Learn How to Talk Like an Egyptian

So Beautiful!

So Beautiful!

January 2010 –All of Egypt & Jordan (and Morocco)

Rarely have I a traveled to a country or region and absorbed so little of the language. Rats!  Arabic got the best of me this trip, but I’m still fascinated by the language, especially the beautiful script. The Arabic alphabet was recorded in the 4th century, with the earliest written records dating from AD 512. The form of the letters changes according to where they are in the sentence (beginning, middle, end) or if the letter stands alone. You write modern Arabic from right to left.

My tour guide Adel said that in ancient times – I guess we’re talking hieroglyphics and not the modern Arabic alphabet — you could read the language right to left, left to right, and top to bottom. You could tell which way to read the writing based on the direction the images were facing. So if the image of a bird is facing right, you’d read the sentence from left to right. Fascinating!

So do I read this top to bottom?

So do I read this top to bottom?

While Arab nations all read the same script, the pronunciation varies widely between countries and regions – so much so that local colloquialisms can’t be understood.  In fact, my virtually un-used, but much carried, Lonely Planet Arabic phrasebook has separate sections for Egyptian, Gulf, Levantine, and Tunisian Arabic.






Painted hieroglyphics from the Valley of the Queens, Luxor, Egypt

Painted hieroglyphics from the Valley of the Queens, Luxor, Egypt

Fun Factoids:

  • Arabic is one of the 10 most widely spoken languages
  • Arabic has official status in 25 countries and is one of the 6 official languages of the UN
  • 200 million people speak Arabic


A few Arabic words that are common in everyday English include coffee, cotton, candle, mattress, syrup, and alcohol. These are the 5 words I used most:

  • Hello — Salaam
  • We go – Yella
  • No– La
  • Stop – Ba
  • Go Away – Im-shee


The fact that No, Stop and Go Away were used more often than Please, Thank you and Good bye should tell you something of my experience…


To read more about how to read Egyptian hieroglyphic writing, check out these sites:

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 and is filed under Arab Region.

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