Shortcut to learning Arabic?

I got all excited when I started to see lists of hundreds of English words of Arabic origin listed on facebook and online.  I was thinking – ‘YAY! Instant Arabic vocabulary!’  But beware – while these words may have had an Arabic origin way back in time, they have often come into English via other languages and so are not pronounced at all similarly. This means many of them are useless to the dancer trying to learn the basics of the language.

Here is a portion of a tantalising list that is of limited use to dancers and is really mostly of use to linguists. Some words probably are close enough to translate well but how do you know which ones? You are better off just learning words you would actually use off native speakers.

“You may think you don’t speak Arabic but there are more words of Arabic origin in English than you might expect ...

adobe
alchemy
alcohol
alcove
alfalfa
algebra
algorithm
alkali
almanac
amalgam
apricot
artichoke
camel
camphor
candy
cane
cannabis
check
checkmate
cinnabar
coffee
copt
cotton
crimson
crocus
cumin
halva
harem
hashish
hookah
jar
jasmine
jerboa
jessamine
lacquer
lake
lilac
lime
lute
magazine
mahdi
marabout
marzipan
massacre
massage
mastaba
mate
minaret
mizzen
monsoon
mosque
popinjay
safari
saffron
sequin
sesame
shackle
sherbet
shrub
sofa
spinach
sugar
sultan
sultana
talc
talisman
tambourine
zero

I found a  list that looks more useful in terms of similar pronunciation from http://blogs.transparent.com/arabic/english-words-of-arabic-origin/  but unfortunately I don’t think many of these words would come up in songs!

I have this Abou El Leef album – such a funny cover!

“Some words of Arabic origin:

  1. Amber “العنبر”  (anbar)
  2. Crimson “قرمزي”  (karmazi)
  3. Elixir “إكسير” (ikseer)
  4. Carat “قيراط” (kirat)
  5. Cotton “القطن” (al-kutn)
  6. Sherbet “شربات” (sharabat)
  7. Tahini “الطحينة” (tahina)
  8. Chipher / zero “صفر” (sifr)
  9. Mask / mascara “المسكرة” (mascara)
  10. Alcohol “الكحول” (al-kohool)
  11. Hazard “زهر” (zahr)
  12. Caliber “قالب” (ka’leb)
  13. Jar “جرة” (jarra)
  14. Chemistry “الكيمياء” (al-keemya’a)

* A side note: While “magazine” is commonly used in English to describe printed publications, the origin of its Arabic equivalent “ماغازين”, (makhazeen), is obsolete. Today we use a similar word to describe a storehouse:  ”مخزن” (makhzan). Ironically, we have now adopted the English meaning of this word (magazine, as in a publication) even though its Arabic roots mean something entirely different.”

Another difficulty is that Arabic has many dialects – words are pronounced quite differently in say Lebanese compared to Egyptian.

carob beans

Never-the-less apparently carob, henna and lemon would probably be understood and thankfully the loan word thing works the other way too with words like sandwich, bank, taxi, menu being used in Egypt and people seemed to understand me when I used them their too. Abou El Leef has a song called ‘Taxi’ but I have yet to hear the words carob or sand-a-wich in any of my Arabic music!

Do you know any English words that are commonly understood in Arabic? (or songs with carob in them, LOL!) I would love to learn more.  Please comment below.

Common Arabic Words in Songs with Houda

Coffs Harbour’s best kept belly dance secret- Houda!

Born in Lebanon during turbulent times, (so turbulent in fact that her birth wasn’t recorded!! ), this local belly dance teacher is not well known outside of Coffs Harbour.

SHH

So if she is so good, why doesn’t she have youtube clips showing her countless choreographies, why isn’t she gracing all the local stages here and further abroad?
 

Well the answer is quite simple, where she is from, the dance is part of her culture, where it is a dance for women and danced  with other women; a dance where every woman is a dancer and she is to be celebrated. Houda  has been dancing since childhood, the dance that has been passed on from mother to daughter. Public performance does not feel right for her (though she doesn’t judge those that choose to). You can however catch her moves at women’s only bellydance events that are held sporadically in the area – but again not on the stage only on the dance floor. So is she worth getting lessons off? Absolutely, this gal doesn’t even have to advertise her belly dance class she is that good. There is something special about getting lessons off someone that comes from the culture and understands the lyrics!!! Houda’s belly dance classes have a gentle, authentic feel (not performance based) and her Arabic classes are personal and dance oriented. I highly recommend both. Houda is also available for private tuition and to run dance workshops (ladies only) or Arabic classes (commencing 10th of May 2012 for term2) for your event. Houda has been teaching in the Coffs Harbour area for many years on a Wednesday night at Cavanbah Hall 5.30-6.30 pm she can be contacted on 0421 220 499  email arabesquebel@hotmail.com. Her dance school is called Arabesque Bellydance. Houda believes in uniting all dancers in a sisterhood and promotes co-operation and supporting each other rather than competitiveness. Jade Belly Dance supports these ideals as well and is happy to promote Houda and the Arabesque Bellydance dancers.

5 Common Arabic words used in songs

Listen for these – you will be surprised how often they occur in belly dance music

Al Hobb – the love

Gamaal – beauty

albi – my heart

Habibi – my darling

Ammar – moon

Want more? Houda has made a list of the most common words that she will be sharing at her upcoming workshop. See below for more details. I am going, don’t miss out!

Houdas Arabic Music Workshop People's Choice Award Please, please, please consider clicking the icon and voting for me! I am trying really hard to deliver a great and useful blog to all dancers of our genre. Wouldn’t it be great if a belly dance blog got some recognition? Raising the profile of our art helps us all. I am up against a lot of slick professional bloggers in various fields and would love it if you could give this hard working mum a hand! You do not have to be Australian to vote! My international readers are more than welcome to join in.

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