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Saying ‘Goodbye’ in Arabic: phrases and rituals Posted by on May 17, 2017 in Culture, Vocabulary

Today, we’ll be looking at the interesting culture of saying ‘goodbye’ in Arabic and the linguistic phrases used in this ritual. Saying goodbye in the Arab world is not as simple as you think it is, so let’s find out why.

A group of Arab men saying goodbye to each other

When starting a conversation, Arabic speakers usually say these phrases below, meaning ‘hello’:

(يا) هلا

(Ya) Hala

(hello)

Or

يا أهلا وسهلا

Ya ahla w sahla

(Hellow and welcome)

هلا والله

Hala wallah

(Hello!)

However, these same greetings are equally used to end a conversation!

This interesting way of saying goodbye and the language used to express that (as I mentioned above) might – some people say – be a reflection or a metaphor of how affectionate and warm Arabs can be. Also, using ‘hello’ to mean ‘goodbye’ maybe telling something about Arabic speakers’ mind-set and how they view the idea of ‘goodbye’ and what it stands for. So, rather than considering parting a way of ending a meeting or a conversation, they instead consider it a mere transition to another meeting. This is manifested in some of the phrases used in saying goodbye, for example, the most popular way of ending a conversation is to say either:

إلى اللقاء

ila al-liqaa

(until we meet)

Or

بشوفك بعدين

Bshoof-ak ba’deen

(See you later)

These two expressions make this idea of linking the current meeting to the next one in the future quite clear.

Also, this culture of saying ‘goodbye’ in the Arab world and the meaning behind it isn’t only highlighted through the linguistic terms used for it, but also culturally and in every-day manners. Another interesting aspect to do with saying ‘goodbye’ in the Arab world is that saying goodbye can take a very long time! It’s either because can start a long and a serious conversation at the front door and take or that because it’s hard to say goodbye! Another ‘cultural’ reason a goodbye is done in many stages and slightly longer than usual maybe to do with the assumption that leaving abruptly can be regarded a bit rude by the host. Although this can be considered a stereotype and there’s an element of exaggeration in it as it’s not necessarily the case among all Arabs, but it’s more like a habit and Arabs themselves are aware of it and joke about it.

For example, there is a page http://arabproblems.tumblr.com/ called ‘Arabproblems’ that is dedicated to talk about funny anecdotes associated with Arabs and Arabic speakers. The amount of time saying goodbye takes is something the page’s admin(s) makes fun of and consider it a problem (see photo below), and even gives it a number (#185), together with the rest of the problems!

Arab problems

From www.arabproblems.tumblr.com

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About the Author:Hanan Ben Nafa

I am a 3rd year, PhD candidate in Sociolinguistics at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), under the supervision of Dr. Rob Drummond. I have been in the UK since 2009 when she moved for the purpose of pursuing her studies. The title of her PhD project is: ‘Code-Switching & Social identity construction among Arabic-English bilinguals’. Apart from my main interest in Sociolinguistics, I work as a part-time translator and interpreter (social and legal) and teach Arabic, occasionally. Passionate about languages, ethnography and everyday language use by bilinguals.


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