Monday, September 11, 2006

A Bluffer's Guide to Arabic

In the office in Dubai unsurprisingly there are a large number of Arabic speakers - they were all keen that I picked up a few "essential" words and phrases that I should know. This was great as I like to know at least the hello, goodbye, thank you and please in any country I am in. I did spend a year learning Arabic when I was small but that was long forgotten. So in essence here is the little cheat sheet that my colleagues agreed would get me going:

Shoukran - thank you

As-Salāmu `Alaykum - peace be upon you - quite a formal greeting but very common in Dubai

wa `Alaykum As-Salām - and on you be peace - the response

Shou? - What?

Yalla - hurry up/come on

Khalas - finished!

Habibi - my darling - but used when you might want something from someone

ya'nni - a filler word - "that means" - I originally wondered if this was the name of someone! I was hearing things like "ya' cousin"

You can also combine these to:

Yalla Habibi - hurry my love!

Shoo Habibi - what's up darling? (which I saw used to a crying baby - very cute)

This is never going to get me an A-Level in Arabic but people certainly appreciate the effort - even though it is small- and has me helped immeasurably in my day to to day life in Dubai.

I think I need to compile a similar list for Tagalog...


nzm said...


I think that the Tagalog versions would be more useful than the Arabic.

After all, we're probably interacting with more Filipinos over the course of our days than we are with Arabs!

Curiosity said...

what? no Hindi? to add to your basic words in Arabic and Tagalog?? I am not amused! lol

Dubai-Informer said...

Hehe, i think you just got yourself into a bit of trouble and a lot of work. With more than 140 nationalities and different languages here in UAE ;-)
Good blog by the way...

Georgia said...

And Urdu is useful for taxis!

Mme Cyn said...

My fave is: "imshi min wishi" which means roughly 'get outta my face!" Quite useful with the more peristent touts in Cairo.

Ramroom said...


WELL Done,,, I'm an arabic speaker and I'm telling you that these words are the real essentials... Great work keep on going ;)

Speaking of tagalog... An old colleague at work and I had an agreement. She would teach me all the bad words in Tagalog and I would teach her all the bad words in Arabic... THAT WAS FUN! :)