Overcome Language Barrier With Sudanese Arabic Travel Phrases
Everybody who will travel to Sudan, will face language barriers with locals, as English is not widely spoken. You will probably find people speaking very broken basic English. Independent travellers who have to arrange everything on their own should grab some basic phrases.
For those familiar with Arabic spoken in Egypt, it will be huge bonus as Sudanese and Egyptian dialects are very similar and people can understand each other despite of some difference in dialects. Those familiar with Kiswahili will also find numerous similarities in Sudanese Arabic. As far as phrasebooks for Sudan go, your best bet would be Egyptian Arabic travel phrase book by Lonely Planet.
There are many different ways of using the Arabic words and expressions, they totally differ from one country to another, for example the formal Arabic and the colloquial Arabic. The one which is used in Sudan is the colloquial one.
There are more than one hundred different indigenous languages spoken in Sudan, including Ta Bedawie, Nubian and dialects of Nilo-Hamitic and Nilotic languages. Arabic is the official language in Sudan, spoken by more than half of the population.
To compile this short list of most useful travel phrases I asked for translation my dear friend and host Miss Hager, native Sudanese who is professional translator in Khartoum.
Basic Sudanese Arabic Greetings
Leave-takings and greetings are interactions with religious overtones; the common expressions all have references to Allah, which are taken not just metaphorically but also literally.“InshaAllah”(“if Allah wills”) is often heard, as is“alhamdulillah”(“may Allah be praised”).
In Sudan we have our own ways of Saying Hi and welcoming each other. I will give you some hints on how to use words which might help you when you first arrive to Sudan.
- Hi – Salam Aleekom.
- How are you – Keif Alhal?
- I am great! – Ana tamam!
- And you – Wa inta?
- Good morning – Sabah Alkheir
- Good afternoon – Nihark saeed
- Good evening – Misaa Alkheir
- Good night – Lalya saeeda
- Good bye – Ma’alsalama
These are the only main greetings. There are special occasions like Ramadan: it’s the whole month in which people will be fasting, when they hear the prayer calls for the evening which is called Magrib prayers – all the family will gather and break their fasting, the way in which we congratulate each other when its time for Ramadan, the usual greeting is Ramadan Kareem the other person will reply with Allah Akram.
Same greetings are used on Eid Elfir : it’s the occasion right after Ramadan. Its an annual celebration celebrating the end of Ramadan.
There is another Eid as well which is called Eid Alodhiya in which people usually slaughter a sheep. People congratulate each other in both Eids by saying: Eid Saeed which means “Happy Eid” and the other part will reply: “Aleena wa Aleek.” Meaning “for you as well”.
Introductions in Sudanese Arabic
- What is your name – Ismik mino?
- I am(Ana) – my name is (Ismi): Ana Ismi
- I am xy years old – Omri x sana or Aam
- Where do you come from – Inta min wein?
- I come from USA – Ana min America
Money Matters in Sudanese Arabic
Phrases about exchanging money will probably the first ones you will use, starting at the airport upon arrival.
- I want to exchange money – Ana Aawiz abadil groosh
- How much is exchange rate – Siir alomla kam
Sudanese Arabic Transport and Travel Phrases
- I need a taxi – Ana Aawiz taxi
- Do you stop at place X – Momkin tageef min fadlak? (like asking on the bus)
- I got lost – ana dayiie or ana rayih
- Can you help me? – Momkin tsaidni min fadlak?
- I stay in XY hotel – Ana fee fondog al hotel name
- How much is bus ticket to Shendi? – Kam sir Altazkira li Shandi?
- Which bus do I have to take to get to xy place? – Ay bus ana lazim akhod place name
- How much is taxi (Be kam altaxi)/ amjad to the airport Amjad le almatar
- Can you wait for me please? – Momkin tintazirni?
- Can you recommend me a restaurant with great food – Momkin tagool ly ism mataam aklo tamam?
- I have a copy of photo and travel permit. – Ana indi sura min tasdeeg alsafar wa altasweer Passport(Jawaz)
Bargains and Shopping in Sudanese Arabic
- Can you give me a discount on this ? – Momkin takhafid ly alsiir?
- I only have xy sum of money – Ana indi bs sum of money
- Its too expensive – Gaali shadid
- Deal! – Itafagna!
- Scarf – Tarha
- Sim card – Shareeha
Days of The Week in Sudanese Arabic
- Saturday – Alsabit
- Sunday – Alahad
- Monday – Alithnein
- Tuesday – Althulathaa
- Wednesday – Alarbiaa
- Thursday – Alkhamees
- Friday – Aljumaa
Numbers in Sudanese Arabic
Sudanese Arabic numbers are used in the same way numbers are used in same manner they are used in other Arabic countries and dialogues, except for some different pronunciations.
- 0 – Sifir
- 1 – Wahid
- 2 – Itneein
- 3 – Thalatha
- 4 – Arbaa
- 5 – Khamsa
- 6 – Sita
- 7 – Sabaa
- 8 – Thamaniya
- 9 – Tisaa
- 10 – Ashra
- 11 – Ihda Ashr
- 12 – Ithnaa Ashar
- 13 – Thlathat Ashar
- 14 – Arbaat Ashar
- 15 – KhamsatAshar
- 16 – Sitat Shar
- 17 – Sabat Ashar
- 18 – Thamaniyat Ashar
- 19 – Tisaat Ashar
- 20 – Ushun
- 21 – Wahid wa ushrun
- 22 – Ithnan wa ushrun
- 30 – Thlathun
- 31 – Wahid wa thlathun
- 32 – Ithnan wa thlathun
- 40 – Arbauun
- 41 – wahid wa arbaun
- 42 – Ithnan wa arbaunn
- 50 – khamsuun
- 60 – Situn
- 70 – Sabun
- 80 – Thmanun
- 90 – Tisun
- 100 – Miaa
Drinks and Sudanese Food
In Sudan alcohol is prohibited so you can skip how to order a beer. Sudanese love to drink! Food is an important part of many social interactions in Sudan. Visits typically include tea, coffee, or soda, if not a full meal.
It is customary to eat from a common serving bowl, using the right hand rather than utensils.Before the meal, towels and a pitcher of water are passed around for hand washing.
- Coffee with sugar – Jabana bi sukar / without sugar – Min geir sukar
- Tea with / without sugar – Shay be sukar/ Shay mi geir sukar
- Orange juice – Aseir bortugal
- Mango juice – Aseer manga
- Water – Moya
- Bottle of water – Bagat Moya
Sudan is also known of its traditional food as well:
- Aseeda – Porridge
- Kisra – bread, made of flour and water with some other Sudanese ingredients
- Gurasa – a thick pancake made of flour and water with some salt,
- Falafel is called Tamia in Sudan.
Written by: Hager Eissa Sudanese, from Darfur living in Khartoum, graduated from peace University College for languages and translation. Working as a translator and a project manager.
I never realized that English was not spoken as well there. This is a great guide and if I ever find myself traveling to this part of the world I will be using it. Thank you so much for sharing.
You are welcome Joella.
Great information for those who will be visiting Sudan. I didn’t realize that the numbers were different too!
Yes numbers are another science, I admit I couldn’t remember anything:)
This is great Nina! There are some carers from Sudan at my kids nursery. They have taught them to count to 10 so now I will be able to say Sabah Alkheir. What is the word(s) for thank you?
Thats great Katy, Sukran, i am not sure if its written correctly:)
Salam Aleekom – it is so great to learn more about Sudanese culture and key phrases. This is such a great resource for anyone planning a trip – pinned for future reference.
This is so useful. I think it’s always good to try to speak some of the local language and have a few phrases up your sleeve. People generally really appreciate the effort, even if the pronunciation is not great. I am going to book mark this for future use, just in case I ever get the chance to visit Sudan.
I agree, never hurts to know some basics.
Thanks Nina! Speaking the local language is so helpful or at least knowing a few words. Did you learn while you were staying in Sudan? This is very impressive :).
I picked some words but didnt seriously learn.
What a useful guide for traveling to Sudan. Its important to know the common phrases before visiting a country. Some sound like basic Urdu phrases though, maybe its similar?
This is great! I always try to brush up on my greetings before visiting a country, and I appreciate the recommendation for the Lonely Planet Guide. I would have never known that Egyptian Arabic is similar to Sudanese Arabic.
Very informative and handy post for anyone planning a visit to Sudan. I find that it is so helpful to try and learn at least a few phrases when you are traveling to a country that doesn’t have English as their main language. Not only does it help you communicate but I think it also shows the locals that you are interested in their culture.
This is a great resource for those wanting to travel to Sudan and its important that you pointed out the challenges and offered numerous solutions. I enjoyed reading the phrases, not sure if I pronounced them right.
Thanks Nina, very interesting. I am also a native arabic speaker belonging to a Nigerian arab community inhabiting in Borno state. Although, i have learnt a lot from it, but there are some observation that i have make by comparing the sudanese arabic dialect and ours. For example;
1: how are you?
Sudanese arabic; keif alhal- similar to nigerian arabic but the responce differ:
sudanese arbic: ana tamam
nigerian arabic: ana afeh(i am fine).
2:what is your name?
Sudanese arabic: ismik mino.
Nigerian arabic: ismak shunu or shunu ismak.
3:coffee without sugar.
Sudanese arabic: jabana min geir sukar.
Nigerian arabic: gahwah be laa sukar.
I hope you would enjoy my comment .
Thanks for sharing!
Is there a school or institution in Khartoum where one can go to learn basic Arabic for a couple of months, say 4-6 months?
I think you can yes. Hager, local guide from Khartoum will know more, you can contact her in post in Travel with a local menu.
Thank youfor this. Am currently trying to learn sudanese arabic from my sudanese friends, From kenya ?? shokran Jazeelan