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There are words in colloquial Arabic that Google Translate won't understand and which are not even an Arabic dictionary!

This problem is noticeably worse than for, say, Spanish or English, where many colloquialisms are understood by Google Translate, or at least popular dictionaries.

For instance, an Arab friend told me that in formal Arabic for saying "I speak" you say "أنا أتكلم" and in colloquial Arabic you can say "انا بحكي". When you search this in an Arabic dictionary, you will find result for the first one but not for the second one.

Do you know any website that have database of both types of Arabic? Do you have any solution for this? Any recommendation?

  • This is a problem in every language--yes, even including Spanish and English. More popular languages tend to have better dictionaries and auto-translation support, which means the problem may be less in English and Spanish, but rest assured that there are coloquial and slang words in both of these languages that you cannot find in most dictionaries, and which will trip up Google translate. – Flimzy Jul 16 '16 at 15:30
  • But to focus on your question, I guess you're looking for an electronic dictionary which contains common slang and colloquialisms in Arabic, is this right? – Flimzy Jul 16 '16 at 15:30
  • @Flimzy Yes. I tried to search up an Arabic dictionary (where there is no translations, meaning it's only for Arabic speakers) where it can tell you tenses, gender, person or something. But didn't succeed. – Pichi Wuana Jul 16 '16 at 15:34
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    @Flimzy In addition, it doesn't seem to be depending if the language is popular or not because I calculate 0.0005% of the world speak Hebrew and 4.23% Arabic (as native speakers). – Pichi Wuana Jul 16 '16 at 15:40
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    Of course, it's much more complicated than that. It's generally a function of the language's popularity among the people with an interest and the resources in documenting it in a way that is relevant to you. When it comes to auto-translation, it's also a function of the popularity of translating between your target language, and your native language, and vice versa. – Flimzy Jul 16 '16 at 15:44
3

What you posted (انا بحكي) isn't colloquial Arabic it is more or less a dialect which is more or less wide spread in countries like Syria, Egypt and middle east one would easily understand and use this, as it is more common, but in Gulf states and Iraq one might even say something like "انا بحتشي" or "انا احتشي" or even a more local use would be ""انا بسولف in the Maghreb states the more you are near to middle east the more people may use your expressions but some use:

"انا نحكي",
"انا نهذر", (in traditional Arabic هذر or هِزار Egyptian dialect refers to chitchat)
"انا نتكلم"
,"انا كنتكلم",
or "انا نعاود" (in traditional Arabic اعاد refers to repeating)

and many other expressions and variations may come.

As the major middle eastern dialects (Syrian and Egyptian) are mostly known and understood by the majority of -born- Arabic speakers I've seen lot of so called Arabic- Language "X" dictionaries (I'm referring to hardcover books) which use expressions from this dialect instead of "fasih فصيح" (fluent or modern) Arabic.

For an Arabic-English or a pure (fasih) Arabic-Arabic dictionary I'd recommend al-maany المعاني.
And for your purpose maybe this one would work, you can even choose the countries dialect by choosing the flag, note it is an "Arabic"-"Arabic" dictionary so maybe you can enter latin letters as transliteration but you'll need to know the fasih word or maybe a dialect expression, but you must be aware that it is only a kind of database of dialect related words, so any word which can easily be sourced in fasih language might not appear there. It only gives for each dialect a selected amount of known expressions and words and their meaning in modern (fasih) Arabic. So a sentence like I speak couldn't be found here.

See also kalmasoft and do a google search via:

معجم باللهجة العامية

I'd like to add that the difference between حكى and تكلم in Arabic is very big. The first refers to telling stories (tales in first place) while the other is about speaking, maybe telling something. So the "colloquial حكى" has a very small intersection or commonalty with تكلم, which lies basically in the fact that for both we move our lips and talking about something!

I'd like to add that for many Terms and Topics on Wikipedia you may find an explanation in Egyptian dialect just look for: مصري

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There is no such complete dictionary because there are more than 20 dialects of the Arabic language. Every Arabic country has its own dialect.

In addition, there is a way (it doesn't always work) to know the right translation for an "informal" word like "بحكي" but that requires having prolific Arabic vocabulary.

For instance: if you take the word "بحكي", then get the verb's root which is in this case in Arabic the verb "حكى" means "tell", "talk", or "narrate" which has a close meaning of "تكلم" then you end up getting the suitable meaning for "بحكي".

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