Classification of "Hindi Talk" in the GCC

< Previous | Next >


Senior Member
Najdi Arabic
Hello everyone,

This might be a more general thread than usual and better fit in another section of the forums* but I thought I'd post it here anyway for better accessibility to GCC nationals and other Arabic-speakers who might be interested in the subject. My question this time is about the classification of what I and others somewhat abruptly call كلام هندي/هنود or كلام عمّال which refers to the very simplified Arabic that is informally taught to incoming blue collar workers from the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

This register is used by both the local natives who teach it through interaction with the workers and by the workers who often know no other register or version of the language. I've also observed its use among non-GCC Arabs who reside in the region and similarly interact with said workers. It involves simplifying the language from both dialectal and classical features and the vocabulary is often limited and a mélange of mostly Arabic words with a diverse minority of words from English and the various native languages of the workers. Its use is now being slowly replaced by English in the larger cities of KSA and has almost been completely replaced by English in some of the smaller GCC states.

My question is do we classify this as a pidgin or is it just a very simplified Arabic? I tend to favor pidgin classification for two main reasons:

a) the register is easily recognizable and would only be used when the two communities interact. It is not any form of simplified Arabic but a certain form of simplified Arabic that is widely recognized and a result of decades-old interaction between the two communities.

b) the register has its own expressions and its own set of informal rules. Expressions like same same (from English and used to indicate similarity when describing something) or jaldi jaldi (from Hindustani, I believe, and used to request promptness) are not used by Arabic speakers outside of their interactions with foreign workers and vice versa. As for grammar, Spoken Arabic often omits pronouns, for example, whereas they're almost never omitted here (inta ruuh انتا روح vs. re7 رح). Sentence structure is often different as well. The message a housewife would communicate to live-in help by saying mafi sawwi ketha مافي سوي كذا would probably be expressed as la tesawwiin kitha/tsitha/chethi لا تسوين كذا when communicated to a daughter.

Considering these criteria and others that forumers from the region can contribute, is there a case for classifying the register as a pidgin or are these criteria not distinguishing enough?

*If @mods so agree, feel free to move it to the section you see fit. :)
  • Hemza

    Senior Member
    French, Mor/Hijz Arabic (heritage)
    السلام عليكم,

    I hope I'm not polluting this thread, as I won't directly reply to your question, but I want to share an experience I had:

    I worked in a restaurant in which there was an worker from Sri Lanka who spent 10 years in Saudi Arabia (Ryadh, Ta2if and Jedda) and as he knew I speak Arabic, he was sometimes talking to me in Arabic (with the funniest accent I ever heard :D, no offense to Indian or Sri Lanka members ^^) but sometimes, it was hard to understand him for two reasons:

    -My level in Arabic which isn't good as a native speaker (inch'Allah, it will be even better :D lol)
    -the building of the sentence was SOOOOOOO odd when he was talking!!! When you wrote "ma fi sawwi kidha", it reminds how he was talking to me and I was like O_0 what have you said? ahahahahahah!!! But unfortunately, I can't remember what weird sentences he was telling me and has to repeat it 4 or 5 times to be understood (and still lol).


    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I'd say because "Hindi talk" is no one's native language, and is a language used only when members of two different linguistic groups interact, that it definitely can be referred to as a "pidgin".

    I'm not aware of any work in Arabic done in this subject, but some Western linguists have described this phenomenon and labelled it "Gulf Pidgin".
    Encyclopedia of Arabic language and linguistics, Volume 3

    Atlas of Languages of Intercultural Communication

    The Oxford Handbook of Arabic Linguistics (especially page 509)
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    French, Tunisian Arabic
    I leave in the UAE and it is phenomenon among all people who have spent a lot of time in Gulf countries,


    - ma fi ma3loum= I don't know
    - anta win yrou7= where are you going
    - ana yreed= I want
    - anta shou ysawwi= what are you doing
    - ma fi mawjoud= it's not available
    -naffar/naffarat= man/people
    - arbab= boss
    - seeda= straight (from Hindi)
    -anta ma fi zeen= you are not good

    etc etc
    < Previous | Next >