Forgetting Al-Kitaab and Learning Palestinian Arabic

IMG_6514Forgetting Al-Kitaab and Learning Palestinian Arabic : If you study Arabic in the United States, you are using the textbook Al-Kitaab from Georgetown University Press. You’ve gotten to know Maha pretty well. You wish she’d find some friends so she could quit being so wi7da. After all, New York is a big city! You also know her cousin / husband Khalid, who stayed in Al-Qahira for gaami3a. And you know her wise father, who was a doctor if memory serves. You also think all Arabs speak al-fus7a, and that the main difference between the ways Lebanese and Egyptians speak is that the former likes to party on al-jumi3a and the latter likes to pray on al-gumi3a.

When visiting Palestine, feel free to set the Maha-Khalid saga aside until next semester, and be open to breaking many the many rules you were taught in Al-Kitaab.

Don’t get me wrong – if you absorbed every single vocabulary word and grammatical construct through Al-Kitaab 2, you will be able to express yourself in a reasonably sophisticated way. However if Khalid and Maha are the only Arabic speakers you’ve ever known, you will think Palestinians are speaking a different language altogether.

Here are a few tips for my fellow Al-Kitaabers to ease your transition into the Palestinian dialect.


The ‘taa marbuta’ is said more like “eh” rather than “ah”.



The ‘qaaf’ is said like the ء ‘hamza’, e.g.

Arabic Spelling Phonetic Fus7a Spelling Phonetic Palestinian Spelling Meaning
قهوة Qahua ‘ahueh coffee
في الحقيقة… fii-il-7aQiaQah … fii-il-7a’ia’eh … actually …
القدس al-Quds al-‘uds Jerusalem
الوقت al-waQt al-wa’t the time


Verb Conjugations

In the first person, “bi” is almost always added. Also, instead of using the word فٓعٓلٓ to mean “to do”, must people use عٓمٓلٓ which literally means “to work”.

Also, in the past tense, the pronoun is usually required, since the final short vowel is often skipped and so ambiguities can occur without the pronoun.

Some snazzy verb conjugation tables:

Present Tense Fus7a Present Tense Phonetic Palestinian Meaning
انا أفْعـٓلُ انا بٓعْمِلْ I do
أنتٓ تـفْعٓلُ إنتْ بِتـعْمِلْ You (m) do
أنتِ تٓفْعٓلي إنتْ بِتٓعْمِلي You (f) do
هوٓ يٓفعٓلُ هوْ بيعمِلْ He does
هيٓ تٓفْعٓلُ هيْ بِتٓعْمِلْ She does
نٓحْنُ نٓفْعٓلُ إحنا مٓنعْمِلْ We do
أنْتُم تٓفْعٓلونُ إنتو بِتٓعْمِلو You all do
هُم يٓفْعٓونُ هِم بيعْمِلو They do


Past Tense Fus7a Past Tense Phonetic Palestinian Meaning
انا كُنتُ انا كُنتْ I was
أنتٓ كُنتٓ إنتْ كُنتْ You (m) were
أنتِ كُنتِ إنتْ كُنتْ You (f) were
هوٓ كانٓ هوْ كانْ He was
هيٓ كانٓتْ هيْ كانٓت She was
نٓحنُ كٌنا إحنا كْنا We were
أنْتُم كُنتُم إنتوكْنتُم You all were
هُم كانوا هِم كانو They were


The ‘hamza’ is usually ignored, substituting instead the whole vowel, e.g.:

Arabic Spelling Phonetic Fus7a Spelling Phonetic Palestinian Spelling Meaning
هو يجيء hoa yaji’ Hoo yajii He is coming
انا اقرأ ana aQara’ Ana a’araa I am reading

Some Useful Words

Some words are just different from what you learned in Al-Kitaab. A great many words. Here are a few I didn’t get at first.

Al-Kitaab Palestine Meaning
غداً بُكرة Tomorrow
أمس البارِحة Yesterday


Talk To People!

You must talk to people in Arabic. Start with your bad Arabic, and it will become good Arabic. Palestinians are thrilled that you want to learn their language and will be patient as you stumble toward the word you want to say. Just speak Arabic!