Many of us native English speakers assume everyone speaks English when we travel – or forget that not everyone does. In Jordan, many people speak English, especially in heavily touristed areas – but that doesn’t mean every Jordanian you encounter will speak even one word of English (and you shouldn’t assume they do!).
Instead, it’s generally a good rule of thumb that when traveling to another country, you should learn a few helpful phrases to help you navigate that new culture. The same goes for Jordan despite the greater-than-average prevalence of English speakers. Knowing a few useful Arabic phrases will make your whole trip go more smoothly, and demonstrate your respect for Jordanian culture and hospitality.
Below you’ll find 11 of the Arabic phrases I find most useful when visiting Jordan. Some are common greetings and sayings; others are important words it helps to know in case you find yourself in a tough spot while exploring Jordan. (Trust me as the gal who visited two Jordanian hospitals that knowing “doctor” and “bathroom” come in really handy when you need them!)
Ready to wrap your mind and tongue around these useful Arabic phrases before your Jordan trip? Read on, and bookmark this post to help you remember them later too.
Useful Arabic Phrases Cheatsheet
If you’re just looking for a quick cheat-sheet of useful Arabic phrases to know in Jordan, I recommend screenshotting or taking a picture of this table:
|Phrase in Arabic||Phonetic Spelling||Meaning|
|أهلا وسهلا||Ahlan wa sahlan||Welcome|
|سلام عليكم||Salaam alaikum||Hello|
|انشالله||Inshallah||God willing (“Hopefully”)|
|من فضلك / من فضلك||Min fadlak / Min fadlik||Please (masculine/feminine)|
|أنا أسيف||Ana asif||I’m sorry|
|تتكلم إنجليزي||Hal tatakallum ‘ingilizi?||Do you speak English?|
If you want to know more about each of these phrases before you try using them in Jordan, read on for additional context and other tips for what they mean and how to use them properly.
1. “Ahlan wa Sahlan” (Welcome)
To be honest, you’re more likely to hear the phrase أهلا وسهلا than to say it. Pronounced phonetically as “ahlan wa sahlan,” it’s a more formal way of saying “welcome.” (It directly translates as “you are welcome.”)
You may hear this when entering a nice restaurant or hotel during your Jordan itinerary; unless you want to dive a bit deeper into the nuances of Arabic, I recommend sticking to “shukran” (thank you – also on this list) in response even though it’s not the perfectly correct way to respond.
2. “Salaam Alaikum” (Hello)
There are a number of ways to say hello in Jordan – and in Arabic, depending on the dialect you are speaking.
One of the most formal ways is by saying سلام عليكم or “Salaam Alaikum” (you might also see this as “Assalam alaikum”), which directly translates as “peace be upon you” but generally means “hello.” The correct response is وعليكم السلام or “wa-alaikum assalam,” but again, saying thanks is an acceptable response for non-Arabic-speaking visitors too.
As an aside, another way to say “hello” is “Marhaba,” or مرحبا, which is shown in the writing on the featured image of this post.
3. “In’shallah” (God Willing)
انشالله or inshallah is one of my favorite Arabic phrases, and one you’ll hear said often by locals – you might even pick it up and add it to your vocabulary after your Jordan trip!
In short, it directly translates as “God willing” and is used whenever one is talking about the future and what might come to pass. The closest English equivalent I have found to describe it is “hopefully,” though of course saying inshallah has a more significant meaning.
For example, you might hear someone say: “I don’t think it will rain today, inshallah,” or “I plan to call my brother this evening, inshallah,” or “I hope we will meet again, inshallah.” As you can see, it’s a useful phrase to both express one’s hopes about the future and trust in God/Allah to see these things come to pass according to His plan.
4. “Min Fadlak”/”Min Fadlik” (Please)
In writing this list of useful Arabic phrases, I really tried to avoid getting in the weeds with the rules of gender. However, in order to be polite, I could not avoid it: من فضلك (“min fadlak”) and من فضلك (“min fadlik”) both mean “please,” but are used differently.
- Min Fadlak is used when responding to a man
- Min Fadlik is used when responding to a woman
So unlike the Romance languages (Spanish, French, Italian, etc.) where words are themselves gendered, Arabic is instead dictated by the genders of the speaker and listener. An easy rule of thumb is that the “i” sound is almost always feminine in Arabic, though of course, more complicated rules apply.
5. “Shukran” (Thank You)
Here’s a handy phrase you should know in every country you visit – not just Jordan! Saying thank you is a common courtesy everywhere, and saying it in the local language is a simple but easy way to build cultural bridges.
In Arabic-speaking countries like Jordan, “thank you” is pronounced “shukran” or written شكرا. Lock this one in your memory banks, as you’ll use it a lot – thanking guides, porters, hotel clerks, servers, guys serving tea at roadside stalls… basically all over!
6. “Afwan” (You’re Welcome)
Similar to “shukran,” it’s also good to know the response to “thank you,” that is: “you’re welcome.”
In Arabic, it’s nice and simple: عفوا or “afwan.” This directly translates as “pardon” but really means something more like “think nothing of it.” (It’s the “no problem” of Arabic, which is one of my least favorite ways to say “you’re welcome!”)
In any case, be sure you know “shukran” and if you can also remember “afwan,” you’ll have one part of courtesy covered.
7. “Ana Asif” (I’m Sorry)
Another useful Arabic phrase to know is how to apologize. It’s pronounced “ana asif” and written أنا أسيف, and I’ll be honest: I haven’t needed this phrase too often when traveling in Jordan but it’s very handy in crowded places like Amman when you need to pass someone or move through a group of people. It could also be useful if you accidentally spill your tea or create some other inconvenience to your hosts or guide while traveling.
8. “Hal Tatakallum ‘Ingilizi?” (Do You Speak English?)
The last full phrase on this list is the biggest mouthful – but it’s also super handy if you can stick it in your brain. I think it’s always good to know how to ask “can you speak English” in the local language when traveling abroad, since it allows the person to either help you or find someone who can.
In Arabic, it’s تتكلم إنجليزي or “hal tatakallam ‘ingilizi” phrased as a question. You could also – in dire straits – shorten it to just “‘ingilizi” with a frantic look that will communicate your need for an English speaker.
9. “Alhamam” (Bathroom)
The final three “phrases” on my list aren’t actually phrases or greetings. Instead, they’re very important words that will help you out of a jam, should you find yourself in one while exploring Jordan. As someone who had a medical emergency on my first trip to Jordan, trust me that these three words are worth remembering because they’ll communicate your needs effectively even without needing any other context.
First up is an important one: الحمام or “alhamam” which means bathroom or toilets. Seriously, knowing this word in the language of every country you visit will save you lots of embarrassment and pantomiming!
If you need a trick to remember it, think about the Turkish hammam, which is a spa – kind of similar to a bathroom, right?
10. “Tabib” (Doctor)
Next up is one of my true emergency words: طبيب or “tabib” which means doctor. While I hope you never need to use this word as I did, having it stored in your memory will make a potentially emergency situation less stressful because you know exactly who to ask for.
Best of all, it’s one of the easiest words on this list for English speakers to wrap their mouth and tongue around. It sounds exactly like it’s spelled.
11. “Alsafar” (Travel)
Finally, I wanted to include at least one word that helps express to others when you need to be going from here to there; after all, you will be a traveler in Jordan, and you may need to communicate about your journey. The word I think is probably most helpful is السفر or “alsafar” which means travel, but مطار or “matar” (which means airport) is also pretty easy to remember if you’re somehow lost from your group and need to make your departure on time.
Are there any other useful Arabic phrases you think are worth knowing, from your past visits to Jordan or future travel plans? Let me know in the comments!