This week’s top ten is words or phrases we know in another language, or several languages. Now I could cheat and count Australian as a separate language to English as there are many words that are very different, but that would be way too easy. Instead I’ve chosen the top ten of words I used during the year I worked in Saudi Arabia.
One thing I need to add here is that before I went to the middle east to work, the company I was employed by told me that up to 90% of the patients could speak some English – the reality was we were lucky if we got one english speaker a month. We didn’t get lessons and just had to pick it up as we went along, which when you’re looking after ill people is a little bit tricky.
So here’s my top ten, and just to say, the meanings may be a little bit loosely fitting but when you’re grasping for a word you sort of use whatever one fits your needs from your limited vocabulary. I’m not even going to go into the whole male and female versions of words, and how the context can totally change the meaning of something and how you say it.
1. Inshallah – God Willing. This is a really useful word that can be used in any situation where you don’t really have the answer and is said a lot. For example, will the doctor be here soon? Inshallah. Can I go home tomorrow? Inshallah. How long until the food gets here? Inshallah not too long. It’s a very good word to know.
2. Mumkin – Maybe. I probably used this word way too much with patients and relatives, but when you don’t know all the little words that connect to make a coherent sentence, then maybe is a great replacement. I still use this one quite a lot as it stuck in my head and everytime I say it to Ken he replies with the word pumpkin – it’s another of our silly little habits.
3. Bukra – Tomorrow. Another one that I used a lot with patients and families when they asked about going home. My response would often be Mumkin Bukra (maybe tomorrow).
4. Mushkila – problem. I’ve put it nearly in the middle of my list but I’m pretty sure this is the word that I said the most during my year in Saudi, and I still use it. When you catch someone doing something wrong then saying mushkila at them is quite useful. If it’s a big problem then you say Kabir Mushkila and as I didn’t know other words to go around it I’d say it very loudly and repeat it. I remember once when a visitor decided to sit in the royal lounge (it’s not as fancy as it sounds, every ward had one in case royalty was admitted) I just kept repeating kabir mushkila, kabir mushkila until security came and were much more effective at removing him. Conversely, if something isn’t a problem then you say Mafi Mushkila which came in handy when people would be saying there was a problem or something was wrong and then you just said mafi mushkila.
5. Haram – forbidden. This is quite a large step up from mushkila as Haram means something that is forbidden by the Quran (the Islamic holy book). I think I only used this word once during my year though the man at number 4 may have frustrated me so much that I may have tried to imply that the Quran forbid him to sit in the lounge. The reason I used it was when a male patient groped me so I yelled it at him quite loudly.
6. Malish – never mind. Quite a useful one when you’re bartering and you decide that the trader hasn’t reduced the price enough, so you say Malish and turn to walk out of their shop – this usually results in a further reduction.
7. Dagiga – wait. My favourite time of seeing this used was trying to cross the road in Taif, the town my hospital was near. The roads were a nightmare to get across, yet this very wizened up old man stepped out into the traffic whilst shouting dagiga and using hand gestures and walked across the road with cars swerving to miss him.
8. Muttawa – religious police. These were the bane of our existence when we went into the market, as if they were having a quiet day they would pick on the western females about having our hair uncovered. Where I was based we didn’t have to cover our hair but it would still be something they’d annoy us about. We learnt very early on to tell them that we didn’t have a scarf with us and we’d cover our hair next time.
9. Salah – prayer. Muslims pray five times a day, and in Saudi Arabia there is no way out of this if you are in a public place. The prayer call would come out of the speakers of the mosque and the Muttawa would round up all the men to make sure they went to pray. The first prayer call of the day is when the sun begins to rise, so in summer this can be as early as 4:30 in the morning and it still blasts over the tannoy system in the hospital to make sure everyone that can get out of bed still goes to pray.
10. Kalam showayya Arabee – very loosely translated was my way of saying I didn’t speak very much Arabic.
Do you speak any other languages or are there words you’ve picked up that you throw into conversation without even realising it? Before you go, why don’t you pop over to Tamara’s blog and see what my fellow bloggers have come up with for their top ten – click here to visit.
Until next time, be good, stay safe, and I hope your week is mushkila free.
Pamela & Ken