Travelling to the Middle East on business?
Whether you're travelling to the UAE or Saudi Arabia, no matter where you go for work in the Middle East,Middle East, knowing a few words or phrases in the local language can break down barriers, build relationships and smooth the way to business success.
In this blog, we look at 20 "must know" Arabic words and phrases every business person should learn before they visit Arabic speaking countries in the Middle East.
Our first four words are key when greeting and saying goodbye to people:
1. مرحبا – Hello (marhaban): This greeting is widely used throughout the Arab countries and is also one of the easiest greetings to pronounce making it a good word to know.
2. تشرفنا – Pleased to meet you (tasharafna)
3. كيف حالك؟ – How are you? male (kayfa halak) female (kayfa halik): There are two versions of this phrase: as with many Arabic phrases this phrase is dependent on the gender of the person you are speaking to, the first version is to be spoken to a man.
4. مع السلامة – Goodbye (ma’asalama)
So here are a couple words to get your conversations started:
5. ما اسمك؟ – What’s your name? male (mā ismak) female (mā ismik)
6. ... اسمي – My name is.. (ismee)
7. من أين أنت؟ - Where are you from? male (min ayna anta/i) female (min ayna anti)
Arab speakers can talk fairly quickly so if in doubt say:
8. أسف – Sorry (male - asif/ female - asifa): In this instance the ending depends on your own gender, if you are male you say asif if you are female you say asifa.
9. لا أفهم– I don’t understand (la afham)
10. تكلم ببطء من فضلك – Please speak slowly ( akalam bibut min fadlak/lik): fadlak if you are talking to a man and fadlik if you are talking to a woman.
11. ؟ الانجليزية اللغة تتكلم هل – Can you speak English? (hal tatakallum al-lughah al-engleezia)
We know 'no' is important, yes equally so:
12. لا –No (la)
13. نعم – Yes (na’am): It’s always good to know the opposite of the word no, we don’t want you missing out on anything.
When being asked questions please and thank you are good words to know:
14. من فضلك – Please (min fadlak/lik): Again the two endings rely on the gender of the person being spoken to. "lik" is the ending for a female.
15. شكرا – Thank You (shukran)
16. ألعفو –You’re welcome (afwan)
Travelling around could prove difficult without knowing how to ask directions:
17. عين؟– Where? (ayna)
18. يمين– Right (yimeen)
19. يسار– Left (yesaar)
20. على التول – Straight on (al’a tuul)
Markets are an integral part of life in any Arab speaking country, to initiate the customary haggling to get you a good bargain this little word is your conversation starter:
21. بكم هذا؟ /بكم هذه؟ – How much is that? (bi kam hatha/hathihi?)
So when building relationships in the Middle East or Arab world, keep this list in mind, it’s not going to make you fluent but it will help!
If you're doing doing business in the Middle East then it's important to bear in mind that it's not only the language you should be aware of. Working successfully in the Middle East is dependant upon you understanding Middle Eastern cultture. We have a broad range of immediately available online cross cultural training courses for most countries in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran and more. I
f you prefer something more personal and interactive, then we also run webinar cultural training services. Our specialist intercultural trainers are experts in helping corporate staff work effectively overseas. Speak to our cross cultural training team for more information: