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Languages in Oman - What Languages Are Spoken in the Sultanate of Oman?

In the last few decades, Oman has opened its arms to tourists and expats from around the world. It isn't uncommon to hear Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati, Somali, Portuguese and even Beluchi while wandering on the streets of major cities like Muscat or Salalah. It's becoming highly cosmopolitan as the years go by, and along with many other things in the country, the languages spoken in Oman have also began to expand.

Indigenous Languages

There are some indigenous languages that vary between regions in Oman. In the Dhofar region, a Semitic language called Jibbali or Shehri is spoken by a small native population. It is spoken by Omani tribes like Shahra and Bait Ash-Shaik who are generally nomadic or semi-nomadic. It is mostly a spoken language with no particular script or tradition of writing.

In western Oman (specifically Al Mahrah Governorate) a language called Mehri is spoken by the Mehri tribe. Much like Jibbali, it has a rich oral tradition, not a written one. It's believed to have been spoken in the Middle East before the spread of Islam and Arabic. Today, the Mehri language is at risk of extinction.

Kumzari, too, is spoken in the country. An Iranian language, it is spoken in northern Oman and has less than 5,000 speakers. Other indigenous languages of the country that are at risk of extinction are Harsusi from central Oman, Bathari from south-east Oman and Hobyot at Oman's borders with Yemen.

Because of Oman's booming tourism industry, English has become widely understood. It is generally the language of business here. Road signs as well as official notices are written in Arabic and English for all to understand. But, despite this growing trend, Arabic remains the official language. It's slightly different from the Arabic spoken in the Gulf region as Oman's Arabic has been influenced by languages such as Swahili and Hindi that have reached its coast and has integrated certain words from these languages. In fact, Oman is believed to have six different dialects of Arabic.


language in Oman, arabicSource


Useful Words and Phrases

Even though the country is welcoming of tourists, and English is the medium of instruction in its schools, it's a sign of courtesy to get acquainted with some Arabic while travelling here. As Frank Smith once said, one language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way?. So, here is a list of basic Arabic greetings and phrases to learn before travelling to Oman:

 

Basic greetings

Hello - Marhaba

Thank you - Shukran

(In response) You're welcome - Afwan

Please - Min fadhlik

Sorry - Aasif

How are you? - Shnolik?

Pardon me - Lau samaht (to men), lau samahti (to women)

Goodbye - Masalama

 

What is your name ? Shoo ismak (to men), shoo ismish (to women)

My name is - Ismee

I speak English - Bihki inglizi

I do not speak Arabic - Mah bihki arabi

 

Peace be upon you - As-salaamu-alaikum

(In response) And unto you peace - Wa-alaikum-salaam

God-willing - Inshallah

 

Helpful Vocabulary

Yes - Naam

No - La

Come - yallah

Go away - imshi

Okay - Kwayyis

Not okay - mish kwayyis

 

What time is it? - Kam as saa?

What? - Shu?

 

Important vocabulary

Hotel - funduq

Hospital - mustashfa

Doctor - doctor

Police - boulees

Embassy - safara

Food - akl

Airport - matar

Town - madina

City - madinat

Market - souk

Money - fulus

 

Hot - haar

Cold - bareed

Today ? al yoom

Tomorrow - bokhra

Yesterday - ams


 

Arabic, like most languages, has certain syntax about genders. Notice how certain phrases change while talking to men and while talking to women. While talking to someone of the opposite sex, keep in mind that communication between the sexes is minimal in Oman and you should remain respectful so that your intentions are not misconstrued.

While travelling in Oman, you should have no problem in communicating with the locals in English. It is spoken in major cities and in most towns, to a certain degree. However, there's nothing like speaking to a local in their own language! Watch as their eyes light up when you speak in Arabic, and enjoy the kinship that comes after.

This post was published by Rhea Nath