Here are some resources I’ve found around the internet that are proving extremely useful for learning Egyptian Arabic.
They are on crazy outdated webpages, so either they’ll be around forever, or they’re about to go offline. (If they do, I’ll rebuild them from scratch myself!)
People tend to go to Google Translate these days, but it is unsuitable when you’re trying to learn a dialect. So we use this free online Egyptian Arabic dictionary. When there’s an Egyptian Arabic word, it shows it, with a pronunciation recording and often an example sentence! It’s super useful.
For example, the word for the adjective ‘open’ (e.g. “the shop is open”) in standard Arabic is مـَفتوح, maftuuH. I learned that word ages ago, and it would be useable, but not the ideal word. In Egyptian Arabic the word is فا َتـِح, faatiH.
So to say “Is this cafe open?” you’d say
- Standard Arabic: هل هذا المقهى مفتوح؟, hal hadha almaqha maftuuH?
- Egyptian Arabic: القهوة دي فاتح؟, al ‘ahwa di faatiH?
You’d get by with the Standard Arabic, but it’d be a little like in English walking up to someone and saying “My dear Sir! Is this beverage consuming establishment in current operation?”. If you want to mix it up with locals, use this dictionary.
One caveat: the layout is terrible. The mobile app makes you squint. The whole thing could take some design cues from Craigslist. Everything works beautifully and it’s so fast that I forgive it, though. I’d rather it works like it does than it become beautiful and laden with ads or something.
This guy’s super basic and not mobile-optimized website, straight out of the mid 1990s it seems, is a very rich resource of vocabulary. I can’t remember how I found it, but I love it.
I don’t care about the vocabulary list, but I really like all the lists of expressions, idioms and common phrases. What’s great is that he included
- Arabic lettering as well as transliteration
- Multiple ways of saying the same thing
- Careful distinctions about when to say different things
The cultural notes are gold. Look at the section on what to say in a situation when someone sneezes: (which, in practise, rarely actually happens… good god)
This is what Muslims in Egypt say when someone sneezes:
* The sneezer says: الحمد لله (il-Hamdu lillāh) – lit. “Praise be to God”
* Someone else: يرحمكم الله (yarHamkum illāh) – lit. “May God have mercy on you (pl.)
* The sneezer replies:يرحمنا ويرحمكم (yarHamna wa-yarHamkum) – lit. “May He have mercy on us and you”.
* Optional addition: ويغفر لنا ولكم (wa-yaġfir lana wa-lakum) – lit “And forgive us and you” an additional expression that some people say.
I found this when looking for songs I could use to learn Arabic (they’re so catchy). The author has put together 15 courses through songs, all of which have vocabulary, lyrics, translation and annotations.
Look at all the description for the first line of one song:
“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.
Here’s the song, by the way. Listen to it.