Arabic Phrases For Dummies
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By mastering the basics of polite conversation in Arabic, you put yourself and the person you're talking to at ease. Everyone should learn essential Arabic conversational words and phrases before traveling to an Arabic-speaking country. These words and expressions are sure to come up in most everyday conversations.

Courteous phrases

Being polite is just as important in Arabic-speaking countries as they are anywhere else in this world. The following words and phrases cover most of the pleasantries required for polite conversation. After all, learning to say the expressions of common courtesy in Arabic before traveling is just good manners.

na'am (yes)
min faDlik (please)
tafaDDal (go ahead, be my guest)
shukran. (Thank you.)
shukran jaziilan. (Thank you very much.)
'afwan (You’re welcome.)
aasif (Sorry.)
'afwan (Excuse me.)
mara thaaniya, min faDlik? (Please repeat.)
laa (no)
In the Middle East, "Yes" and "no" can be confusing for Americans. In many Arab countries, the gesture for "yes”— shaking the head side to side — looks like the American gesture for "no" "No" in those areas is indicated by throwing the head back and looking upward. You may be further confused if the Arab recognizes you as an American and is trying to use the American gesture. Rest assured, in any Arab country, laa means "no."

References to people

Once you've mastered the common pleasantries, the next important thing to learn is how to refer to people. When meeting people in Arabic-speaking countries, be sure to use the appropriate formal title. A man would be called as-sayyid, which is the same as Mr. or Sir. An older or married woman is called as-sayyida, and a young lady is called al-aanisa.

The next most common way to refer to people is by using personal pronouns. In Arabic, the pronouns (you and they) are complicated by gender and formality. You'll use slightly different variations of these words depending on the person you are referring to and how well you know them.

anaa (I)
huwa (he)
hiya (she)
naHnu (we)
anta/anti (you [M/F])
antum (you [plural])
hum (they)

Phrases for travelers

There are some phrases that are particularly helpful to international travelers. Below are several phrases that might come in handy during your stay in an Arabic-speaking country.

  • hal tatakallam al-’arabiya? (Do you speak Arabic?)

  • hal tatakallam al-injliiziya? (Do you speak English?)

  • atakallam al-'arabiya. (I speak Arabic.)

  • laa atakallam al-'arabiya. (I do not speak Arabic.)

  • atakallam qaliilan. (I speak a little.)

  • afham. (I understand.)

  • laa afham. (I do not understand.)

  • hal tafham? (Do you understand? [M])

  • hal tafhamiin? (Do you understand? [F])

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