Important things you should know before you start

Essential reading:

The Arabic Language, unlike English, is written from right to left.

Arabic_writing_direction2_

The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters.

Arabic is a phonetic language, it is pronounced exactly like it’s written.

Some Arabic letters represent sounds which have NO English counterparts.

19 of them have counterparts in English but 9 of them don’t. ( ح – خ – ص – ض – ط – ظ – ع – غ– ق )

But luckily, 5 out of those 9 ( ص – ض – ط – ظ – ق ) have 5 Arabic sound-mates  ( س – د – ت – ذ – ك ) and these sound-mates have English counterparts.

In each sound-couple, one represents a soft sound (this one has an English counterpart), while the other has a weird gruff sound.

That leaves us with only 4 letters (ح – خ – ع – غ ) that will sound unfamiliar to you. These letters/sounds scare off a lot of newbies so don’t let them intimidate you.

 

How is Arabic written?

Arabic is a cursive language. Each letter in the word usually connects to the letter before or after (or both).

This leads to three different forms for each letter depending on its position in the word:

Initial form: when the letter comes at the beginning of the word. And it usually connects to the letter after.

Medial form: when the letter comes at the middle of the word. And it usually connects to the letter before and the letter after.

Final form: when the letter comes at the end of the word. And it usually connects to the letter before.

Most of the letters are connectable to both sides. But there are 6 letters that never connect to the letter after (the letter to the left). They are ( أ – د – ذ – ر – ز – و).

All Arabic letters are consonants but there are three letters that also represent long vowels. They are the counterparts of the English vowels A,E and O

Arabic also has short voweling signs known as Al-Tashkeel. These handy little power ups or ‘letter accessories’ change the basic form into a voweled form. It’s really easy.

 

Accents, Diacritics and Tashkeel (all the same thing really!)

The basic Tashkeel are:

Fatha ( َ ): an inclined dash written on top of the letter representing an A sound right after the original sound of the letter.

fatha_arabic_sample

e.g. the letter B with a fatha is Ba.

Note: A letter with fatha might represent two sounds, not only one. A soft sound like Ba in Bad. Or a gruff sound like Ba in Bath

Oh and you may see the word fatha spelled as fat7a in other resources.

Yep, that is the number 7. This number represents the letter ح in fatha فـتـحـة. You will also see the number 3 in 3ayn and 3’ayn. Odd huh? The reason is that some Arabic letters represent sounds which have no English counterparts so numbers are used instead.


Kasra ( ِ ): the same dash but written below the letter representing an E sound right after the original sound of the letter.

kasra_arabic_sample

e.g. the letter B with a kasra is Be.


Damma ( ُ ): a sign that looks like number 9. It’s written on top of the letter representing an O sound right after the original sound of the letter.

damma_arabic_sample

e.g. the letter B with a damma is Bo.


Sokoon ( ْ ): an additional sign that looks like number 0. It’s written on top of the letter representing stillness/silence with no sounds but the original sound of the letter.

sokoon_arabic_sample

e.g. the letter B with sokoon is B.


Sun and Moon Letters

The Arabic Alphabet is divided into two groups called the Sun letters (Shamseyyah) and moon letters (Qamareyyah) based on whether or not they assimilate the letter Lam (ل) of a preceding definite article “al” (ال). An example of a sun letter: al-shams (The sun) is rather pronounced as a-shams while written as al-shams

Well, now you are ready to dive into learning the Arabic language.

 

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