American English for Arabs – 2

I changed this series title from Jordanians to Arabs because of the globalization mania. The difficulty of speaking good English is not the same with all Arabic speaking people. The North Africans, except the Egyptians and the Libyans, speak fluent English after only few months in the United States. Their French-based learning has a lot to do with their fast ability to speak fluent English, since they already know how to accurately pronounce Latin alphabets. The Egyptians on the other hand are may be the worst when it comes to pronunciation (Egyptian friends and readers, I still love you the most!). This is not my own observation, it is something many Egyptians admit and confirm. In between the two, North Africans and the Egyptians are the Arabian Gulf (aka by non-Arabs the Persian Gulf) and the Sham countries (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine). The majority of the Arabian Gulf students who study in the US are undergraduates. Those students spend one year or more, before starting school, learning English in the United States by professionals. So, their English is roughly very good compared to the other Middle-Eastern Arabs. In general, those undergraduates learn better English than graduate students* because of the more exposure with the Americans. Graduate students in the US are usually foreigners so the chance, for the Arab graduate students, to learn good English is almost null. Specially, in some majors like Engineering were most of the students are either Chinese or Indians.

The table below lists some of the mistakes Arabs do when pronouncing some words. Some of these words if pronounced incorrectly might be confused with vulgar words.

Don’t Say



Can’t Can not might be confused with an obscene word that means the female genital organ. A Libyan friend wanted to say “You can’t …”  for his female English teacher but instead he said “You c_nt …”. True story.
Deck of cards Cards might be confused with a vulgar word for a male genital organ.
Let us set on the deck, or I have a deck … Patio (pronounced padio by the way) or terrace might be confused with a vulgar word for a male genital organ.
I am better now I am fine.
I am okay.
I am good.
This happens usually when a doctor asks his Arab patient how is he doing. So he answers I am bitter now instead of I am better now.
Coke Pepsi or Soda.
If you only drink coke and the the waiter or waitress told you they only have Coke then say ok without repeating the word (i.e., coke). Restaurants in the US either serve Coke or Pepsi. So this trick is guaranteed to work.
might be confused with a male chicken but worse could also be confused with a vulgar word for a male genital organ. A Jordanian friend in a restaurant asked for a co_k instead of a Coke. True story.
Version Edition 5.
This usually happen when someone say I have this software version 5, for example.
might be confused with virgin. You don’t want to say I like virgin 9 or 13.

* In general, in the United States you hardly see undergraduate students from Arab countries other than the Arabian-Gulf. The other Arab students such as Jordanians, Lebanese, and Egyptians are enrolled in the graduate programs only.

American English for Jordanians – 1

4 thoughts on “American English for Arabs – 2

  1. Jano, glad you liked it.
    mab300s, unfortunately most Americans are too polite to correct someone’s English. I once pronounced “paradigm” where the g is silence in a conference room as “bara.di.Gim”. Later, I found my mistake by chance.

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