Okay, this is only half the truth. (And it is actually true for all spoken languages.)
Sometimes when I need to do something else for a little while, I watch Egyptian television, Egyptian discussions, movies, or even TV series (مُسَلْسَلات). However, instead of getting some creative distraction, my brain usually gets overloaded because I encounter dozens of expressions that I unwillingly pay attention to resulting in getting lost in translation.
For this reason I started to collect expressions in Egyptian Arabic. These little words don’t really change the meaning of the sentence if you simply disregard them – which is what I would recommend for beginners. Linguists call these words and expressions an expletive – fillers. For German speakers: “Füllwörter”. There is no point in translating these expressions literally, especially if your background is Classical or Modern Standard Arabic. In most cases a filler has a syntactic role only but contributes nothing to meaning. They can also simply “fill” space or time, e.g. in English: “so, also, then, hmm, ähm, okay, …“
Let’s look at an example in English:
Arabic is, I mean, like, totally easy to learn, you know?
Now delete I mean + like + totally + you know from the example above and you will get a sentence that still makes perfectly sense: Arabic is easy to learn.
Please note that although they don’t really transport an important information, they do have a function for native speakers. But it takes a long time to get a feeling for these words, to know how and in which situations you could use them.
The following three words are often parts of fillers:
- “ya3ni” (يَعْنِي), literally: he/it means
“bass” (بَسّ), literally: just, only, but
“ba2a” (بَقْى), literally: to become; or as an adverb: already. It can also convey the meaning of: “…why don’t you…”
Let’s dig deeper…
If you hear the following expressions, try to disregard them. The literal translation won’t help you. Usually they don’t convey any additional information. For this reason I do not give a translation. If you progress you will get a feeling when and how to use them.
1. Fillers with “ya3ni” (يَعْنِي)
wallaahi, kamaan da ya3ni
وَاللّهِ… كَمان دَه يَعْنِي
wakamaan da ba2a ya3ni
وَكَمان ده بَقْى يَعْني
وَأَنا يَعْني الحَقِيقة
2. Fillers with “bass” (بَسّ)
la2! bassi biy2ullak
لا! بَسِّ بِيْقُول لَك
But watch out: The word بَسّ is not always just a filler.
bass! (it can mean: enough!)
bass! (it can also mean: don’t! in the meaning of: stop that!)
wabass! (meaning: just)
2ultilak bass… (meaning: I was just saying…)
قُلْت لَك بَسّ…
3. Fillers with “ba2a” (بَقْى)
la da yib2a kamaan
لا ده يِبْقَى كَمان
bassi ba2a! (meaning: enough! stop!)
ghour ba2a! (meaning: go to hell!)
4. Other filler expressions:
da, ma huwwa
دَه… ما هُو
mainta 3aarif Tab3an
ما انِنْتَ عارِف طَبْعًا
wa dah, 3ala fikra…
وَدَه… عَلَى فِكْرة
Sa7i7 el-kalaam da
صَحِيح الكَلام دَه
Tabb ma dilwa2ti
طَبّ ما دِلْوَقْتِي
wallaahi! kamaan da ya3ni
وَللَّهِ! كَمان ده يَعْنِي
If you know more (also from other Arabic dialects), please feel free to let me know and I will add them.