So, for all of those out there reading this blog who are family members of my fellow volunteers here… this one’s for you. I’m going to give you all a little dictionary for words and phrases that might be trickling in to the conversations you are having. These are all either Arabic or Tamazight/Tashelheit words that we use ALL THE TIME! Here is how this is going to work… I’m going to put a word in italics and then give you the definition. After the definition, in parentheses, I’m going to tell what we probably mean when we’re using it or what the context is. The spelling on all of these is arbitrary transliteration so don’t judge me.
Insha’allah- “God willing” (this is probably used in every sentence and is the most used phrase. We use this whenever we say something about the present or future. For example, “I’m going to town today, insha’allah” or “I think I’ll eat nachos today, insha’allah.” Occasionally you’ll hear someone use it for the past tense which still doesn’t make sense to me, eg “I went to Mrirt yesterday, insha’allah.” If you have any insight on that one let me know. Now when talking to someone you have to pay attention to the inflection because it quite possibly could mean, “you are absolutely smoking something if you think that’s ever happening.”
Hmdullah- “thanks be to God” (this is probably our second most used phrase and pretty self-explanatory)
Shwiya- a little bit, marginal (if used as a noun, we’re probably saying it’s not that great)
Bzzef- A lot (On this word people can make some really funny inflections)
Zwina, iHla, izil, iغ uda, ifulki… - good, cool, awesome, amazing, fantastic, etc. (all of these are various regional Berber dialects, except the first is Arabic. There are more, but these are the main ones that I’ve run into)
Souq- this is the weekly market that almost all of us go to in order to get vegetables and random other stuff. (It’s quite the event and depending on your mood could be really stressful or invigorating. It’s also a great place to get crazy used clothes)
Miskin- poor thing (so this is the nickname practically all of us go by. So whenever we answer questions about whether or not we are married, or how long we’re here for, or if we have to cook for ourselves, etc, the invariable response is “oh you poor thing.” We also use this to describe pathetic looking vegetables, animals, or really anything… eg. “Those are miskin looking carrots.”)
So these are some of the words that have become almost second nature to most of us and it pops in and out of our English conversations. There are quite a bit more, but this will get you started. I just thought I’d give you a reference so you can understand your loved ones. Enjoy!