June 02, 2012

Arabic for Dummies: Part 1

I am going to teach you some simple Arabic phrases today. Coupled with the place where I learned the phrases. Get excited!

Yalla bye - Come on, bye
(This is Arablish, obviously, but everyone and their mom says it at the end of conversations. When I first realized my ex-boyfriend was saying it, I was offended because the "yalla" can mean "hurry up," which is how I'd heard it used at school. So it seemed highly rude to end a phone conversation with, "Hurry up, bye." But yalla also means "let's go," "come on," or other general interjections and isn't always negative or commanding. I still haven't entirely gotten used to it, but there's a first grader who likes to talk to me at recess and he uses it, which makes it almost endearing.)

Shukran habibi (shukran habibti) - Thank you, my love/friend/dear
(The one in parentheses is the female version. This is pretty basic Arabic that you pick up within like a week, so I can't remember where exactly I first heard it. But I do know that I use it whenever I have manipulated someone into doing something for me. At my old apartment, a bunch of our friends used to spend weekend days being lazy on our couches. And if I could manage to convince another lazy soul to get up and get me water, etc. they would always receive a gushy "shukran habibti.")

Wa'allah? - Swear to Allah?
(This is a request to prompt the other person to respond "Wa'allah" as a statement, affirming that they indeed swear to Allah. Which is basically a verification that they are telling the truth. I use this constantly at school when kids fidget and pretend they need to go to the bathroom so super badly. It's amazing how many of them will swear to Allah when they are obviously lying. But if they say it, I let them go. It's not my problem at that point, it's between them and Allah.)

Tawil belik (tawli belik) - Calm down
(This is a Lebanese phrase, actually. I learned it while at a 2 day concert with my ex-boyfriend and his friend. In the morning the day after the first concert, we woke up and there were roughly ten people in a room that had originally only had 3. We started drinking immediately, of course, and the Arabs were so amused by my lack of Arabic knowledge that they decided I needed to know "tawil belik." Which is a hilariously appropriate thing to say to a drunk person every other minute. And they laughed every time anyone said it.)

You're welcome.

Also, you might have other things you are curious about my life here in Abu Dhabi. If you have questions that you would like answered with a long rambling post, I'd love to hear them. Or if you want to know other phrases in Arabic, I can make another entry with more, if I know them. (I will be posting an entry about greetings in Arabic in a few days, so don't worry about those, I've got them covered.) Ask away!


  1. I loved this post!

    I work at an Islamic school and we have a few Arab teachers (most are of Indian/Pakistani origin) and whenever they speak, I'm always in awe with how they speak with such panache.

    Habibti has become my favorite word. I used to use Habibi all the time... not realizing until I was corrected that Habibi means beautiful man. Working at an Islamic school, you can imagine... is probably not the wisest thing to yell out in the middle of the hallway :)

  2. I enjoyed this post a lot! It's interesting to note that English words "bye" have made their way into common Arabic speech, like the phrase "I love you" has infiltrated Asian pop music. And it looks like kids will be kids everywhere they go. Allah will probably forgive them when they're older.

    If you want to write about the Arabic language, it'd be interesting to know what they call common household items, like bowls, spoons, computers, pants, etc. I am interested in the language, but I am probably most interested to know how people actually live there. I'm sure that nobody can write an account like you.

  3. Thank you for posting this! Now, I get to say I know a LITTLE bit of Arabic. :D :D :D