The Arabic language is unique, from the sounds that exist in no other language to the beautiful writing style (check out some Arabic calligraphy!). One good way to learn Arabic is to start by studying the alphabet, especially if this kind of writing is unfamiliar to you. But first, let’s see some interesting facts about the Arabic alphabet and the Arabic language.
There are no capital letters in the Arabic alphabet. Instead, quotation marks are used for emphasis.
The familiar Roman alphabet uses both print, in which each letter stands alone, and script, in which letters are connected (i.e., cursive). In Arabic, however, print does not exist; it is written entirely using script. This is why it may be hard for beginners to distinguish between individual Arabic letters.
Words are written from right to left. Numbers are written from left to right. Some Arabic letters also change form depending on where they are placed in a word (beginning, middle, end, or standing alone).
Arabic has a root system – massive help when it comes to vocabulary! Every noun, adjective and verb is built on a system of 3 key letters, with changes in consonants and vowels.
Uniquely, Arabic follows an abjad rather than an alphabet. One of the qualities that makes Arabic unique and a bit tricky until you get the hang of it is that its writing system follows an abjad rather than an alphabet. So what does that mean? An abjad is a system in which each letter stands for a consonant and not a vowel, which requires the user of the language to provide the vowels using vowel marks. However, now it is considered an “impure abjad”, as it contains 3 vowels.
Arabic has sounds that don’t exist in other languages, such as ”ح” , which is an “h” sound. To get an idea of how this is pronounced, imagine breathing on a window pane to create a fog.
Now that we covered some aspects of the Arabic alphabet, let’s take a look at it (remember, we will be writing from right to left).
Since there are some letters that are pronounced different than their English counterpart, here are some tips on how to pronounce them properly. Try pronouncing each letter out loud several times. Take your time and do this slowly. We started this list with the ones that are simple to pronounce and increased the difficulty down the line.
أ – alif
ب – baa’
ت – taa’
ث – thaa’ (similar to the “th” in “theory”)
ج – jeem
ح – haa’
خ – khaa’
د – dal
ذ – thal (similar to the “th” in “then”)
ر – raa’
ز – zain
س – seen
ش – sheen
ص – Ssaad (as in s- odd)
ض – ddad (as in d- odd)
ط – tt- uh
ظ – tthhad
ع – ‘eain
غ – ghain
ف – faa’
ق – khaaf (sounds like “cough”)
ك – kaaf (sounds like “calf” in an American accent)
ل – lam
م – meem
ن – noon
ه – haa’
و – waw
ي – yaa’
ح – haa’ is the sound you make when you clear your throat, only keep your mouth open when you do. Usually when we clear our throats, we start by holding in air then letting it out forcefully. With ح , you end the letter with suddenly cutting the air.
خ – like forcing phlegm out. Okay, it’s gross, but khaa’ requires less effort than you can imagine. End it like ح, with a sudden cut of air. Remember not to put too much pressure on it, just a slight blocking of air will do.
ص – this one is a bit tricky. Start by saying S normally then pull the middle of your tongue to the base of your mouth, leaving the tip close to your teeth. Now try to make this sound and follow it with “a”, ending with D. Something like SSaad should be the result. ص is like a magnified version of س
ض – also like ص, this is a magnified version of د, made by saying D, only pulling the middle of your tongue down. While د is gentle and easy to make, ض or Daad is more of a heavy and deep sound. After pronouncing the sound, open your mouth to add an “aa” sound and end with normal D.
ط – is a forceful sound. Put the tip of your tongue between your teeth, and pull the middle section down. Apply air pressure against your teeth and let it out forcefully. To help, try imagining ط like a pressuring T.
ظ – unlike ذ, this one requires also pulling the mid-section of your tongue down. End it with an “aah”
ع – this one comes from the throat. It’s the sound you make when you gag. Follow it with an “eain”
غ – made with literally gargling on air. You probably do this every day when brushing your teeth and kids do it when they drink to make bubbles in their mouths. End it with “ain”.
ق – while ك is made with pushing your tongue to the roof of your mouth while blocking the air in your throat, this one is made with pulling your tongue down while blocking air. Let the air out from the upper back of your throat. This sound is made in cartoons when a character gulps down a drink.
As a few last tips, one of them would be to listen to the pronunciation of the letters. However, remember not to trust your inner ear for the accuracy of these sounds and just one more reason to download the Arabic app from Kaleela. Its built-in voice recognition system will help you determine how accurate your pronunciation is. Also, don’t forget to read! Learning how to speak by reading gets you used to these letters faster and gives you much less stress than when saying them alone.