Language Helps

Common Arabic Words and Phrases

  • Hello - Marhaba (Mar-ha-ba)  (many will answer you with ‘hello’)  
  • How are you?  - Kiifak? (KIIF-ak)  or  Sloanak? (SLOAN-ak)  (Iraqi dialect)
  • Fine  - Quayiz (Quay-iz)   or  Zain (Zain)   (Iraqi dialect)
  • Jesus  - Yesuah  (Ye-SU-ah) 
  • Jesus loves you - Yesuah yahibak (Ye-SU-ah ya-HIB-ak)
  • I love you - anna ahibak  (an-na a-HIB-ak)
  • my name is Bill - ismi Bill (IS-mi Bill)
  • what is your name? - shoe issmak?   (shoe, just like the english shoe,   ISS-mak)
  • I am sorry - anna mitasif  (an-an mit-AS-if) (or just “assif” “sorry”)
  • Excuse me - afwan (AF-wan) (also means “you’re welcome”)
  • Where is the bathroom?  - fi hammam?  (fi ham-MAM ?)
  • o.k. - o.k
  • Let’s Go - yella  (YEL-Lah)   (used a lot)
  • God Willing    - Inshalah (IN-sha-lah)   (used a lot, also used in place of ‘maybe’)
  • Goodbye - Masalama (MA-sa-la-ma)   (literally 'with peace')
  • Greeting used among Muslims – Issulamu Alakum (is-su-la-mu  a-lay-kum) (His peace to you)
  • Response to Issulamu Alakum:  Wa Alakum Issulam (and to you the peace)

Non-Verbal Communication

Don’t get hung up on the language, or feel you have to have a translator with you all the time.  Studies show the bulk of communication is non-verbal.  Friendliness, love, affection, concern, compassion, remorse, sadness, happiness etc. will translate with or without words.  In fact the non-verbal communication may penetrate deeper, to the heart.  So communicate with your life, with your attitude, with your inner peace.  With the children especially, they are quick to sense kindness and gentleness and genuine love.  Also don't be afraid to touch the kids - shaking hands, initially, is normal, then as you get to know them, a pat on the back, arm around the shoulder, hugs, and kisses on the cheek are normal in this society.

Most hand gestures and facial expressions are the same in both languages/cultures. (smiling, winking, nodding yes, shaking head no, raised eyebrows or open mouth for surprise, finger to lips for ‘quiet!’,  furrowed brows for concern or sadness.)

With children (and members of the same sex) you can express a lot of love with a hand squeeze, a pat on the back or shoulder, a big smile when you see someone you recognize, a hug, standing with them with your arm around their shoulder, etc.