My Friend’s Big Day

by Apr 5, 2018Egyptian Arabic Diaries1 comment

Learn Arabic as it is really spoken. Listen to and read Egyptian Colloquial Arabic.

Alaa’s best friend had to defend her thesis to receive her Master’s degree. Was she successful?
يوم الاربع اللى فات كان يوم مهم جدا بالنسبه لى. كانت مناقشة ماجستير واحده من اعز اصدقائى وصحاب عمري. كان لازم اصحى من بدرى عشان الحق اكون معاها من قبل ما تبدا. تفاصيل اليوم ده اكيد بتبقى مهمه جدا للشخص اللى هيتم مناقشته… حاجه كده شبه تحضيرات لما يكون فيه فرح او خطوبه. زى اى مناسبه اول ما بتبدأ كله بيحاول يصور. و بيبقى فى مواقف كتير على جنب و توتر مع بداية الحدث. على قد ما كان فى حاجات كتير كوميديه على قد ما كانت حاجه مؤثره وج ميله جدا. و مش هنساها و هى بتقدم فى المقدمه لما اتاثرِت وعيطِت و هى بتشكر اهلها على دعمهم. من المعروف ان اليوم ده لازم صاحب الرساله يسمع انتقادات كتير بس فى الآخر بيبقى معروف انه كده كده ما دام وصل للمنصه يبقى اكيد هياخد الدرجه فى الآخر. الا انه لما الدكاتره قاموا وقفوا فى الآخر بعد ٣ ساعات من الانتقادات والتعليقات على الرساله حسينا كده بنفس احساس العد التنازلى و وكإنّنا بنستنى لحظه النطق بالحكم. بعد ٣ ساعات من كلام فى تخصص اغلب الحاضرين مش فاهمين منه حاجه و مستنيين اللقطه الاخيره دي… اخيرًا جت اللحظه اللى كلنا كنا مستنيينها… ووقفت لجنه التحكيم و وقفنا كلنا عشان نسمع النتيجه… و صاحبتى اخدت الدرجه و باباها بدأ يدمع… و احنا كلنا الفرحه مش سايعانا و احنا بنسقف. و رغم كل التعب و القلق و التوتر على مدار السنين دى كلها الا ان فرحه النجاح او الوصول لهدف واتمامه فرحه ليها طعم تانى كده. الفرحه اللى عبر عنها عبد الحليم لما قال “ده مفيش فرحان فى الدنيا قد الفرحان بنجاحه”… الاغنيه كانت فى ودانى و احنا بنتصور و بنحتفل بعد ما خدت الدرجه و اتمنيت لو كان ينفع زى اى مناسبه تانيه نشغل موسيقى خلفيه وتشتغل الاغنيه دى فى الآخر. بس مين عارف يمكن فى يوم من الايام تقاليد واعراف المناسبات دى تتغير ويسمحوا بحاجه زى كده.
Last Wednesday was a very important day for me. It was the MA defense for one of my best and lifelong friends. I had to wake up early to be able to be with her before it started. The details of this days are definitely very important to the person who will be asked to defend their thesis… a bit like preparing for an engagement ceremony or a wedding. Just like any ceremony, once it starts, everyone tries to take photos. There are always side situations that occur, and stress when the event starts. As much as there were so many funny situations, the whole event was so touching and very beautiful. I will never forget when she was reciting the introduction and was moved and cried when she was thanking her family for their support. It is common on that day that the MA holder-to-be will listen to a lot of criticism but will eventually take the degree anyway since they have reached the stage already. However, when the professors stood up at the end, after three hours of criticizing and comments on the thesis, we got this feeling of a countdown, as if we were waiting for them to verbalize the decree. After three hours of talk in a specialization which the majority of the audience had no idea about and was only waiting for that final scene, at last the moment that all of us were waiting for had come. The jury committee stood up, and we all stood up too to listen to the result. My friend got her degree… and her father started to weep… and we were all clapping and over the moon. Despite all the effort, worries, and stress throughout all these years, the joy of success, or reaching and finalizing a goal has another taste of its own. That kind of joy that Abdel-Halim expressed when he said in his famous song, “There is no one happier in the world than someone who is happy with his success.” The song was playing in my head while we were taking photos and celebrating after she got her degree. If only we could play it as a back ground music just like at any other occasion. But who knows! It may happen that one day the traditions and protocols of such [academic] occasions change to allow something like this to happen.

Let’s take a look at Alaa’s text together. Of course, there are no official spelling rules in Egyptian Arabic, but there are common conventions popular among Egyptians. These include not writing dots on taa marbuuta (ة) and final yaa (ـي). You will notice one instance of taa marbuuta with dots in the text. This is done to indicate that the ending is pronounced as -it, being the first element of an idaafa construction. (This is not necessarily done by Egyptians but is a practice adopted in Lingualism materials.) Hamza is generally not written. و (“and”) is written as a separate word.

Toward the beginning of the text, we see قبل ما. Notice that this is followed by a bare imperfect verb even though it refers to the past. However, toward the end of the text, we see بعد ما, which is followed by a perfect verb. (Bare imperfect refers to the “present tense” in Arabic without the بـ prefix. Perfect is the past tense.)

على قد ما is an interesting conjunction in Egyptian Arabic. It is repeated in both clauses. Can you find the example in the text? It expresses that two things were equally true. In this example, there were both funny moments, and touching ones.

In the next sentence, we see مش هنساها. Do you recognize the word هنساها? Hint: It’s a a common Arabic verb. It has both a prefix (the future tense هـ) and a suffix (ـها = her). The verb is نسى (nisi in Cairene Arabic / nasa in Alexandrian Arabic) = to forget). The bare imperfect first-person singular (i.e. “I”) form is انْسى (ansa). The initial ا gets swallowed by the prefix هـ. So, مش هنساها (mish hansaaha) = I will not forget her.

The verb نسى is mentioned above. Notice that the vowel pattern is different in the Cairene and Alexandrian accents (sub-dialects). Verbs which have kasra in the perfect tense in Cairene Arabic will often be pronounced with fatha in Alexandria. Here are some more examples:

Cairene: شِرِب (shirib – to drink); لِبِس (libis – to get dressed)

Alexandrian: شَرَب (sharab – to drink); لَبَس (labas – to get dressed)

Do you have any questions about the text? Leave your comments below.