We strongly believe that part of understanding a community and a culture is through language. Learning a language is also a process that never finishes.
With this glossary we want to visualise our own process of learning the language in Bethlehem, and the process of understanding the community around us. This glossary is thus a reflection of not just language, but mostly of our growing knowledge of the life here.
The language spoken in Palestine is largely Arabic. As Arabic is an old language spoken in many different places by many people and there are different versions of it. The words included in this glossary include expressions and words that are used in Palestine and in the community we live in. We note down the words in the way we understand them and use them, and spell them how we hear them. This is probably far from how they should be written if written with latin letters, but this is really our own personal list.
Moreover- the context when we heard them and how we use them is important.
- Thank you = “Shukran”. For everyday use, for instance when you attempt to buy lemons and the salesperson gives them for free, because he likes you, go “shukran!” and smile.
- You’re welcome = “Af-wan“. Use as a reply to “shukran“. Goes hand in hand and all the time.
- Yes and no = “A” and “la”
- Let’s go! = “Yalla”. When you are leaving somewhere with a group (for instance after sunset during Ramadan, as this is the time when people hit town) and want to let everyone know it is happening, and it is time to move. Can also be used as a question and as a reply. Eg. “- Yalla?”, “-Yalla!”.
- Good = “Tamam”. Can be used to make sure the pop-corns you popped, so they can be sold at the street, taste good. Can also be used to express that today you feel good. And it is used for every day conformation for many things we are doing, when looking for an approval: Eg. “-Tamam?”, “-Tamam.”
- (I am) Hungry/ not hungry = “(Ana) Ja-ana” / “(Ana) mish ja-ana”. Palestinian culture includes not just good food, but also many amazing sweets and fruits. When offered more fruit and you just can’t eat more, it can be useful to state this with a “la shukran, mish ja-ana”.
- What is your problem? = “Shu malak?” If you only have time to learn one phrase, learn this, because it will show to be useful. When someone is being really annoying or mean, shake them off with a good old “SHU MALAK?!!”, or if someone is ill or sad, comfort them with a kind and gentle “shu malak?” and stroke their hair for better effect.
- My loved one = Habibi (m)/Habibti (f). You can use this for people you really appreciate; like your loved one or a good friend who does something nice for you. We even heard someone using it for the taxi-driver!
Food and drinks
- Coffee = “Kahua”. Palestinians usually drink Turkish coffee, from small cups, and also late at night.
- Water = “Maya”. It can get really hot in the summer, so always be ready to ask the shop-keeper or café worker if they have “maya”, with a big smile.
- Hummus = “hummus”. Everyone will tell you where the best hummus-place in the world is, and everyone will tell you a different place. Truth is, every place we tried had amazing hummus and we can not get enough of it. ❤
- Bread = “hubez”. If you can ask for (white) bread and hummus (hubez wa hummus) nothing can bring you sadness or hunger again.
- Tomato = “bandora”. Interested in leveling up your hummus-sandwich? Ask for some bandora as well!
- Ice-cream = Buza. Omnomn.
Good words for survival
- Rat = “Erza“. Eg. when you are standing in your garden at night, without keys to get inside the house, and you warn your friend by shouting that there is a rat behind her “erza, erza!”
- Mom and Dad = “yamma” and “yabba”. Unless you live in this community (because this is very local way of saying it) this might not be very useful, but if you hang out a lot with an Arab family with many kids, like we do, it can be useful to understand what it means. Can be used multiple times, eg. “yamma, yamma, yamma!!”.
- Very good/Amazing = “Sababa”. When you play football with the kids and you score, the cheer-leader can say “sababa” to express how great you are. This expression is very typical for the Deheisha camp.
- Never ever = “fi lmishmesh”. This saying refers to the apricot (mishmesh) and how it has a very short season; first it is never ripe, and suddenly it is already over. The phrase can be used when something is very unlikely to ever happen.
- Tomorrow = “bukra‘. Postponing plans is not an issue in the Arab world. Why do something today that you can do tomorrow?
- Army = “jeesh”. Useful expression for understanding why you hear so many nightly unpleasant sounds.