Dubai: From yalla to Insha Allah, Arabic phrases make everyday conversations in the UAE interesting for Arabs and non-Arabs alike.
While not every UAE resident may be fluent in the language, there are some common phrases that have made their way into the vocabulary of almost every UAE resident.
Gulf News spoke with a cross-section of people in the country to ask them the most common Arabic phrases they use.
1. Shu hadha
When we are having a general chit-chat at work and something comes up which surprises you, you jut go ‘shu hadha, man’.
“I picked up the word from my Arab colleagues,” Faezel Rebeiro, a 35-year-old Indian expatriate said.
“It just keeps coming up during conversations with colleagues now. My immediate manager is Emirati and he uses it quite often. It’s rarely used in its literal sense. When we are having a general chit-chat at work and something comes up which surprises you, you jut go ‘shu hadha, man’.”
Another word in the everyday vocabulary of this Indian national - yalla!
“I use that quite often too, when you really want people to hurry up.”
What it means
Speaking to Gulf News, Ruqaya Ahmad, presenter at the Shaikh Mohammad Centre for Cultural Understanding, explained the meaning of the commonly used phrase.
We often use shu hadha when we are frustrated or during a sudden interaction.
“Shu hadha basically means ‘What is this?’ but we often use this when we are frustrated or during a sudden interaction. It is a phrase that we use a lot and in the Emirati accent sometimes it is cut down to ‘shu ha’”
2. Ta’aal habibi
Having lived in the UAE since 2010, Filipino national Jayvi Javier has enjoyed picking up Arabic phrases. His favourite - ta’aal habibi. It is a phrase that he felt helped him express his personality in a new culture.
The word I use is ta'al habibi. I often say it to different people, whether from India, Bangladesh or the Philippines.
“I heard it from my Arab friends and if I talk to different people, whether from India, Bangladesh or the Philippines, I use it,” the Sharjah resident said.
What it means
Even my colleagues who are not Emirati use habibi a lot as it is a fun word to use
“The translation for ta’aal habibi is ‘come, my love’, but this is a very casual phrase. Usually, it is actually used sarcastically. You would say that not to someone who is your love but rather someone who you are upset with. When someone annoys you or is being difficult, you just say ta’aal habibi let’s talk this out. Even my colleagues who are not Emirati use habibi a lot as it is a fun word to use,” explained Ahmad.
3. Insha Allah
For Dubai resident, Jayakrishnan N V, some words helped him understand the belief system of people in the country.
There are three words I use very often - Insha Allah, Alhamdulillah and Masha Allah.
“There are three words I use very often - Insha Allah, Alhamdulillah and Masha Allah. These are common words that one comes across when communicating with people in the UAE, whether Emiratis or expats.”
What it means
Ahmad said: “These terms are usually associated with religion because they have the word Allah. Insha Allah means If God is willing. If you are planning to go out for coffee tomorrow, you would say “Insha Allah we will go out” But sometimes because of the overuse of this phrase, people presume something is not going to happen.
“Alhamdulillah means Thank God. Usually you would say it if something good happens to you, like you got accepted for a scholarship, and it is like you are reminding yourself after all your hard work Allah allowed it to happen. It is also used in situations where you get relief after facing a difficult situation.
“Masha Allah means this is what God allowed to happen/exist. You usually use it if you are complimenting someone. By saying Masha Allah, you are congratulating people without being envious. It is related to the idea of the evil eye, in Arabic we call it hasad. Since people are concerned about these things, we say Masha Allah as a protection. So whether it is reacting to a new born baby, a new dress or a new bag. You say mabrook [congratulations] and add Masha Allah afterwards.”
4. Shukran jazeelan
When Ksenya Prekovic came to the UAE 13 years ago, like many other people arriving in the country, she decided to learn more about the local culture. One word she uses most often is Shukran jazeelan. The complimentary word afwan is also something she uses quite often.
What it means
“Shukran jazeelan means thank you very much. However, here in the UAE we say mashkoor to a man or mashkoora to a woman. Afwan is the reply to shukran, and basically means you are welcome,” Ahmad added.
Shukran jazeelan means thank you very much.
Prekovic, a Croatian national, doesn’t just stop at thank you, though. She uses other words, Marhaba most often, to reach out to clients and colleagues who might be Arab.
I pull out these words as it is an ice breaker.
“Sometimes, when I work with clients who are Arabic speakers, I pull out these words as it is an ice breaker. It is nice when people know a little bit of the language. It shows a little bit of appreciation,” the HR consultant said.
What it means
“Marhaba means hello and welcome. There are different terms like hala and ahlain — apart from Assalamu alaikum (peace be upon you) which is more religious — that are used by Emiratis,” Ahmad said.
Marhaba means hello and welcome. There are different terms like hala and ahlain — apart from Assalamu alaikum (peace be upon you) which is more religious — that are used by Emiratis.