Greetings and breaking the ice
haba (مـرحـبـا) Hello
haba (or mar habtain) Hello (or two Hellos)
h‿el‿khayr Good morning
h‿ en‿ noor Good morning
Greeting: masa‿l‿khayr Good evening
Response: masa‿ n‿ noor Good evening
Question: keefak (كـيـفـك) How are you?
hamdillah, keefak inta? Thank God, how are you?
Question: inta min wain? Where do you come from?
Response: ana min New Zealanda I come from New Zealand
Question: shoo ismak? What is your name?
Response: ismi Rowan My name is Rowan
Notes about Lebanese writing and pronunciation
h(the letter ha) :The Lebanese sound which we wrote above as h(a crossed h) is similar to the English h. The English h is pronounced as we push the air out of a slightly narrowed larynx causing some friction between the air and the sides of the larynx. The Lebanese hon the other hand, is pronounced by pushing the air out a bit more strongly through a slightly higher part of our larynx (at or above the epiglottis in the figure below) as we make that part of the larynx slightly narrower. As the air flows out of the tighter upper larynx it undergoes more friction thus producing a slightly sharper h than the English h. When trying you might inadvertently make a snorting sound – you should avoid that – the snorting sound is actually a different Lebanese sound that is represented by the combination kh. The Lebanese kh is the same sound as the Scottish ch in the Scottish word loch and the German ch sound in the German word Ich (for I).
- You may have noticed that all Lebanese words are written in small letters except for some of the S letters. The capital S indicates an emphatic (bold) S sound like the s sound in the English word colossal which is more emphatic that the usual s sound such as in the word such!
- The ‿ linking symbols between some consecutive words, such as in the sentence Saba
h‿eL‿khayr indicate that the reader is expected to join the words together as s/he reads them or says them – as if every two ‿ linked words form one longer word.
- English speakers tend to read the word masa as maza and the word ismi as izmi but this is wrong! In Lebanese wherever you see the letter s you must pronounce it the way you do in the English words see and else and definitely not the way you’d pronounce it in words such as laser or nasal. When a Lebanese word has the sound z it will be written with a z.
- Lebanese can be written using Arabic script which is call the alephba or the Romanised script that we used above. Arabic script is written from right to left. The two words mar
haba مـرحـبـا and keefak كـيـفـك are written using both scripts.
- There is no standardised spelling of Lebanese words and you may find the same word spelled in different ways as long as when the different spellings are read they’d phonetically sound the same.