Songs are a great way to pick up simple words and learn the pronunciation at the same time.
In this post, we'll look at 11 popular songs to help you expand your Arabic vocabulary and get a better feel for the Levantine dialect.
Wherever possible, I’ve also attached links to blog posts that contain further insights and explanations into the lyrics of the song since it will be more beneficial for learners.
In addition, learning through songs can make it easier to commit vocab words to memory due to the catchy rhythm and memorable lyrics.
Remember that you don’t have to learn from the entire song to make listening worthwhile.
Simply focus on the parts that you find useful.
Even if it is just a new word or two that you’ve picked up from the song, then that’s a win.
‘Baba’ is a popular children song in the Levant sung in the Lebanese dialect.
In this song, Levantine Arabic students can learn many simple yet useful phrases such as “answer/reply me” (رد علي), “leave me alone” (إتركيني), “I can’t” (ما فيني) and “There’s nothing wrong” (ما في شي), just to name a few.
Interesting expressions are also present in the song.
For example, “sitting on fire” (قاعد ع نار) is to describe someone as anxious, “my religion’s coming out” (طالع ديني) to describe frustration and “May God lengthen you, O soul” (الله يطولك يا روح) is to ask God to grant patience when you’re feeling impatient or fed-up.
Furthermore, students will note how the father and daughter call each other “Baba”. In the Levant, it is very common for parents to address their children as “Baba” or “Mama” and vice versa.
The YouTube channel, Lila TV, is also a great channel to check out for those learning Lebanese Arabic and especially those with young children.
In the channel, there are both popular Arabic nursery rhymes and adaptation of English nursery rhymes such as “Five Little Ducks” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider”.
Other famous Arabic children songs that you should check out as well are “Killon 3endon Siyarat”, “3endi Bisi”and “Tiri Tiri Ya 3asfoura”.
Lyrics are also conveniently found both in the captions and the description box.
The simple sentences in this popular and catchy children’s song sung in the Syrian dialect make it easy for Levantine Arabic beginners to learn from it.
There are many simple verbs that one can learn from this song such as “to say”, “to play” and “to listen”, just to name a few.
Students will also notice that the pronunciation of the first letter ‘tsa’ (ث) in the word الثعلب (fox) is a feature of colloquial speech where natives simply pronounce it as an ordinary ‘ta’ (ت).
In addition, the word choice for the adjective ‘afraid’ used in this song (خوفان) is another feature of Syrian Arabic which adopts adjectives ending with the suffix “-aan” more widely than the other sub-dialects of Levantine Arabic.
For further insight into the song, check out the blog post by The Arabic Student.
This song by a Palestinian band called ‘Zaman Band’ is a lovely slow rock song which can be translated to “You’re no longer mine” or “You stopped being mine”.
In this song, Levantine Arabic students can learn useful phrases such as “ما عاد” (no longer) and “بكفّي” (that’s enough) as well as words such as “مدلّلة” (pampered) and “إلّي” (mine).
In order to form the rest of possessive pronouns like “yours”, “ours” and “his”, simply amend the pronoun suffix at the end of the word إلّي accordingly.
For further insight into the song, check out the blog post by theLevanTongue.
“Ouf Ouf” is an up-beat song by Lebanese pop star, Nelly Makdessi. The word “Ouf” is the word to say when you feel annoyed or fed-up.
There are a few common vocabulary phrases and words that students can learn from this song. These include “مين مفكر حالك؟” (who do you think you are?), “حل عني” (get away from me) and “سهرانة” (to be awake till late).
In addition, Levantine Arabic students can see how simple words such as “بعد” and “فيّ” can mean “still” and “able to” respectively when pronoun suffixes are added to them.
For further insight into the song, check out the blog post by The Arabic Student.
This song about a camel in downtown Beirut is sung by sisters Michelle and Noel Keserwany. The duo is famous for creating satirical songs with political undertones.
Intermediate Levantine Arabic students who are interested in catchy political anthems should definitely check out the other songs produced by Michelle and Noel.
“3al Jamal Bi Wasat Beirut” is one of their earlier song and it is packed with useful verbs and vocabulary.
More importantly, learners can see how Lebanese Arabic contains multiple French loan words which do not exist in other Levantine Arabic dialects.
The video above is the acapella version of the song sung by Oumeima El Khalil which sounds clearer and better for learning purposes.
However, the musical version arranged by famous Lebanese composer, Marcel Khalife, is no less beautiful.
The song follows a storyline about a caged bird who escaped and sought protection from its neighbour. Due to the powerful symbolic lyrics, the song is associated as a solidarity song with those oppressed or fleeing persecution.
Furthermore, the lyrics are useful in seeing how simple sentences are formed. Levantine Arabic students can pick up many useful phrases such as “دخلك” (I beg you) and “ما فيي” (I can’t).
For further insight into the song, check out this blog post.
“Ya Reit” is a common phrase often said to express desire and longing. It is similar to how one would say “How I wish...” in English.
With this phrase repeatedly mentioned in the song, it is easy for Levantine Arabic learners to remember it after a couple of listens.
Furthermore, this slow yet lovely song by Jordanian artist, Yazan Haifawi, is great for beginners due to the simplicity of the lyrics. Multiple everyday verbs are also present in the song.
Another useful phrase that Levantine Arabic students can learn from this song is “taj raasi” (تاج راسي) which is an expression that is given to those who are dear and important to you.
For further insight into the song, check out this blog post by theLevanTongue.
This song by Fairouz’s son, Ziad Rahbani, is a popular one. The title of the song can be translated to “(I’m) in a bad state, O Laila”.
One of the useful things that Levantine Arabic students can learn from this song is the usage of the word “ta3ban” (تعابن). Although the word is an adjective that means “tired” or “exhausted”, it is common to use it to describe things that are worn-out or in a miserable state.
For example, one can describe a worn-out car as “ta3bane” (سيارة تعبانة) or a country which is in a dilapidated state due to ongoing years of war as “ta3ban” (بلد تعبان).
In addition, students can also note the typical Lebanese way of pronouncing words ending with a Ta’ Marbuta (ة). For example, the word “تعبانة” is pronounced as “ta3bani” and not “ta3bane”.
This lyric video of “Ma Baaref” by Lebanese pop singer, Yara, is from an amazing YouTube channel called “MohCoolMan”.
The YouTube channel which has numerous lyric videos of Arabic songs with English translation and Arabic transcription is definitely an enjoyable resource for Arabic students.
The title, “Ma Baaref”, means “I don’t know” in Levantine Arabic and the song is a love song with a pleasant melody.
An interesting phrase used in the song is “bamout 3aleik” (بموت عليك) which is one of the many endearing Arabic expressions to declare one love for another. Some people from the Levant will say “bamout fiik” (بموت فيك) instead.
Such a phrase also serves as a useful reminder to always learn the possible prepositions that can be used with every verb.
This song by Yasmine Hamdan is unique in the sense that it does not contain the typical rhythm and beat of Arabic music in general.
However, it is not surprising given that Yasmine is the lead singer of Soapkills which is one of the very first indie bands to emerge from the Middle East.
Over the years, her name has since become synonymous with the underground music scene.
In this slow melodious song called “Shway”, there are many useful phrases that one can learn.
The phrase “shway shway” is a common phrase to say to tell someone to slow down or do something slowly. For example, students can say the same phrase to taxi drivers who drive at neck breaking speed.
It is important to note the difference between saying “shway shway” versus saying “shway” on its own. While the former refers to “slow down” or “slowly”, the latter actually means “a little” or “a bit”.
Another useful phrases include “3ala mahlak” (على مهلك), “Ya reitak” (يا ريتك) and “mesta’jel” (مستعجل).
Last but not least, a list about Levantine Arabic songs would be incomplete without a song by Fairouz.
This lyric video by Language Infinity does not play the entire song throughout but instead stop in between verses to provide the vocab words and explanations of the lyrics.
Levantine Arabic learners who want to take notes might need to pause the video multiple times.
In this song, students can see how simple sentences are formed - a sentence as simple as “I loved you in the summer” which is the title itself.
Furthermore, simple everyday verbs such as to “love”, “wait”, “write”, “open”, and “pass by” are all present in the song.
Students will also observe the distinct Lebanese accent through words such as “winter” which is pronounced as “shtii” instead of “shitaa”.
Songs can be a great and entertaining way to learn a language as they help non-natives sharpen their listening skills and the accuracy of their pronunciation.
Mimicking the accent and the way words are pronounced in songs can be one of the ways to improve one’s pronunciation.
So hopefully these 11 songs mentioned in the list will get you started in the beautiful world of Levantine Arabic music.
With that, I wish you happy listening and learning!
This post was contributed by Harilyn Tahir.