Learning Languages – Egyptian Arabic #1

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May 15, 2010 by jessperriam

I’m trying to be disciplined about learning some of the languages I’ll need to use on my travels.

So I bought the best coffee in Perth (thanks The West Australian for blowing all the delightful places out of the water, making them overrun with people), sat down and looked at my Lonely Planet Egyptian Arabic phrasebook.

So here are my first five must-have phrases (based on both practicality and pure selishness) They’re spelled phonetically, because… well I can’t write in Arabic. If I ramble a bit in explaining it, it’s probably because I’m trying to think of a mnemonic to make the phrase stick in my head.

1.  Hello – ahlan wa sahlan.

There are myriad ways to say hello in  Arabic. So I tried to find the phrase that is the least formal, but still carrying a good deal of respect. It’s also a rather short phrase. So I can safely go through customs without forgetting it. The response is: ahlan beek (or beeki for ladies, or bikum for plural)

2. My name is Jess – ismee Jess

Oddly enough, this phrase sounds kind of like my full first name if you say it back to front. If I want to ask someone what their name is, I would say: ismak (or ismik for a lady) ey?

3. Taxi! – taksi!

Ok, so that’s a big cheat on my behalf. But one of the first things I’ll embark on when arriving in  Cairo is catching a taxi to my hotel.  And I anticipate it will be the first thing that will turn me into that obnoxious Anglophone tourist.

The first thing I will ask once I’ve gotten into the taksi is ana Raayih (or rayha in feminine)… or ‘Please take me to…’ if you’re playing along at home.

4. Yes and No – aywa and la

What my phrasebook can show you and my keyboard cannot is the inflections that need to be added at the beginning of aywa and the end of la. I’ve read the pronunciation guide and it resembles some French sounds. I think I might just start speaking Arabic with a French accent just in case. Arabic = easy, la?

5. I’d like a coffee, thankyou – ana ‘aayiz ahwa, shukran.

Coffee’s a big part of my life. I love the stuff, almost to my detriment. But I fear I will be entering a world of jetlag and loneliness during my first few hours in Cairo, so I will probably need a Turkish-style ahwa to make me feel right at home. They do have neskafay in Egyptian, but I’m afraid that kind of pseudo-coffee should not be imbibed anywhere.

So shukran for sticking with me for those first five phrases. I’m going to try and use them in real life this afternoon, much to the bemusement of my friends and family.

Watch this space tomorrow for I will probably pull out the Turkish phrasebook.

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