Naturally, language was a big part of my experience studying abroad in Morocco. In Morocco, people usually learn Darija (colloquial Arabic), FusHa (classical Arabic), and French before they consider learning English. It’s for this reason that not a lot of Moroccans speak English – many have caught onto little words and phrases in English, but for the most part, my interactions with the Moroccan people were in Arabic.
Going home to an English-speaking country has been relieving in ways I cannot describe. I love the English language (obviously, as an English major), but I have never appreciated it in the way I do now. Sure, it’s tedious and its grammar rules are shoddy at best, but it’s my mother tongue, and I’ve never loved it more than I do now.
However, I also love Arabic. It’s another tough language, and there were moments in Morocco when I was too mentally exhausted to even get the words بغيت النعاس “Beghiit ann3as” (“I want to sleep”) out to my host mom. That being said, the moments where I had truly successful exchanges with Moroccans in Arabic brought me joy that would overpower this exhaustion every time. Even though I still struggle with Darija, my speaking skills in any Arabic have increased drastically since Morocco, and I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to practice those skills in a real-life context.
Learning Darija was a difficult transition from FusHa, but there are a lot of expressions which I know I’ll miss using as I re-acclimate to an English-speaking country. Some of the words and expressions below exist in other dialects, but here’s some of the Arabic I’ll miss the most:
- “ساهل ماهل بحل ماء” (sahil mahil bahl maa’): This is the Moroccan equivalent of “easy peasy lemon squeezy,” but translates directly to “easy measy like water.” My host mom and I loved using these phrases with each other every day, and she often accidentally said “easy peasy lemon crazy,” which I actually prefer and plan to integrate into my English vocabulary.
- “زانزان” (zanzan): This word just means “crazy.” It’s not particularly important to Moroccan culture or language, but it’s a really fun word to say, and my classmates and I have definitely become accustomed to pointing at each other and saying “zanzan!”
- “!يلا” (yalla!): Anyone who has studied or grown up with Arabic knows “Yalla!” It’s a pretty versatile word, but its main meaning is “let’s go!” – The connotation can vary, though. Sometimes it’s out of frustration, like when my host mom is prodding my host brother to hurry up and eat. Sometimes it’s out of camaraderie, like when someone asks the students in my program to go somewhere together.
- “لابس؟ لابس” (labess? labess.): This by far my favorite Moroccan expression. “Labess?” means “Are you fine?” and the response, “Labess,” means “I’m fine.” I like this a lot because it’s a good way to check in with people, but I like it even more because it forces me to give myself a reality check. On rough days, when someone asks me “Labess?” I check myself and realize that ultimately, I’m fine. Even if I’m not feeling 100%, I’m still fine. It’s a reminder that even when I’m not feeling my best, everything is okay.
I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to learn Arabic, stay with a host family, and explore Morocco this summer – and I’m even happier that you all followed me along by reading this blog. Next time you see me, feel free to ask me: Labess?
!شكراً بزاف وبسلامة (Shukran bzaaf lqra’a wabslaama!) Thanks for reading and goodbye!