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Maximus 9 Oct 2009 08:28

Basic Moroccan Phrase's
I have noticed some threads by Tim where he has included some basic Moroccan phrase's which I have found helpful.

Can anyone suggest a phrase book which is not 'too' involved, or maybe use this thread to post some 'basic words/phrases?

ilesmark 9 Oct 2009 10:18

"Halini" = Leave me alone

"Fick a la zeebi Halini Wah'di" = F**k off and leave me alone (when simple "Halini" has been tried 5 times and isn't having the desired effect.

When someone you don't want to talk to eg hassling shopkeeper in a souk says "Salaam", say "Yalla Salaam". Means "hello and goodbye". Also in this instance try "La Shokran" - means "no thankyou".

"Yalla Yalla" means "hurry up"

Stephano 9 Oct 2009 17:48


Originally Posted by Maximus (Post 259730)
I have noticed some threads by Tim where he has included some basic Moroccan phrase's which I have found helpful.

Can anyone suggest a phrase book which is not 'too' involved, or maybe use this thread to post some 'basic words/phrases?

All of the above phrases are pretty negative. This little book might be more helpful.
Very Simple Arabic: Incorporating Simple Etiquette in Arabia

The 2nd phrase offered in the previous post is extremely rude and could quite possibly get you into serious trouble. There's nothing wrong with "khalinee low samaat" (leave me alone please) but not the extended version.

"Shokran jazilan" (thank you very much) also works fine to mean "no, thank you" when said firmly and politely.


Tim Cullis 9 Oct 2009 18:12

Whilst some 80+% of the population is genetically of Berber descent, the various Berber dialects are spoken by about 30-40% of the population, mainly in the upland mountainous areas. The official language in Morocco is Fusha which is also referred to as classical/media/literary Arabic, but Fusha is only used in the media (TV/newspapers) and on legal/government documents.

The Arabic spoken in the street in Morocco/Algeria/Tunisia is Darija. So the classical Arabic book referred to in the post above wouldn't help you much in Morocco, it would be rather like using Shakespearean English in the UK.

Lonely Planet has a Moroccan Arabic phrasebook which also includes sections with Berber expressions.

Darija is contextual with many words/phrases meaning different things in different circumstances. For example, 'yalla' can equally mean, 'let's go'.

Darija is also formulaic, with set phrases and responses. In Europe if we want directions we just stop next to a policeman and ask 'which way to...?' This is quite rude in Morocco. You should always initiate a conversation with 'ssalaa malaykom' which is 'peace to you'. You'll normally see this written as 'ssalaamu alaykom' but I've used a different transliteration which better expresses how the words run into each other.

As an aside 'alaykom' is plural as you are talking to the person and his two angels--one on each shoulder, the first recording all his good acts, the second recording his bad acts.

The formulaic response to this is 'wa alaykom ssalaam' which means 'and peace unto you'. Then you might ask 'la bess?' which literally means 'no harm' but is used very much as the French 'Ca va?' The response might be 'bikhiir, l'Hamdu llah' which is effectively 'fine, praise to god'.

Rather than using the Arabian Arabic 'shukran' for 'thank you' there is more credibility in using the Moroccan 'baarak llahu fiik' which means 'god bless you' but is used effectively as 'thank you.'

Time for someone else to take over...

Maximus 9 Oct 2009 18:55

Not sure that anyone will want to follow that Tim :biggrin3:

Good stuff. I shall check out those links.

Stephano 10 Oct 2009 14:23


Originally Posted by Maximus (Post 259790)
Not sure that anyone will want to follow that Tim.

I will. :biggrin3:

The book I suggested doesn’t focus on ‘classical Arabic’. It contains everyday phrases which are understood by any Arabic speaker and, in many cases, any Muslim.

Most of the phrases mentioned by Tim (yalla, 'ssalaa malaykom, 'wa alaykom ssalaam, 'bikhiir, l'hamdu llah, 'baarak llahu fiik) are in universal use across the Arab world because they are Arabic and so are probably in that book.

It’s great to learn a regional dialect of a language. You can have a lot of fun with it. I have a pretty good knowledge of Egyptian/Sudanese Arab as well as the Gulf dialect but using common Arabic phrases doesn't make me (or you) sound like Shakespeare or his equivalent.

Have a great trip! (Rehela saeeda!)


Tim Cullis 10 Oct 2009 16:40

You're right that the common greetings are fairly universal, just as the English 'hello' tends to be understood across the world. And Cairene Arabic is understood to a degree in Morocco due to the number of Egyptian TV soap operas beamed over on satellite channels.

I tend to think of modern standard Arabic and classical Arabic being one and the same, and you're right, they are not, but they are much closer than MSA and Darija. Moroccan Colloquial Arabic is a world away from MSA and is heavily influenced by Berber with a similar swallowing of vowels leading to words like 'ntk'll'm' for 'talk'. Many words such as 'rristora' (restaurant) or 'simana' (week) are borrowed from French or Spanish because of the historical influence of Al Andaluse, the Spanish occupation of northern Morocco and the French 'Protectorate' of the rest. Cheese omelette is 'omleet d fromajj', cake is 'lgato', yoghurt is 'danone', jam is 'lkonfitur'.

I spent eight weeks in Fez last spring studing Darija at Alif. Pronunciation was a challenge and it took a couple of weeks before my tongue/mouth could move fast enough to string some of the sounds together properly. I never did manage learning to trill my 'r's. Annoyingly whenever I tried my Darija people would invariably respond in French, almost as a gut reaction, so I would quickly state 'anna n'gliizii' (I'm English) and that I didn't speak French which gave them no option but to give me practice.

But even then I had some failures. One which made me laugh was when I said to a petrol attendant 'llah yAaaw'n' (God help you) which is the formulaic expression used when saying farewell to someone who is working. He thought I was asking for directions to Laayoune!

Stephano 11 Oct 2009 15:44


Originally Posted by Tim Cullis (Post 259872)
yoghurt is 'danone', jam is 'lkonfitur'.

I love that kind of appropriation and coincidentally I just found out today that the Gulf Arabic for 'oats' is "kwaiker"! :)


Maximus 11 Oct 2009 16:18

Even I shall remember that one:)

ilesmark 12 Oct 2009 14:53

Yes, perhaps the phrases I put in did look a bit negative, especially as I didn't put in a smiley :thumbup1: to make clear I was attempting to make a joke. Obviously you would expect a bad reaction to some of the ones I put in, just as you would to the English equivalent. But Yalla Salaam shouldn't cause you any trouble - it worked fine (in the appropriate setting) from what I could see when locals I was in the company of said it to other locals.

Maybe I've spent too much time being hassled in the touristy areas of the Arabic-speaking world!

aelbakush 14 Oct 2009 08:49

If you speak Fusah (Classical Arabic) in the streets of most Arab countries, you will rarely be understood.

The Ameia (dialect) spoken differs in each Arab country, and while there will be broad similarities they can be so different as to be unrecognisable. In some cases the dialect within a country is very varied.

If you want a catch all language that will serve you in most Arab countries, then learn the Egyptian dialect. Egypt is the Arabian Hollywood and almost all Arab urbanites will have come across an Egyptian movie and will understand you.

But all of these is assuming you want try and engage in mid to long conversations. If you are looking to exchange pleasantries and the basics then any modern standard Arabic book will suffice; thank you, goodbye, hello etc are all the same regardless of which country you are in. And you can then pick up the local flavour and colour from there. For instance the Moroccan "Safi" used for okay (as question and statement) was not one I had come across before in any other Arab country.

Above all, say it with a smile, have fun and be courageous. You will be hard pressed to find an Arab that will not be impressed that you are trying to speak their language, regardless of what your tongue doess :)

Maximus 14 Oct 2009 12:13

I would just like to make an effort.....nothing flash.

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