Monday, March 17, 2008

Lesson One: خلاص

New Vocabulary

xalaaS (خلاص) - that's it
3aayiz (عايز) - want
faakir (فاكر) - remembering
taani (تاني) - again, another
bit'uul (بتقول) - you say
bititkallim (بتتكلّم) - to talk
eh (ايه) - what?
mish (مش) - not
illi (اللي) - which, that, that which

gah (جه) - to come
gaab (جاب) - to bring
ba3ad (بعد) - to get far away, to go away
nasa (نسى) - to forget
ba'a (بقى) - to be, to become, to get
3amal (عمل) - to do

For those who are familiar with Standard Arabic or a dialect of Arabic other than Egyptian, this song is ideal for illustrating many of the basic aspects of Egyptian Arabic that can be challenging if you have no experience with the dialect. However, if you learn a few basic points about Egyptian colloquial you will find that is it not so different from the version of Arabic that you know.

Pop music is one of the portals to the world of spoken Arabic. Music of the Arabic-speaking world is typically sung in dialects as opposed to Standard Arabic, and many singers regardless of origin sing in Egyptian dialect of Cairo due to the size of the Egyptian market and the relative familiarity that people have with this dialect. The song "ma xalaaS (ما خلاص)" by Samira Said is a case in point. Samira Said was born in Morocco but has since moved to Egypt to become one of the more successful pop artists in the Arab world today. The song's title, "ma xalaaS (ما خلاص)," contains the very common word "xalaaS (خلاص)," which means "that's it," or "it's over." It has both the connotations as "that's all" and "it's done" just like the phrase "that's it" in English. This word is not explicitly Egyptian but can be found much more in colloquial speech because saying "that's it" is a very idiomatic aspect of speech not found in written Arabic. The "ما" adds emphasis to the phrase to the effect of "it's soooo over" or something along those lines.

Listen to the song and enjoy this video. The complete lyrics are listed below the video:

سميرة سعيد - ما خلاص

ما خلاص عايز ايه منى ايه
ابعد بقى عنى ايه
حاول تفهمنى الماضى خلاص انساه

ما خلاص ايه جابك تانى ايه
ارتاح وانسانى ايه
واللى هييجى منك والله مانيش عايزاه

بتقول انا كنت زمان بهواك
بصراحه انا مش فاكراك
وبتتكلم عن ايه

ماخلاص راحت يا حبيبى عليك
عايز تحلم خليك
وعايزنى اعملك ايه

يا سلام بتحايل في ايه
وبتحلم بي ليه
لا اهدى شويه
ده خيالك راح لبعيد

وبلاش يخطر على بالك لا
ان انا راجعالك لا
ما تشوف بقى حالك
ده كلامك مش هيفيد

انت اللى بالبعد بادى
ودلوقتى عادى انى اقسى عليك
كل اللى هاين علي تشوفك عيني ولا تحن ليك

Even if you have lots of Arabic knowledge, you may not have understood much if you are unfamiliar with the Egyptian dialect. Don't worry, there are only some minor differences that interfere with your understanding of the song. Here I will explain line by line the first verse of the song and the chorus. The first line is as follows:

ما خلاص عايز ايه منى

The word "3aayiz (عايز)" follows the familiar pattern of (فاعل) from Standard Arabic, thus making it a kind of active participle carrying the meaning of a present tense verb in this case. So "3aayiz (عايز)" means "wanting," which depending on the context could be "I want," "you want," or "he wants." It takes the place of the standard Arabic verb "أراد," which does not exist as such in Egyptian Arabic. The word "eh (ايه)" is Egyptian for "what," taking the place of both "ما" and "ماذا" from Standard Arabic. As you can see the question word "eh" follows the verb "3aayiz" instead of preceding it. This is a particular characteristic of Egyptian Arabic; the question word almost always is found after the verb and usually at the end of the sentence. From context we infer that the phrase "3aayiz eh? (عايز ايه؟)" means "what do you want?" The last word of the sentence "minni (منى)" is the same as Standard Arabic "from me," but the reader may be confused to see a "ى" in place of the "ي." This is usually the case at the end of the word in Egyptian Arabic so you just have to get used to it. In all, the first sentence means "it's over, what do you want from me?" This may seem to be a lot of explaining for just one line of a song, but it's already illustrated several essential basics of Egyptian Arabic.

If we move to the next line:

ابعد بقى عنى

We find the word "ib3ad (ابعد)" meaning "get away!" or literally "go farther away." The next word "ba'a (بقى)" may sound strange, but actually it is the same word as the Standard Arabic verb "بقي" which means "to remain" or "to stay." The pronunciation is different because in Egyptian Arabic the "qaaf (ق)" is usually pronounced as a glottal stop, the equivalent of "hamza (ء)" in Standard Arabic. While the verb retains some aspect of its meaning "to remain," it is much more versatile and idiomatic in colloquial, taking on the connotations sometimes of the verb "to get" like "get away!" or also the verb "to be." Here it comes as a command, coupled with the verb "ib3ad 3anni (ابعد عني)" with the general meaning of "get away from me." "ba'a" is not easy to translate in Egyptian Arabic but know that it has the general connotations of "to be" but not always in the same sense.

The next line:

حاول تفهمنى الماضى خلاص انساه

Should not be terribly difficult for the Standard Arabic knower. "Haawal (حاول)" is the command "try" and "tifhamni (تفهمني)" means "you understand me," altogether meaning "try to understand me." Notice that the verbs are not bridged by the connector word "an (أنْ)" as in Standard Arabic. This word does not exist in colloquial and is not necessary. "al-maaDi xalaaS insaah (الماضي خلاص انساه) of course means "the past is over, forget it." Pay attention to the pronunciation of "insaah" and note the the direct object particle for "it" has no vowel after it. In colloquial all case markings have been dropped from words so they are not pronounced.

The following line:

ما خلاص ايه جابك تانى

May appear strange but is actually not very different from the basic standard Arabic that any beginner would know. The verb "gaabak (جابك)" is comprised of the verb "gaab (جاب)" and the direct object marker for you (masculine) "ak (ك)." For you (feminine) the marker would be "ik." Notice that in Egyptian dialect the "jiim (ج)" is pronounced as an English "g" sound. This is always the case, except for in a select few verbs imported from other languages containing a "j" sound. So the verb "gaab (جاب)" actually comes from the Standard Arabic "جاء ب" meaning to "come with" but really "to bring." When she says "eh gaabak? (ايه جابك؟)," we can now say that this means "what brought you?" "taani (تاني)" is the same as Standard Arabic "ثاني" meaning "second." The "thaa (ث)" is not pronounced in Egyptian Arabic. It usually becomes a "ta" in common words or older words, but newer words re-imported from standard or the outside usually us the "sa" pronunciation in place of "tha." "taani (تاني)" has many meanings in colloquial including "second," but in this case it means again. Hence, the line means "what brought you (to me or here) again?"

The next line is fairly straighforward:

ارتاح وانسانى

"irtaaH (ارتاح)" is a very common verb in Egyptian colloquial meaning "to be comfortable" or "to be at ease" or "to relax" or "to be content," maybe even "to take it easy" in the sense of "to calm down." Here she commands her ex-lover "irtaaH wa insaani (ارتاح وانساني)" to the effect of "relax and forget me," or something along these lines.

By contrast, the following line may not appear to even be Arabic, but when dissected you will see that it is in principle the same:

واللى هييجى منك والله مانيش عايزاه

"illi (اللى)" is actually the same word as the standard "الذي," except it is not conjugated for gender or number. It means "which" or "that which." "hayiigi (هييجي)" is comprised of "ha (ه sometimes ح)" which is the future marker similar to "sa (س)" in Standard Arabic and the verb "yiigi (ييجي)" which of course means "he/it comes." Notice that the "hamza (ء)" has once again been dropped and a long vowel "ي" has been inserted before the "giim" for ease of pronunciation. Put it all together and "illi hayiigi minnak (اللي هييجي منك)" means "that which will come/is coming from you." This could be what he is going to say or what he is going to bring or do. The second part of the line contains the very familiar phrase "wallahi (ولله)" meaning "I swear" or "I swear to God." "maaniish (مانيش)" sounds crazy, but actually is the equivalent of Standard Arabic "lastu (لست)" meaning "I'm not" or "I don't." It is comprised of "ma (ما)" meaning not, "ana (انا)" meaning "I," and the "sh (ش)" at the end. This "maa -x- sh" combination is used often for negation in Egyptian Arabic, and especially with verbs. This way of expressing "I'm not" can be used for all other pronouns as well. Finally, "3ayzaah" can be seen to be comprised of the now familiar "3aayiz (عايز)," only this time conjugated for feminine, and the direct object "ah (ه)" referring to the aforementioned "اللى هييجي منك." In total the sentence is revealed thusly to mean "and that which will come from you, I swear to God, I don't want it."

That's a lot of work for one little verse of a song. Now let's move on to the chorus:

بتقول انا كنت زمان بهواك

"bit'uul (بتقول)" is the equivalent of Standard Arabic "تقول" meaning "you say." Once again we see the the "q" becoming a glottal stop sound like "hamza." The "b- (ب)" is added to the beginning of verbs in the present tense verbs in Egyptian Colloquial Arabic. But what does he say you ask? "ana kunt zamaan bahwaak (انا كنت زمان بهواك)" means "I used to love you at one time" or "I used to love you in the past." "zamaan (زمان)" means time but here means "a time" that is now past. "bahwaak (بهواك)" is of course the combination of present tense marker "b- (ب)" and the verb "ahwaak (اهواك)" meaning "I love you." "ana kunt (انا كنت)" means "I was," just like in Standard Arabic, giving the meaning here of "I used to." What we notice here, however, is we do not know exactly what this means. After "bit'uul" there is no "inn (إنّ)" like in standard Arabic. We don't know if she is saying that he said the quote "I used to love you" or she says that he says that she used to love him. Here we infer the latter because it is he who wants her back, but still the grammatical ambiguity remains.

The next line:

بصراحه انا مش فاكراك

Here we find one of the most important words in colloquial Egyptian, "mish." She says "ana mish fakraak (انا مش فاكراك)," meaning "I don't remember you." We already saw "maaniish (مش)" meaning "I'm not" and here is another variation. "mish (مش)" means "not" and is the equivalent of standard Arabic "ليس," but actually, is not conjugated for person or number. Thus "ana mish," "anta mish" and so forth. "fakraak (فاكراك)" is comprised of "faakir (فاكر)" the participle form once again meaning "to remember," and the direct object marker for "you." This literally means "remembering you" but in the discourse of love it has the connations of "thinking of you" or "still being in love," juxtaposed with "naasi (ناسي)" which means "forgetting" or "no longer loving." Altogether the line "bi-SaraaHa ana mish fakraak (بصراحة انا مش فاكراك)" means "quite frankly, I'm not remembering you," and while not easily translated the meaning is clear, she's done with him!

The next line may be easily understood now:

وبتتكلم عن ايه

We see "b- (ب)" + "titkallam (تتكلّم)" meaning "you are talking." This verb is the same as in Standard Arabic, but make note of the stress difference in the word "titkallam" vs. "tatakallam." Also we can see she says "bititkallam 3an eh? (بتتكلم عن ايه؟)," meaning "what are you talking about?"

The next line contains a useful colloquial idiom:

ماخلاص راحت يا حبيبى عليك

"raaHat (راحت)" is from the verb "raaH (راح)," which means "to go" or "to leave." This verb is sometimes found in standard Arabic but is more common in colloquial Arabic, completely replacing the verb Standard Arabic verb "ذهب," which for all intents and purposes does not exist in Egyptian Arabic. Samira says "raaHat ya Habiibi 3aleek (راحت يا حبيبى عليك)," meaning "you've lost it and you will never get it back" or "you missed your chance." Of course "raaHat 3aleek (راحت عليك)" literally means something like "it left on you" but just know the idiomatic meaning of this phrase. So the whole line means something like "it's over, you missed your chance."

The next line:

عايز تحلم خليك

Here "3aayiz taHlam (عايز تحلم)" meanings "you want to dream," however, we can see from context that it is a question, something like "you wanna dream?" "xalliik (خليك)" is a very important colloquial word, meaning "let you," or "may you." "xalla (خلى)" can be attached to any noun to mean "let (someone/something) be/do (something)." For example "xalliini a3iish (خليني اعيش)" means "let me live." In this case "xalliik" means "may you" like "go ahead." So, the whole line altogether means "you wanna dream? may you" or "you wanna dream? go ahead."

The last line of the chorus:

وعايزني أعمل لك ايه؟

Contains the familiar standard Arabic verb "عمل." However, this verb does not mean "to work" in colloquial, but rather, "to do" replacing standard Arabic "فعل." Thus when Samira says "3aayizni a3mal lak eh? (عايزني أعمل لك ايه؟)" it means "what do you want me to do for you?"

So, we can see that in Egyptian colloquial some letters have a different pronunciation and some words have different but related meanings. Other words have been completely replaced by new words specific to the dialect. Also, we can see that question words tend to be found at the end of the sentence as opposed to the beginning. Negation has been changed and simplified, and verbs have different tense markers. However, despite these myriad differences, the core vocabulary and structure of the language remains the same. Listen again and try to understand the second half of the song as well, see how much you've learned. Probably close to nothing, right! That's because there's still lots to learn about Egyptian Arabic. For a complete translation click here. But after a couple more songs, you'll see how fast you can begin to learn.

For more, go onto the next lesson, Lesson Two: "laazim a3iish (لازم أعيش)" by Sherine


Anonymous said...

wow this is sooo helpful - have been learning egyptian arabic for a while and the breaking down of words is soo useful
thanks :D

Anonymous said...

This is a great resource! Keep up the good work. Another translation for راحت عليك might be 'you missed out' or 'you missed your chance'.


Anonymous said...

I was actually thinking to try learning some egyptian dialect by using song lyrics, because I think this is a very confortable way of studying...and then I found this site :) What you are doing is absolutely great! I respect your work and the very clear and complete explanations you are offering!
Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

Great idea.It helps a lot.I've been learning standard Arabic but it differs from arabic used in songs.I always wanted to learn more about egyptian dialect and I love the songs as well and here it is:). Many thanks!!! Beatrix

Anonymous said...

Muchas gracias por tu pasión por la enseñanza del árabe. Congratulations from Spain

Emma Morrison said...

Hey I love your lessons! Such a great idea to present the Egyptian dialect like this I think its a great approach. You have great didactic style too so I'm very happy to find your blog! I would like to add that the word "ba2a" normally has no meaning in egyptian it's just a filler thats used a lot. tab eh ba2a? fi eh ba2a? I've often seen it translated as "so" but I think in reality it has no meaning.. Keep up the good work :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, You're a wonderful teacher, so a great idea to teach egyptian dialect that way!!! keep on that way!thanks a lot from Italy

Anonymous said...

Shoukran ya 3zizi!!!

Anonymous said...

Shoukran ya achi!!!

Anonymous said...

Great lessons!!!
Thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

Metshakkir awi, ya sahbi.
Danta m3allim maahir giddan.

Anonymous said...

fantastic - you have a true gift for explaining language in a very clear and thoughtful way - congratulations - this is great work! i will definitely donate some filus to you when i next get paid!

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that I found your blog.
I love the language and these lessons are really helping me a lot.
Shokran giddan.

Craig said...

Wow write a book please! This is a fantastic way to learn colloquial egyptian. I have also been learning egyptian arabic from songs. I have no knowledge of modern standrad arabic but I am able to read and write arabic. So far I have learnt a lot of grammar and vocabulary from songs in the egyptian dialect and I realise that I understand more and more. My main problem however is the lack of an egyptian arabic dictionary which would help me enormously. However the way you are breaking the words down and explaining expressions is perfect. Seriously, if you write a book like this. I think it would be a huge success. This is a novely way of learning a language and the way you have made this is brilliant! Publish and I will be the first to buy hehe!

RedAnna said...

hi chris,

masya Allah.. i really luv ur blog, this really helpful!!!!!
this is really interesting to know the egyptian dialect esspecially when i luv arabic song..
syukran akhi!!

anna - malaysia

Anonymous said...

Thanks bro!!!! Truly amazing!
You're such a gud teacher haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!
Much thankssssssss

Unknown said...

Great Job!!!! i will be a fun of your lessons :) hopefully you will continue!!!!

good luck!
maria :)

Anonymous said...

you are wonderful for doing this!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much my friend!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! This is soooo helpful!

Unknown said...

hi fantastic job! im arabic! well i have arabic root and ive been studying arabic for quite a long time... brilliant work...we have lots things in common haha so funny, almost same tastes in music (i read your profile)
just one thing... ive seen u write the future marker as ه.... well in arabic the future coloquial marker is ح i think u should verify that!
anyway such a good job congratulation!

Meera said...

Thanks so much for the lessons :)

Anonymous said...

this is amazing,thanks so much.

Anonymous said...


ماثيو said...

this is exactly what we've all been looking for for years. alf shukran

Don in Cairo said...

Fascinating. Great choice of songs. I'm just starting to learn Egyptian dialect with no MSA background, but this is spellbinding. You are a gifted writer and teacher

Anonymous said...

Very good job.I'm very surprised.I've found a nice treasure.Shukran lak ia sadik.Keep going on .


jeeper said...

Thak you so much, this site has been very helpful. I have been learning the egyptian dialect for only a few months, but this has really increased my knowledge. It is wonderful! Thank you !

Anonymous said...

nicht schlecht.. werd ich ausprobieren..
a good thing.. will find out.. maybe and hopefully it will help to enlarge my arabics vocabulary

Unknown said...

This is such a brilliant idea and you've done it so well. You're a very talented teacher- I love your step by step approach and how encouraging you are. Seriously one of the best Egyptian Arabic learning resources on the web. I'm going to do one of these a day and tell everyone I know who's studying arabic - can't believe I only just found it. Judging by the date of the post, you did this quite a while ago, but if you ever feel like doing some more on some other songs I would be right there. Thank you! xxx

Yandi Hermawandi said...

very nice blog, i love this blog... I am yandi from Indonesia

Anonymous said...

Salam Chris,
I think this is a great site! I was wondering if there was a way to download the songs legally.

Anonymous said...

Thank you...Great work!

Unknown said...

هذا أحسن موقع لتعلم العربية العامية على كل الإنترنيت! ألف شكر لكل عملك الشاق!

Allia said...

Thanks so much for doing this. I am american-egyptian, and i spend my summers in egypt, and insha allah i'll be moving there next year, so i really need help learning the language. I know enough to where i can understand whats being said, but i'm not able to reply or talk a great deal. I'm using music to help me learn, but its hard to find translations of the songs into english, so this help soooo much! thanks again. this a great site!

Gabriel Elias said...

Hey! You've done a great job.. I'm brazilian and I've studied standard arabic for a long time but thought I would never understand any arabic song. Now I see things might change, thanks to you! =) Great job, really ;) Congratulations

Rain_Drops said...

3ayez comes from the verb in standard meaning "it lacks" ya3oozoni shay2 يعوزني شئmeans in standard "I lack something" in other words : I need it :d
tab eh ba2a? fi eh ba2a? can be translated as : well, what's then? ba2a here would mean then and tab is shorthand for tayyeb طيب "good or kind"

Rain_Drops said...

BTW Mathew: u should say alf shokr for "a 1000 thanks" shokr here is in a state of Dativ (if u know German) shokran is actually "Akkusativ" like Me in English "Accusative" so u can say Alf shokr or if u want alfo shokren (Alfo because it in Nominativ)

warm as toast said...

This is brilliant! I always try and learn languages in this way- I wish there were more blogs like this for other languages seriously

cialis said...

I, of course, a newcomer to this blog, but the author does not agree

سيتي said...

هذا جيد. يبقيه . :>

Anonymous said...

thank you sooooooooooooooo muxh this is amazing i love you for doing this you dont even know
God bless you!!

Elissa said...

I learned from this blog ;)

Anonymous said...

I am proud of you, my friend. It takes courage to walk through life with an open, curious and kind heart.see my blog myegy ماى ايجى

Unknown said...

thanks so much for all this work! this is awesome! it helped me a lot to learn egyptian arabic :)

John Green said...

It would be useful if your world-by-word explanation of each line were preceded by a succinct English translation of the line.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to have found this site!! What a wonderful way to learn.
Thank you so much.

arif said...

thx a lot...i'm going to study in egypt in this september...u've been a great help

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Well, the lyrics is actually "El ba3d khala9, ensah", not "el ma9'y"

Anonymous said...

Amazing, you explain so well. I'm struggling a bit seeing how these verb would be conjugated but really, it is amazing you're teaching very well. Shukraan kteer lilm3loomaat

Anonymous said...

درست العربية لحمس سنوات وكل اساتذتي فشلوا بتعليم العامية حتى وجدت هالموقع


seriously, there are words on here i've been waiting for years to know the meaning of. i don't know why arabic professors suck so much at teaching spoken arabic.

Anonymous said...

Hi there.
Thank you VERY MUCH for the brilliant lessons you are offering here!
I've just started learning Egyptian Arabic in February, with no knowledge of standard Arabic. It's always difficult to learn what is called 'minor' languages in anywhere, and I'm now taking a course in embassy and studying at home using a book. Now with your lessons online, I can cover lack of vocabulary source and information too! It really helps.
Also, using songs is simply the great idea.

hadir hisham said...

hey i know Arabic well because it's my language , if anyone want to learn it he could tell me ,

Anonymous said...

I really respect your work! But my question is if you can learn Eyptian Arabic dialect if you're weak in "Classic Arabic". Because, I understund 60% of spoken and written Arabic, but I find it hard to speak. So, can I learn this dialect even if I don't understand and talk so much.


Anonymous said...

thank you so much i live here in Egypt and have a hard time communicating with the masseri here. You really helped me.

Thanks a bunch

Richelle said...

The explanations (and entire blog) are great but it would help if you had the actual translation of each line separate. I'm reading and and reading through the paragraphs and don't know if you've given the whole line or just part of it:/

Unknown said...

Thank Chriss :'D

Anonymous said...

Shukran katheer akhe vo da lessons it helps me a lot, yobarekella inshaalla..

Unknown said...

Looks interesting, ill be sure to check it out. Property in Egypt

Anonymous said...

wonderful and a very helpful blog for learning Arabic. however, the word "بقى" has nothing to do with the original word's meaning "to remain", In Egyptian Arabic it's used to emphasise an statement, eg. "ابعد بقى عنى" means here no more than just "go further away" and "BA'A" just emphasise that.

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Unknown said...

الف الف شكرا لمساعدة تعلم اللغة العربية المنطوقة العامة
صحبتك السلامة في الحل والترحال

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Anonymous said...

Thank you sooo much your blog is so helpful!!!

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Anonymous said...

JazakAllah! What a wonderful help you provide. Hope you shall continue your voluntary services to educate the world! Thank you!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

This is a wonderful way to help us learn Egyptian Arabic, but I am puzzled because I find it impossible to locate a course in Egyptian Arabic that teaches the spoken language with real conversation. In other words, a course which does not assume you already know the Classic language and now you only have to learn the differences.
My friends from various Arab countries always stop me when I try to use the classic Arabic and after they figure out what I am trying to say, the conversation stops because they say that they don't use "that word." The conversation comes to a dead end!
My basic "classical" Arabic course was at an institute in Los Angeles which ran out of students after we had only done nine chapters and forced the institute to stop the course because I had to have at least two more students in the class for it to be feasible for the institute's profit.
The courses I found on Amazon sound like they are "basic Egyptian Arabic" but they are not. They already expect you to know the script and then they start making comparisons with classical Arabic! Unless I can find a proper course in Egyptian Arabic with proper lessons in which vocabulary is introduced and sample conversations are presented in each lesson, then I might as well not try to study Arabic for my goals of meeting the people and SPEAKING with them. Of course I am sitting in the U.S., so that is a problem too! Are other people experiencing this problem?
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Wow - i'm late to the party but these lessons seem fantastic - thank you so much!