Arabic You say hello Arabic Beginner Lesson-27
The formal way of greeting someone in Arabic is ‘as-salaamu ‘alaykum (ass-salaam-
ou a-lai-koum). Even though it translates into English as “hello,” it literally
means “May peace be upon you.” Arabic is a very poetic language, so
you’re going to have to get used to the fact that a lot of the phrases used in
everyday life are very descriptive!
Using ‘as-salaamu ‘alaykum is appropriate when
You’re greeting a potential business partner.
You’re at a formal event, dinner, or gala.
You’re meeting someone for the first time.
The most common reply to ‘as-salaamu ‘alaykum is wa ‘alaykum ‘as-salaam
(wa a-lai-koum ass-sa-laam; and upon you peace).
The phrase ‘ahlan wa sahlan (ahel-an wah sah-lan) is a very informal way of
greeting a person or group of people. Translated into English, it resembles
the more informal “hi” as opposed to “hello.” When someone says ‘ahlan wa
sahlan, you should also reply ‘ahlan wa sahlan.
Using the informal ‘ahlan wa sahlan is appropriate when
You’re greeting an old friend.
You’re greeting a family member.
You’re greeting someone at an informal gathering, such as a family lunch.
Although ‘ahlan wa sahlan is one of the friendliest and most informal greetings
in Arabic, you can actually greet someone you know very well, such as a
close friend or family member, by simply saying ‘ahlan! Because it’s the most
informal way of greeting someone in Arabic, make sure that you use ‘ahlan
only with people you’re very comfortable with; otherwise you may appear
disrespectful even if you’re trying to be friendly! (Nonverbal signs may also
convey disrespect; see the sidebar “Sending the right nonverbal message.”)
Kinship, family relations, and tribal connections are extraordinarily important
to people from the Middle East. In the early period of Islam when traders
and nomads roamed the Arabian Peninsula, they identified themselves as
members of one nation — the ‘ahl al-islaam (ah-el al-is-laam; kinship of
Islam). They greeted each other by identifying themselves as part of the ‘ahl
(ah-el; kin) by saying ‘ahlan. This is how the phrase ‘ahlan wa sahlan originated,
although today it’s simply a friendly way of greeting people.