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16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

posted on: May 21, 2016

Al Bawaba

Let’s have a quick show of hands! Who wants to learn to communicate in one of the planet’s most challenging languages? Al Bawaba’s Dictionary of Unspoken Arabic will have you ‘speaking’ fluently in a matter of minutes – able to express a wide range of key human expressions – while sidestepping costly classes, hellish homework, and embarrassing pronunciation gaffs. Yalla, get ready to speak Arabic without uttering a word!

  • 16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

    Slow down, wait, “shway shway”! (palm up, fingers grouped, up, down motion) Commonly displayed on Arab roads by cabbies who shun hi-tech indicators & signals. Arm thrust out of window, hand wagging. Can carry a covert threat: Just you wait, I’ll show you. If brought down from higher up, and held, can register appreciation, a favorable rating.

  • 16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

    Angry: (the “A OK” gesture, inverted, thumb and index pressed together, 3 fingers extended – shake/twist it up and down.) You see this and you run! Implies retribution or discipline: “I’ll show you!” Compounded with the shway shway of slide 1, you get combo gesture “Just wait, I’ll show you”, in which case duck for cover.

  • 16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

    I am broke! “Ma fi Floos” or the jibe, You’re cheap! (thumb under front teeth, flick it outwards) Either way, this is a financial cue— to indicate the state of the signer or reflect the receiver as skint (penniless) or stingy. Not to be confused with Shakespeare’s thumb-biting insults!

  • 16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

    What’s wrong? or Explain? (The hand twist, rotation) “Shu Malak”? Or Lebanese, “Shu Bek”? What’s up? This probing, questioning hand could even be used as a ‘what are you having’ when placing somebody’s order — what’s your poison? What’ll it be? Need something?

  • 16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

    My pleasure! (point from one eye to the other with one finger, while holding other’s gaze) Forget your western reference: “I’m watching you”- double fingers on eyes, which is ominous; this Arabic relation means from my eyes “Min 3ayooni” and is only a good sign, so milk the service! “I’m at your disposal.” No black eyes here!

  • 16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

    Please! (cup chin between thumb and forefinger, stroke downward, through a real or imagined beard). Pleading in the name of my beard — whiskers are a repository of Arab honor – this one’s a real manipulator! Not always innocent chin-action, this coaxing could carry threatening undertones, depending on the delivery. Yes Arabs are complex.

  • 16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

    Hands off! Arabs use this gesture to indicate that they don’t shake hands. It’s the greeting in lieu of hand-shake and says: Honored to meet you, but I won’t touch your womanly hand! (open hand patting your chest/heart) Partakers of the “I’m not going to shake your hand” motion are many. Men do it, women do it, people with the flu do it.

  • 16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

    You’ve heard of hand on heart, try hand on head! I’m honored, (tap your head) — to meet you, host you, help you, ergo you’re on my head. Not to be confused with western mirror on your head be it, this common Arabic gesture suggests you are up there, venerated by the head-tapper. Arab honor lies anywhere from head to beard to the female anatomy.

  • 16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

    Are you loco? (The hand twist next to the head) Are you crazy (majnoon?)

  • 16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

    Can I get a smoke? (V-shaped fingers near your lips, raised eyebrows) You see this one a lot in the Middle East, a safe haven for smoking, where smokers (aka everybody) light up and take long lingering drags with reckless abandon like it’s 1969.

  • 16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

    I’m restraining myself! or ‘Oops, sorry, I slipped up’ (the hand bite) – Often, I’m holding myself back, or getting a grip, and the only reason I’m not beating the living daylights out of you is because we’re in public. You’ve messed with the wrong Arab: you’re in trouble! Try the chin stroke here (slide number 6) for mercy.

  • 16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

    I’m free to do whatever I want! Because I can! Whatever! “‘Hurr”! (Touch your temple with your index finger) Someone asks why or how come you did something; you touch your temple with a smug look that says “’hurr” – because I’m free to do so or because I’m smart, cool, hard enough. In other words, ‘just because!’ (in Arabic, ‘haik)

  • 16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

    The simple everyday but often absolute “No” (head tilted back, eyebrows raised, include clucking the tongue for added ‘na-uh’ effect and emphasis) Nope, nah, refusal, not happening, not doing. Insolent coming from a child.

  • 16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

    No way! (Shaking both hands hovering over in a fanning motion, just before your shoulders while saying or implying silently “Yee! Shu hada? or an exclamation of wow, as – Ya Waladeh!!”) Expressing your disbelief or incredulity at how ridiculous /expensive /unbelievable or unacceptable something is.

  • 16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

    No way, man, that’s not cool (dude): “Laa Ya Zalameh!” Another Arabic catch-all, this implies objection in the strongest terms (hand extended out in universal block but with sideways tilting, no, stop, you cannot be serious).

  • 16 Ways to Speak Arabic with your Hands

    We’re tight! We’re so close, like family (Two separate hand index fingers held next to each other, parallel) Arabic colloquial: “khosh bosh”.

source: albawaba.com