These phrases are sure to come in handy during your time in the country and elsewhere
25 September 2019| Last updated on 15 October 2019
Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
If you agree that language is the key to the hearts, why not learn and use some common conversational phrases in Arabic, which is the official language of the host country.
One of the effective ways to start learning is by attending the November term at the 39-year-old Arabic Language Centre, in which you will learn the fundamentals of communicative Arabic in social and business contexts.
Until then, here is a list of phrases that may come in handy, and are sure to be highly regarded by the Arabs around you. Ready? Yallah, let’s go!
How to greet people in Arabic
Like other people, the very first thing Arabs do upon meeting others is exchange greetings. The Arabic language has an abundance of greeting expressions used in every day interactions. You may choose from them depending on the time of the greeting, the register and the level of formality you wish to communicate.
As-salaamu 9alaykom, which means “may peace be upon you,” is one of the most widespread greetings in the Arab world. The response is “wa 9alaykom is-salaam”, which translates to “and may peace be upon you too”. The phrase reflects respect, goodwill and peace. Although as-salaamu 9alaykom is mostly known among Muslims, non-Muslims can most certainly use it, and it is always well received.
marHabaa, which translates to “hello” or “welcome”, is another simple form of greeting that is used across the Arab world. It depicts a warm welcoming of the other person and is slightly less in level of formality than as-salaamu 9alaykom. The response to marHabaa can be the same word (marHabaa), or a more interesting and “generous” one, “marHabtayn, which literally means “two hellos”!
As Arabs try to show a sufficient level of hospitality to their guests, they often use ahlan wa sahlan as a warm greeting to their guests. It may not be an easy task to find an equivalence to this expression in other languages, as it literally translates to “family and easy”, but as you may have figured, the intended beautiful message here is to let your guests know that they are like family and that their presence is welcome. To reciprocate this message, people say ahlan fiyk for males (m) and ahlan fiyki for females (f).
SabaaH il-khayr is used as an equivalent to “good morning”. Yet again, Arabic being the flowery language that it is, the phrase literally translates to “morning of the goodness”, and its response SabaaH in-nuwr, translates to “morning of the light”. Similarly, Arabs use masaa’ il-khayr and masaa’ in-nuur to say “good evening”. So even in the evenings, Arabs wish each other an evening full of light!
How to ask "how are you" in Arabic
Greetings and introductions are usually followed by expressions that check on the other person. You can simply ask the question “how are you” using kiyfak (m) /kiyfik (f)? or kayf Haalak (m) / kayf Haalik (f)?, which translates to “how is your condition?”
Arabs often accompany “how are you” by a series of questions that show concern and check on other aspects of the person’s life. These questions may be “how is your health, work, family...” which would be kiyf SaHHitak/ik, kiyf shughlak/ik, kiyf 3ayltak/ik?
Words of courtesy in Arabic
Arabs appreciate politeness, and many expressions of courtesy are embodied in the everyday Arabic language. For instance, as an equivalent to “please”, Arabs use min faDlak for males and min faDlik for females. faDl literally means “grace” and “extreme kindness”, so the Arabic “please” is actually like saying to the other person “would you be so kind to…”. Similarly, to ask someone to come in, to have a seat, or to take their cup of coffee, Arabs use tafaDDal for males and tafaDDaliy for females, sending the meaning of “grace us by accepting” (whatever is being offered). To say thank you, you can simply useshukran, shukran ktiyr (spoken Arabic) or shukran jaziylan (formal Arabic).
Remember that Arabic is extremely affluent in its vocabulary. There are numerous ways to say the same thing, and the choice of words usually depends on the context, register, audience, as well as the intended amount of passion! Did you know, for example, that there is a dozen words that mean “love,” albeit different levels of it. No doubt however, the most famous one which you often hear is “Habibi” i.e. my love (also used to mean “my dear” or “sweetheart”), and which originates from the root word Hubb i.e. “love”.
Where to learn Arabic in Dubai
If you'd like to enhance your Arabic and learn more than useful phrases, check out Arabic Language Centre (ALC). ALC offers a range of public, private, and corporate classes, beginners through advanced levels. Public classes are offered in intensive and regular paces, on weekdays and weekends, in flexible timings throughout the year.
The upcoming term for adults is the November Term, commencing November 2 – Dec 17. Intensive Classes are also available from Nov 7 – 28. The courses can be viewed in detail here. Registration can be made here or you may phone 04 331 5600 for more information.
Arabic for children aged 3-16 yrs
For the children’s audience, ALC is running the Saturday classes throughout the public term, which finishes on December 7.
For more details, feel free to call on 043310221 or email [email protected]