Speaking the language – Survival Hebrew

Whenever travelling to a new country it quickly becomes a mission for most of us to pick up some of the local lingo. Israel is, of course, no exception. It might be a little harder, what with the guttural phonetics at work in Hebrew that make it sound like we’re coughing up something nasty, but there’s nothing like charming the locals and getting a smile for your efforts.

Here are a few of the basic words and expressions you can use to make your trip that much more enjoyable. Watch out for our upcoming Uncensored Survival Hebrew section, all those words that you know you probably shouldn’t use, but it’s still fun trying them out!

Please note: the coughing up something nasty sound is usually made when you spot the “ch” sound in the list below. For example, eych korim lacha (what is your name?) should be pronounced eykkkkkkh korim lacccchhha. Enjoy!

Do you speak?

ata medaber?

English

anglit

French

tzar-fa-teet

What is your name?

eych korim lacha?

Nice to meet you

nayim mayod

Restrooms

sherutim

Where do you live?

eyfo ata gar?

What time is it?

ma ha’sha’a?

you’re welcome

bevakasha

Left

smol

Right

yemin

Friend

chaver (m), chavera (f)

How much does this cost?

kama ze o’le?

The bill, please

cheshbon, bevakasha

sweet/cute

chamud

all right/ ok

b’seder

I have

yesh-li

Do you have?

yesh-lacha?(m),yesh-lach?(f)

I

ani

mine

sheli

you

ata(m), aht(f)

your

shel-cha, shel-ach

excuse me

s’leecha

Where are you from?

meyefo at(f), ata(m)

good evening

erev tov

good morning

boker tov

good night

lailah tov

hello

shalom

goodbye

shalom

Bon appetite

bit-a-yavon

hebrew

ivrit

A little

katzat

please

bevakasha

post office

doar

children

yeladim

thank you 

toda 

A cup of tea

cos tay

A cup of coffee

cos ka-feh

what is this?

ma zeh 

what?

ma

how are you?

mah nish-mah?

when?

mah-tai

where?

eyfo

why?

lah-mah

yes

ken

no

lo

hot

cham

cold

kar

I do not understand

ani lo mevin(a) (f)

Ice cream

glida

Water

mayim

Taxi

monit

7 Comments

  1. Moshe Z.

    April 2, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    What is the difference between “ma” and “mah”? and between “nayim” and “na’eem”?
    What is “lacha” is it like “lecha” and “lach”?
    Is there also a big “bit-a-yavon”?
    Does “katzat” comes from “Katzav”?
    I live here about 50 years and never heard the words “bevakasha” and “toda”, can you elaborate on that or is that Arabic?

  2. B

    April 3, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    > What is the difference between “ma” and “mah”? and between “nayim” and “na’eem”?

    No difference, pronounced the same.

    > What is “lacha” is it like “lecha” and “lach”?

    Yes

    > Is there also a big “bit-a-yavon”?

    I’m not sure what you mean. The literal translation is “in appetite”. It is generally not modified.

    > Does “katzat” comes from “Katzav”?

    I’m not sure what you mean by “Katzav” but the answer is probably no.

    > I live here about 50 years and never heard the words “bevakasha” and “toda”, can you elaborate on that or is that Arabic?

    If by “here” you mean Israel, I find that very hard to believe. While Israelis can be rude, you’re bound to hear Please and Thank You and least every once in a while. It is not Arabic, it is Hebrew and it is common.

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  5. KroazDu

    July 22, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    @Moshe: what’s the ivrit for sarcasm?

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