Whether you live on the outskirts of Paris or in the most prestigious areas of the French capital, it is natural to hear Arabic words about the languages of French youth every day. What is the origin of this phenomenon? And why do the French use phrases from the Arabic language?
In a report published by the French newspaper “Le Figaro”, writer Marie Levin Michalik says words such as “Wallah”, “khallass” and “khapta” have become common and widespread expressions among French youth. Almost everyone understands them, even if they are not French words.
“It’s Arabic, I think. That’s how we speak, it’s the language of today’s young people, “said the young Frenchman, who has never visited Algeria, Morocco or Tunisia. Her compatriot Barty, 20, confirms that she uses phrases such as “khapta” and “chouf” on a daily basis.
What is striking, according to the writer, is that these phrases are not only used in the Paris suburbs, where members of the Maghreb community live, but that they have also infiltrated the bourgeoisie.
French linguist Jean Provost – author of the book “Our Arab ancestors” – says that the French language has absorbed many words from Italian and Spanish, as well as Arabic, such as “Kahwa” (coffee) .
According to Provost, the interbreeding between the French and Arabic languages began during the Crusades, then many words appeared in the French language of Arabic origin, such as “émir” (the prince) and other words during the war with Algeria such as “bled” (country), and this continued through parallel trade, rap songs and other factors. The latest estimates indicate that there are around 500 French language words of Arabic origin.
“We use these sentences in our daily life and express our feelings through them”, explains the young Frenchman Arthur. Examples are numerous, such as “La hchouma” (“decency”), “la moula” which means money, and “bsahtek” (with your health) which means bravo.
The writer believes that the use of Arabic words has become a way for young French people to express themselves, just as many use the English language to appear attractive. “It’s a fad, we just use it to keep up with the times,” says Barty.
Luke Bechley, sociolinguist and lecturer at the University of Avignon, explains that the Arabic used in France “is mainly Maghrebian Arabic, and literary Arabic is rarely used in France”.
Young French people use many Arabic expressions related to family and friends, such as “les khouyas”, which means brothers, and “sahbi”, which means my friend. Bechley adds that many slang expressions have become inspired by Arabic, such as “miskin”, which means poor.