The Lebanese dialect of Arabic is similar to that spoken in Syria, Jordan and Palestine, somewhat different to that spoken in Egypt, and very different to other forms of Arabic. As with all dialects of Arabic, the dialect is a spoken language only; the written language always conforms to standard Arabic.
Arabic is significantly different to English: different forms are used when addressing males, females and groups; plurals and verb conjugations are highly irregular and difficult to figure out from their roots; and the pronunciation includes some very difficult sounds. Lebanese, luckily, is a much-simplified from standard Arabic, and should not be overly difficult for the traveler.
Learning some basic Lebanese Arabic dialect expressions could always come in handy; however, knowing either English or French should be enough for a tourist visiting Lebanon, since many Lebanese people (especially the youth, particularly in Beirut) are trilingual.
For some Arabic sounds, there is no easy transliteration (and no single agreed transliteration). The pronunciation guide shown below is case sensitive; for example, 'th' is a different sound to 'Th' and 'TH'. Note that there is no such things as a diphthong in Arabic; instead, some consonants map to English diphthongs.
like 'a' in "apple"
like 'ee' in "cheese"
like 'oo' in "too"
like 'o' in "dore"
like 'e' in "bed"
like 'ai' in "claire"
like 'b' in "bed"
like 't' in "top"
like 's' in "pleasure"
like 'ch' in Scottish "loch" (or German "nach")
like 'd' in "mad"
like 'r' in "row"
like 'z' in "haze"
like 's' in "sing"
like 'sh' in "sheep"
like 'f' in "fun"
like 'k' in "kitten"
like 'l' in "love"
like 'm' in "mother"
like 'n' in "nice"
like 'h' in "help"
like 'w' in "weight"
like 'y' in "yes"
The following 3 consonants are pronounced by rounding the mouth as you say them. You can get an approximate effect by accentuating them in the following pronunciations.
like 's' in "sorry"
like 'd' in "dot"
like 't' in "taught"
The following consonant is almost never pronounced in the Lebanese Arabic dialect but replaced with a glottal stop, which can also be represented by an apostrophe.
in regular arabic : like 'c' in "call" (with the back of the throat)
like a French or German letter "r"
The following consonant (called "ha", which will be represented by the number 7), is similar to English "h" but stronger. It is pronounced deep in the throat, like the sound you make when breathing on a pair of glasses to clean them.
a little like a mixture of "h" and "kh"
a glottal stop (IPA: ʔ), or the constriction of the throat as between the syllables uh-oh, but in Arabic this is often found in strange places such as the beginning of a word. Known in Arabic as hamza ء
The following consonant (called "ayn", which we will be represented by the number 3), is very difficult to say. In English, the only time you will use the throat muscles used to say this letter is when you are throwing up; if that's how it feels, you're probably doing it right.
like the sound represented by "aargh"
Some commonly understood Lebanese Arabic dialect phrases use either French or English words; these have been shown in quotes below to avoid confusion.
Basics (Kalimét Asesiyé)
ahla w sahla (Lebanese people use also the French (de rien) or the English terms or they say just "ahlan"
How are you?
kifak (male), kifik (female)
Fine, thank you.
l 7amdella (literally: "thank God") they also say méshé l 7al
Shookran (they also use the french term(merci) and the english term)
Mni7 (Male) - Mni7a (Female)
w enta (male), w enté (female)
What is your name?
shoo esmak? (m), shoo esmik? (f)
My name is ______ .
esmé ______ .
Nice to meet you.
How old are you?
addé 3omrak? (m) addé 3omrik? (f)
men fadlak (male), men fadlik (female) (Lebanese people use also the English term)
shookran (Arabic) yeslamo (Arabic) merci (French) they also use the English expression
You're welcome : tekram (male) tekramé (female)
Welcome (welcoming someone).
ahla w sahla (it will be enough to say just "ahla")