Oman Podcast Sultanate

Sultanate Ep 002: Language in Oman

March 5, 2016

Language in Oman

Arabic is the national language in Oman, but I was surprised to learn, upon my arrival in the sultanate, that language in Oman runs wide and deep. The vast number of languages spoken here is just one reminder of Oman’s rich cultural history. 

Languages and Dialects Spoken in Oman:

Arabic, Bulushi, Zadjali, Lawati, Jibbali, Swahili, Hindi, Urdu, Bahrani Arabic, Baharna Arabic, Shihhi Arabic, Shehri, Lori, Bathari, Harsusi, Hobyot, Mehri, Shehri, Farsi, Kumzari.

There are many reasons why so many languages exist throughout Oman, the most simplest answer comes from understanding that only since 1975 has Oman been “unified” after the Dhofar rebellion was suppressed. Before that time Oman was very much tribal, and even once had an autonomous interior government separate from the sultan’s. The sultanate also once spanned from present day Tanzania all the way to parts of Pakistan/Iran.  With such a far reaching kingdom comes a diverse culture and language.  Swahili and Bulushi are two examples, as both languages have their roots in these regions. You can still hear these languages today.

I was once teaching a class full of expats at a local club. Well, they were all expats except for one middle aged Omani man. Also, at the time I was taking Arabic classes and was eager to practice some of my Arabic when he stayed behind to chat with me after class. I started with “how are you?” and “Hello”, all the standard stuff. He looked at me with a smile, standing tall with his white dishdasha and kuma cap, and kindly told me, “I prefer to speak in English, I don’t really know Arabic. We don’t speak it in our home.”

This floored me. An Omani who doesn’t speak Arabic? While uncommon, it happens in some homes.  This man was from Muttrah, and spoke something other than Arabic at home, and as a child he was sent to private school where he studied in English.

There is always something interesting to learn, and I love sharing with you what I learn about the sultanate.

Sultanate Ep 002: Language in Oman

language in omanIn this episode of the Sultanate I sit down with two of my friends Abdullah al Wahaibi and Fayad al Zadjali to discuss; the different languages spoken in Oman, how widely English is spoken, Omani greetings, and we learn some useful Arabic phrases and words to help you on your travels.

Abdullah is a Photographer for the Oman Chamber of Commerce. He works his butt off at the chamber, so it’s hard to nail him down to catch up with him because he sometimes travels for work and has a family life to mind. Abdullah lives in al Bustan village between Muttrah and the al Bustan Palace. He speaks Arabic, English, and a bit of Hindi. You can connect with Abdullah through YouTube and Instagram.

Fayad is an Operations Manager for Khimji Ramdas, Shipping Division. He speaks Arabic, English, Hindi, and Zadjali. I have definitely reaped the benefits of having a Hindi speaking friend, as he has helped me communicate with Indian expats a number of times. Muttrah is where Fayad calls home, as do a number people from the Zadjali tribe. He tells me the Zadjali language is most spoken in a small section of Muttrah called Jeedan, maybe only 5% of the people living in Muttrah can speak this language, and it’s in decline. You can connect with Fayad through Twitter and Instagram.

Below are a few words and phrases from the podcast to help you during your visit to the sultanate.  Please note that these are the Omani way of speaking to better help you sound like a local, but the pronunciation might not be 100% understood in other Arabic speaking countries.

Arabic Words and Phrases in Oman for Visitors

EnglishEnglish PronunciationArabic
Welcomemarhabaمرحبا
Peace be upon you (hello)as-salām 'alaykumالسلام عليكم
Hello (response)wa 'alaykum as-salāmو عليكم السلام
How are you? (to a woman)kayfa ḥālishكيف حالك
What is your name? (to a man)shoo ismakشو اسمك
What is your name? (to a woman)shoo ismishشو اسمك
My name is …ismee ...... اسمي
Nice to meet youtašarًfnāتشرفنا
Good morningsabaaH alkhayrصباح الخير
Good morning (response)sabaaH alnoorصباح النور
Good afternoonmasaa' alkhayrمساء الخير
Goodbyema'a as-salāmahمع السلامة
Goodbyeilā al-liqā'إلى اللقاء
Yesna’amنعم
Yes (spoken, slang)aiwa-
Noلا
Thank youshukranشكرا
Thank you very muchshukran jazeelahشكرا جزيل
You are welcomeafwanألعفو
Pleasemin fadhlikمن فضلك
No problemmafi mushkilaما في مشكله
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2 Comments

  • Reply Mack June 11, 2016 at 2137

    How do you ask permission to take someone’s photo?

    • Reply D. Michael June 12, 2016 at 0918

      Hi Mack,
      Thanks for the question. The easiest way is to say: min fadlak sura? I would like a photo. Saying this along with gesturing with your camera should get your point across. Good luck. Are you coming to Oman? When?

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