّا شو. The word بلّا comes from بالله which you could say means "by God". بلّا can also mean "really?". For example, someone tells you something very surprising like they just won the lottery or something. You can say بلّا؟ meaning "really?" and they can reply with أي والله which means "yes really" or "yes, I swear". It's not really as complicated as explaining it makes it out to be. Once you hear the word used a few times you'll get how it's used. It's often a word used when you're surprised or dismayed.

The phrase حل عني means "get away from me" or "leave me". Hanaa says حلي عننا which means "get away from us" (talking to a female).

هو الحقيقة... - Actually...
ولك! شو بك انت؟ ما بتفهمي؟ الاستاذ قال و خلاص. خلّصينا. احطي. عنده شغل - What's wrong with you? Don't you understand? He spoke and it's done. Give us a break. Get out of here. He has work (to do).

The phrase ولك is one of those hard to translate expressions. It's said in anger or condescension. It's rude and you wouldn't say it to someone you didn't want to be rude to. I can't think of a translation into English, just know that it's used in situations like this.

The word خلاص means "it's done/finished/over". خلّصني is used when someone is bothering you and you want them to stop or just leave. إحطي is a word I only ever hear in this TV show, so I'm not sure how often it's used. It means "leave" and they always say it when they're upset or angry. I don't think you say it when you want to ask someone politely to leave.

ساعدني استاذ اذا بتريد اذا بتريد - Help me, sir. If you would please.
ولك يبليكي بقتلك طلعي فيني انا. شو بدك فيه لجميل؟ اه؟ شو بك؟ شو؟ ما تطلعي من هون غير التقلية؟ العمى بعيونك العمى - Look at me! What do you want with Jamil? What's wrong with you? Will you not leave until I belittle you? Blindness in your eyes.
يا مدام... - Madam...

You can see that Hanaa uses ولك again. As for يبليكي بقتلك , this is an insult that I haven't heard before. Based on the definitions of the 2 words I can make an educated guess that it means "may you suffer when you die" or something along those lines. The root بلى means to have a struggle, sorrow, misfortune.

انسة استاذ - Miss, sir.
ولي عليكي ما اثقلك و ما اوقحك. انسة ولا مدام نحن شو دخلنا. تركي الملف هون و بعد بكرا تبعتيلي واحد يجي ياخذه. اذا رايتيه جاهز مغطية. احطي. شو رايك استاذ؟ - How annoying and dirty you are. Miss or Mrs, what do we care? Leave the file here and the day after tomorrow send me someone (male) to come and get it. If you see that it's ready then it's covered (done). Get out. What do you think, sir?
شكراً استاذ - Thank you, sir.
يبعتلك حمى. شو مقصوعة. دودة - May God send you a fever. What a flirt. Worm.

The woman tells Jamil that she isn't married which makes Hanaa lose it. I don't know how to translate ولي عليكي so I left it out. It's condescending. ولي is just like ولك. When Hanaa says ما اثقلك , if you weren't familiar with Levantine dialect you might think she was saying ما اسألك because both the ث and the ق are changed to س and أ respectively. ما اثقلك here means something like "you're so annoying", although the word ثقيل literally means "heavy". I'm not 100% sure on the مغطية part, so don't quote me on that. I think that's what she's saying, but not 100%. Also, مقصّوعة is a new one for me. تقصّع means "to writhe seductively" according to the Hans Wehr, so that makes sense here, although I've never heard it before. I was actually surprised to find it in the dictionary.


Donovan - The Mezzofanti Guild said...

Hi Andrew,

My name's Donovan and I run a language learning site called The Mezzofanti Guild.

Just wanted to let you know that I think your blog is one of the most outstanding resources I've found for Intermediate-Advanced learners of Levantine Arabic (I specialized in Egyptian myself).

I've been recommending The Arabic Student to other serious Arabic learners.

Keep up the excellent work, mate. There's a shortage of good sites at this level and dialect specific so I hope you stick with it.

Take care.

Asma said...

ما اثقلك probably is her trying to say "you're such a burden" in Syrian Arabic although in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria you're most likely to hear just ثقلك
I'll have to find out properly about the other words because you've got me thinking now despite me being an Arabic speaker (of Moroccon and Tunisian Arabic). I guess I'm not as good with the Syrian dialect :)
Anyhow, I love your blog! Really useful for those wanting to learn Arabic and for those who already speak it as it's pretty interesting!

Ana said...

Thank you for this new wonderful lesson, lots of new words, really made my day! (actually its already night)

God bless you!


Anonymous said...

منيح اللي is a fixed expression as opposed to the logical منيح إنك

radosch said...

hey thank you very much for your valuable it possible that jameel says ما عم نلحق i noticed that they use it (عم )to make present tense???if it were not for your post i really could not pick up the words :-) i mean it!!!

Anonymous said...

I like this blog. It's making up where all my Arabic professors failed: conversation. I have been studying Arabic for 5 years now and can't understand hardly any of this without the transcript.

My main problem is that every Arab I know just loves to use only English with me and never Arabic, ever (even when I ask them to use only Arabic with me!).

I guess I'll never understand spoken dialects!
If anyone has any advice or conversation partner offers, I'd love to hear from you ( Anyway, again great post and blog! Very helpful.

Z said...

Hello,I really like your videos and your blog. I have a few questions that I was curious about:
What is your job?
What did your major in college?
(I'm not a stalker)
You should include these in your about page so we can get to known you better