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Learning Algerian Arabic through songs

When scouring YouTube for language-learning related videos, I often notice people discussing learning languages by singing. I’ve never really watched those videos or read those articles. I recognize that internalizing the lyrics and the melodies of a song must be really effective – you often see foreign singers sing in English with an unmistaken English accent, and people who learn this way, really seem to pronounce like natives.
But… Singing? I haven’t really been able to think about it seriously until now. I’m not a singer – I’m a dancer! (No no no!) but perhaps it’s time to try and challenge that idea-of-self.

Since I started learning Arabic, I also wanted to tackle the Algerian dialect, Derdja, which is a dialect with influences from Arabic, Amazigh (Berber), French and a few other languages including Ottoman Turkish and some Spanish and Italian. I’ve always relied strongly on reading for learning languages, but Derdja, essencially, is a spoken dialect, and that poses a few problems to my usual approach. This is why I thought, that perhaps I should have a go at singing! (or let’s say humming to begin with.)

I’ve picked this song, called “Algeria, My Love” by Cheikh El Yamine. The genre of music is called Chaabi, or “popular”. I suppose it carries the same meaning as the English “Pop”, but the music and the concept is vastly different. Chaabi is the traditional genre of music of the capital, Algiers, where it is sung and listened to primarily by men, the age of my father. The lyrics deal with subjects such as life, the love of the country, the religion the respect for one another, etc, and I figure it’s a good place to start for someone like me, who’s a little self-concious about the whole singing deal.

Derdja, today, is sometimes seen as the “language of the street” in Algeria, and some have a feeling that it can be hard to express oneself eloquently and with finesse in that language. Chaabi, along with many other examples, completely thrash that false idea, for it is in fact great poetry.

I managed to find the lyrics and a recording for the song below; now, if an Algerian comes by, I would be extremely happy if you could provide me with a translation, as literal as possible, of the lyrics.I’d also really appreciate other recommendations for Algerian songs!

I’ll start listening, and reading along with the lyrics for now! If you expect that I’m going to record myself singing, you’ve better think again!

EDIT: Thanks to a commenter below, I now have the English translation of this song too! Thank you very much, smaldjo!

oh Algeria my love , الجزائر يا حبيبتي
in you are my people and in you are my brothers , فيك أهلي و فيك خاوتي
I will live in you all my life, I can’t leave you , نعيش فيك طول دنيتي ما نقدر نخطيك
light will rise upon you and we will live in peace and happiness , يطلع عليك النور نعيشوا في هناء و سرور
oh apple (pupil) of the eyes, oh most beautiful of countries, يا مومو الأعيان يا زينة البلدان
you are surrounded by sea and the star (is surrounded) by the moon , داير بيك البحر و النجمة عليها قمر
to the enemies I’m proud of you, may god save you , للعديان بيك نفتخر الله ينجيك
the youth are taking care of you, they hold the flag up فيك الشبان قايمة رفعوا الراية في السماء
and they raised your worth (importance )x2 , و زادولك في الشان زادولك في الشان
oh country of generosity and kindness, the braves died for you يا بلاد الكرم و الأحسان فنات عليك الشجعان
they freed you from the oppressors and you got back to your owners (people) حرروك من هدوك الطغيان و رجعتي لمواليك
in the past you were occupied and now you became free زمان كنتي مستعمرة و اليوم ضحيتي حرة
thanks to the merciful (god) x2 بفضل الرحمان بفضل الرحمان
from the east to the west and the mountains, from the south to the north , من الشرق للغرب و الجبال من الجنوب للشمال
your people (oh my country) are champions who won’t let you go ناسك يا بلادي بطال ما يسمحوا فيك
may god help our people to victory so they can live in welfare and peace الله ينصر شعبنا و يعيش في الخير و الهناء
and Islam is our religion, it has no doubt , و الإسلام هو ديننا ما فيه شيء تشكيك
may god have mercy on those who died for this country الله يرحم العباد ماتوا على هذا البلاد
there homes are in heavens x2 مسكنهم في الرضوان مسكنهم في الرضوان

 

7 thoughts on “Learning Algerian Arabic through songs

  1. hi, i saw your post on r/Algeria, i like that you take interest in our language so i wanted to help
    i tried to translate “el djazayer ya hbibti” to English, staying literal when i could so the English is a little broken 😀
    also i’m no expert translator nor the best English speaker


    oh Algeria my love , الجزائر يا حبيبتي
    in you are my people and in you are my brothers , فيك أهلي و فيك خاوتي
    i will live in you all my life, i can’t leave you , نعيش فيك طول دنيتي ما نقدر نخطيك
    light will rise upon you and we will live in peace and happiness , يطلع عليك النور نعيشوا في هناء و سرور
    xxxxxx , يا مومو الأعيان يا زينة البلدان

    you are surrounded by sea and the star (is surrounded) by the moon , داير بيك البحر و النجمة عليها قمر
    to the enemies i’m proud of you, may god save you , للعديان بيك نفتخر الله ينجيك
    the youth are taking care of you, they hold the flag up , فيك الشبان قايمة رفعوا الراية في السماء
    and they raised your worth (importance ? )x2 , و زادولك في الشان زادولك في الشان

    oh country of generosity and kindness, the braves died for you , يا بلاد الكرم و الأحسان فنات عليك الشجعان
    they freed you from the oppressors and you got back to your owners(people) , حرروك من هدوك الطغيان و رجعتي لمواليك
    in the past you were occupied and now you became free , زمان كنتي مستعمرة و اليو م ضحيتي حرة
    thanks to the merciful (god) x2 , بفضل الرحمان بفضل الرحمان

    from the east to the west and the mountains, from the south to the north , من الشرق للغرب و الجبال من الجنوب للشمال
    your people (oh my country) are champions who won’t let you go , ناسك يا بلادي بطال ما يسمحوا فيك

    may god help our people to victory so they can live in welfare and peace , الله ينصر شعبنا و يعيش في الخير و الهناء
    and Islam is our religion, it has no doubt , و الإسلام هو ديننا ما فيه شيء تشكيك
    may god have mercy on those who died for this country , الله يرحم العباد ماتوا على هذا البلاد
    there homes are in heavens x2 , مسكنهم في الرضوان مسكنهم في الرضوان

  2. يا مومو الأعيان يا زينة البلدان is “oh apple (lit. pupil) of the eyes, oh most beautiful of countries”.

    1. Thank you very much for clearing that up, Lameen! I wonder, do you have any suggestions or material that could be useful for studying Algerian Derdja? This song seems to be quite close to fusha.

  3. يا مومو الأعيان يا زينة البلدان is “oh apple (lit. pupil) of the eyes, oh most beautiful of countries”.

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