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Morocco: no French or Arabic, am I screwed?

chicademusica

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  • Added on: October 11th, 2006
This will be my first time visiting a country where I have no exposure or experience with the language(s). Not sure whether I should try to take a stab at my French or Moroccon Arabic phrasebook since I'm sure European French is a bit different. My ideas so far are to bring paper to write on for times and amounts and maybe one of those multilingual flipbooks that has pictures of things like busses and food so that I can point to what I want. Obviously, I'm going to try and keep it simple. Any pointers? Anyone traveled there in my similar language situation?

Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: October 11th, 2006
If you arrive in Morocco at Tangier, you'll be wishing that you spoke a language Moroccans can't speak. I've never been to a country whose population speaks more languages more fluently than Morocco.

Don't worry about Moroccan Arabic, since only Moroccans speak that. People from Lebanon or Egypt can't understand Morccan Arabic, so it's not a big deal. French is the most useful European language - all Moroccan speak it. Most of the people you'll encounter will also speak Spanish and English to some degree, and often German, Italian, and Swedish too.

You'll be able to get by in English. Don't worry about missing out on things not speaking French. All tourists in Morocco get hustled some way or another, French-speaking or not.

It would be a good idea to be able to read very basic French, though. Signage in Morocco is almost all Arabic and French, as well as railway timetables, menus, etc.

Joey

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  • Added on: October 11th, 2006
I am terrible at adapting and learning a language before I arrive places and I showed up in Tangier at the port from Spain alone and lost and was PERFECTLY fine

Other than paying a cab about $5 more than he deserved there were no problems.
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Prisa

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  • Added on: October 11th, 2006
I'd say it depends on where you go. You will not always find people who speak english. Hotels in the southern area or smaller towns will prob not know english.
It is worth learning some Moroccan phrases just because you will hear them all the time.
Crash course:
Labaas: Are you Ok? --you wil hear this everywhere and the proper response to the question is:
"Labaas, bekhiir"--I am ok, are you ok?
They will prob respond the same.
Also learn Shukran which is thank you
MinFadluk(minfadlik to a woman) is please
Altini (I'll take or give me) as in" Altini wahid Sunsilk champoo minfadluk (Give me one sunsilk shampoo please)
Inshallah --for questions you dont really knwo the answer to. Like if someone asks you if you are going to Fez say Inshallah.
La=no. Say it with 1 shake of the head very slight and that will ward off most people.
Ehya or Naam is yes
mizeean means good. As in: How is your food? Mizeean, shukran.
Also when you do something for someone else and they say Shukran you say "La Shukran Alowa jeeb' it means 'no, not thankyou, yet'
Hmm...I'm trying to think of any other dilectual Moroccan Arabic...
Those are the basics that should get you by. Try to use Arabic as much as you can. Even if you dont really get it they REALLY DO appriciate you trying. It shows respect to their culture.
Oh and when you say hello--its written out asalaamu alaykum. But say it shortly,quietly and almost like it's offhand. Everytime you talk to a store owner or are going to address someone say 'Salam alaykum'. Drop the 'as' part. And they will reply similarly 'salam alaykum'. Do the same if someone says it to you first. Quetly and humbly.
Zuinne is another word used often there. It sorta means Beautiful or good. Jamila is known but not used. Khibe means bad or ugly.
hmuk means crazy. It can be really entertaining if you are taking and you cannot follow the conversation and they start looking at you funny. Or if you make a fouxpas there and need to apologize you can say Asif(a)! Ana Hamuk(a).
They will laugh. I guarentee it.
To ask someone to go away...a hustler or whatever just say sorta quiet but firmly "Seer" or go.
If they keep hassling you say "Skoots" which means 'quiet or shut up' and if they dont go away say 'Iftarim Nafsak' which means 'respect yourself' and is not to be handed down lightly.
Police there is Ilboolizi. Oh and the word bizef and shueya are important to know too. Bizef means 'too much' or 'more' and shueya means 'a little'
Ana barif Aarabie shueya = I know a little Arabic
Asifa bizef = I am so sorry
Oh and Ismee means I am. So when you are trying to introduce yourself you can say 'Ismee Prisa'.
Oh and 'Ana Amerikeeya' means I am American. Ana Muu Amerikeeya means I am not American Smile Allthough I never had to say the Muu part once there .
Ok I'm done.
But really try to learn that and you should get respect and comradare from the Moroccans.
Have fun! And go to Mogador and Agaidr. They are not to be missed!
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'To talk of many things:
Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax --
Of cabbages -- and kings --
And why the sea is boiling hot --
And whether pigs have wings

chicademusica

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  • Added on: October 12th, 2006
Thanks for all the comments and suggestions. Good thing I'm not so bad at charades. Wink If I can get by just finding the transport, booking a room and finding food, I'll be happy.

Prisa

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  • Added on: October 12th, 2006
Just another quick note (I just got off the phone with Morocco so the ideas keep comming, asifa Smile )
Anyway remember when referring to Morocco with a Morroccan you say 'Maghreb' or 'Maghrebeeya'.
America =Amerekee American =Amerikeeya.
So a Maghrebeeya is a Moroccan.
So if they say 'Have you liked Morocco? You can always say
'Ehya, Maghreb zuinne'
Yes Morrocco is beautiful
Or 'HAve you liked the people?'
'Ehya, Maghrebeeya zuinne'
Yes Moroccans are beautiful'.

To say 'bye' you say masalaama
To buy a ticket at the bustation you can say 'altini wahid billete'. Billete is used as ticket. Or you can use french and just say 'un billete'.
For hotels remember to ask to see the room EVERY TIME.
For taxis remember to be jovial. Chide. Going around town or to and from close dinstances should almost never cost you more then 5 dirhams. NEVER. If they keep bothering you just say 'What you think this is my first time to Morocco?'
Or a simple 'La'. But bartering is always ok.
Always.
For everything.
Dont forget that.

Oh and dont wear tank tops. Smile
___________________________
'The time has come,' the Walrus said,
'To talk of many things:
Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax --
Of cabbages -- and kings --
And why the sea is boiling hot --
And whether pigs have wings

chicademusica

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  • Added on: October 13th, 2006
Thanks for all the ideas, again. The only problem is that I won't know what they're asking me in order to answer with those. Wink I think I probably need to focus on memorizing some phrases like, "sorry, I don't speak the language," "does anyone speak english or spanish" and "how much?". We travelers know that sometimes when you learn a few phrases, it is so well received that then, the person you're conversing with gets excited and starts chatting you up. Wink This happens to me in Spanish speaking countries where I know enough to get around and survive but the fact that I can speak at all means that people will try and engage me in conversation and then I have to politely explain that I really only know how to order food and book a hotel. Smile

chanol

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  • Added on: October 16th, 2006
quote:
ply

Really, you won't have any problem as long as you have English...

Prisa has some good recommendations but of course, as you noted its hard to get them down and know when to use them.

Look for the Lonely Planet Darija/French phrasebook, it's fairly good and the real authorative phrasebook for the region. A slight correction on the meaning of "La shukran ala wajib", it is to say your welcome, but literally means "No thanks for my duty". Asking for things followed by "Allah-er ham wulidin" will always get a smile, you can also use it to say "thank you". It means "God have mercy on your parents"...
www.houseinjerez.com

matengu

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  • Added on: October 24th, 2006
I reckon some french is amust if you are going off the beaten track get a phrase book and try a bit every day
itu matengu

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  • Added on: November 16th, 2006
while French and arabic are the official languages you will find in the north round Tangier they also speak Spanish. So english is really only the fourth language there.

You can survive ok with english. But learning just a few words of French helps a lot. For example, for reading signs in bus stations. Also the train company does its buisness in French. And I found some Taxi drivers don't speak much english.

I am currently learning French, when I stayed in Tangier I spoke to one of the Hotel clerks who was learning English as his 6th language. So we helped each other practice in french/english. Afterwards he asked me if I would fetch him some beer from a nearby shop, which felt like a secret mission (I'm not sure whether or not Moroccans are allowed to drink). Then we sat and drank beer in the hotel.
Smile
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chanol

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  • Added on: November 20th, 2006
The law states that you cannot sell alcohol to a Muslim. Nonetheless, lots of Moroccans drink, without being penalised but its not very out in the open. Sounds like your hotel friend just didn't want to face the "shame" of being seen by his neighbors buying alcohol.
www.houseinjerez.com

Sarenka

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  • Added on: January 20th, 2007
Prisa - many thanks for taking the trouble to type all that out -I went to Morocco several times about 15 years ago and that was a great refresher course. I'm goign back in feb and up till now I couldn't remember anything except labess, shokran and imshallah. I speak French so had no problems, but I did find when I tried to order my veg in Arabic rather than French I invariably got my shopping for free.
When people say 'everyone speaks french' though I found this is only the case as far as men are concerned. When I met women in villages they did not speak french. But a little laughter goes a long way, particularly in a hamman setting!!

phyr

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  • Added on: January 10th, 2010
chanol wrote:Asking for things followed by "Allah-er ham wulidin" will always get a smile, you can also use it to say "thank you". It means "God have mercy on your parents"...

Thank you SO much for this useful hint! It was one of the few sentences I learned by heart and it payed out: I used it everytime when thanking for/leaving after spending a nice time in restaurants, riads, hamams and what not, and the people without exception gave me a huge smile, a warm laugh and/or a firm handshake :D So thanks again, it gave my trip that bit extra shine.

(and it got me thinking about my native language (Dutch); sadly there is no one sentence here that will get such reactions from people regardless of age, background, etc..)



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