A guide to useful phrases in Tunisia

There are three primary languages used across this diverse, North African country with Modern Standard Arabic labelled as the official tongue. You’ll also hear plenty of French and Tunisia’s own dialect, Darija, however even visitors to Tunisia who are fluent in Arabic will struggle to understand this unique spoken language. It has words rooted in all the cultures that have influenced the country including French, Italian, Turkish, Spanish and Berber.

Modern Standard Arabic is common place in written form across airports, shops, newspapers and road signs, and most Tunisians are able to communicate in the official tongue. French is taught in school from the age of eight and over 60% of the population are literate in the European language. As a result you’ll find plenty of French newspapers across the country. If you’re heading off on holiday to Tunisia, here are some phrases to try.

Common Arabic phrases

Hello – Marhaban (marhabra)
Goodbye – Ma’assalama (ma-a salama)
Good Morning – Sabar al khayr (sabar el care)
Please – Min fadlik (min fadlik)
Thank you – Shukran (shook run)
Sorry – Aasef (ahasafa)
How are you? – Kaif halik? (Kaif ha lik)
I don’t understand – La afham (la afham)
Do you speak English? – Hal tatakallam ‘ingilizi? (hal tatakalam ingleezi)
Yes – naaam (na-am)
No – laa (la)


One – Wahid (waHad)
Two – Ithnan (ithnaan)
Three – Thalatha (thalaaatha)
Four – Arba’a (arba)
Five – Khamsa (hamsa)
Six – Sitta (sitteh)
Seven – Sab’a (sebha)
Eight – Thamaniya (thamaaniya)
Nine – Tis’a (dissah)
Ten – ‘Ashra (ashara)

Out and about

What time is it? – Kam as saa? (kam asah)
Where is the nearest cash machine? – Ayna aqrab Saraf aalee (aynaho akrabo saraf alee)
Where is…? – Ayna…? (aynaho)
Where can I buy…? – Ayna yomkanany shera…? (ayna yumkinuni sheera-on)
How do I get to…? – Kaeef yomKanany El Hosool ala…? (kaif yumkinuni el hosool ala…?)
How far is it to…? – Kam kiloometre ila…? (kam kiloometren eela)
How much does it cost? – Kam et-taklefa? (kam et takalefa)
Too expensive – Ktir ghali (katir vahlee)
Petrol – Super/Benzin (benzeen)
Diesel – Dayazil (dayazilo)
Car – Sayara (say-air-a)
Taxi – Taxi (Taxi)
Market – Souk (sook)
Post office – Maktab al-barid (makta ballbareed)
Bank – Bank (banka)
Hospital – Mustashfa (moostashfa)
Chemist – Saydaliyeh (sayadleeyaho)
Police – Shurta/Boulees (shorta)
Open – Maftuh (muftuhon)
Closed – Mughlag (Moolakon)

Eating out

Waiter! – Ya nadil! (ya neh dilon)
Could I/we see the menu please? – Qa’imatu t-tacam, min fadlik (kah imatoo takam, min fadlik)
Where is the bathroom? – Ayna Al Hamam (ayna al hamam)
The bill, please – ‘Al-fatura, min fadlik (al fahtoora, min fadlik)
Can I pay with credit card? – Hal mumkin dafcu belbetaka al-e’temania
One beer please – Waheed beera, min fadlik (waHad bara-ah min fadlik)
I don’t eat meat – Ana ma bakul laham (ehna ma bahakoola laham)
Restaurant – Mata’am (matamon)
Breakfast – Futour (footor)
Lunch – Ghadaa (ghadeh-oon)
Dinner – Ashaa (ashah-en)
Coffee – Kahwa (kahowa)
Tea – Shay (shay)
Beer – Beera (bare-ah)
Fish – Simich (simak)
Meat – Lahm (laham)

Food and drink terms

Shorba Frik – Lamb soup
Coucha – Lamb shoulder cooked in cayenne pepper and tumeric
Khobz Tabouna – Traditional oven cooked bread
Merguez – Small spicy sausages
Harissa – Very hot and spicy chilli paste
Fricasse – Small fried sandwich with tuna, harissa, olives and olive oil
Bambaloony – Fried sweet donut-like cake served with sugar
Boukha – Tunisian brandy made from figs
Legmi – Traditional Tunisian hooch made from date juice