Learning Arabic can be tricky at times, especially with a writing system so complex. To learn the Arabic alphabet, it is equally important to never forget about oral expression!
Arabic letters can seem so different from the Roman alphabet that they can quickly seem indecipherable. That is why learning the phonetics of the letters helps you better memorize the alphabet.
You can write Arabic words with English alphabet by using capital letters and certain letter combinations to represent sounds particular to the Arabic language. For example, you may see an Arabic word written like this: “Sabah al-khayr.” That capital letter H and those double “a’s” are not typo’s–they represent sounds that are not found in the English language. The best way to learn these sounds is by using any audio program allows you to listen to native speakers pronouncing these sounds. This article will attempt to give a verbal description of these sounds and how to pronounce them.
Learning Arabic will require developing certain linguistic competencies:
Your Arabic accent: reading the letters is not enough; students need to learn to pronounce correctly each letter of the Arabic alphabet. To do this, they need to study the tonal qualities of the letters to place them within the context of the language and assimilate them when speaking Arabic.
To know if your pronunciation is correct, students can download smartphone applications that help with Arabic oral skills and with eliminating all traces of your English accent.
Before getting started learning the Arabic alphabet, it is recommended that students classify the letters into precise groups, to help learn them in a logical educational sense.
Variable and non-variable letters: Letters that are pronounced gently and those that are pronounced more emphatically.
Letters that attach from the right and left side, and those that attach from the right, but not to the left.
By making accurate and concise notes about these letter groups, Arabic students can more easily memorize the Arabic alphabet in less than a month!
To be understood in Arabic, you need to recognize and know how to pronounce some distinct sounds that differ from English or do not exist in English at all. The Arabic sound system is not as different from English as you may think.
In the Arabic language, vowels come in both long and short. However, unlike in English, Arabic vowel can sound different depending on the consonants around them; you actually hold a long vowel twice as long as a short vowel.
Some of the Arabic consonants have emphatic or hard versions that are pronounced deeper in the throat. Emphatic consonants can make the vowels around them harder and deeper too.
Basic Arabic script and how to pronounce it
Since it is very important to learn how to pronounce the Arabic alphabet because in everyday conversation its structure is used, without it, you will not be able to say words properly even if you are capable of writing them. The better you pronounce a letter in a word, the more understood you would be in speaking the Arabic language.
Below is showing how to pronounce the Arabic alphabet in English, and examples of how those letters would sound if you placed them in a word.
ا ʾ / ā ‘a’ as in ‘cat’
ب b ‘b’ as in ‘back’
ت t ‘t’ as in ‘table’
ث ṯ ‘th’ as in ‘thank’
ج j ‘j’ as in ‘jam’
ح ḥ Sharp ‘h’
خ ḫ (kh, x) ‘ch’ as in German ‘Bach‘
د d ‘d’ as in ‘door’
ذ ḏ (dh, ð) ‘th’ as in ‘this’
ر r ‘r’ as in ‘room’
ز z ‘z’ as in ‘zipper’
س s ‘s’ as in ‘snake’
ش š (sh) ‘sh’ as in ‘sheep’
ص ṣ ‘s” as in ‘solid’
ض ḍ ‘d’ as in ‘bulldozer’
ط ṭ ‘t’ as in ‘Tazmania’
ظ ẓ ‘th’ as in ‘those’
ع ʿ ‘a’ in ‘agh’ when surprised
غ ġ (gh) ‘r’ as in ‘Paris’
ف f ‘f’ as in ‘flower’
ق q ‘q’ as in ‘Qumran’
ك k ‘k’ as in ‘kitt’
ل l ‘l’ as in ‘lion’
م m ‘m’ as in ‘milk’
ن n ‘n’ as in ‘nest’
هـ h ‘h’ as in ‘home’
و w ‘w’ as in ‘window’
ي y ‘y’ as in ‘yes’
ء ‘o’ as in ‘oh’.
َ a Sounds like ‘a’ in Alabama Top vowel
ُ u Sounds like ‘o’ in Open Top vowel
ِ i Sounds like ‘I’ in India Bottom Vowel
Some difficulties eliminated by practice.
There are numerous learners suffer from mastering Arabic pronunciation even with a teacher and extensive free and restricted listening.
A vital factor is which mother tongue. Arabic has many sounds that make native English speaker may find extremely difficult to pronounce even with repetition and much effort. It is much easier for example for a Hebrew or Urdu speaker, as those languages are closely related to Arabic and share much vocabulary…
The great thing about the Arabic language is its characteristic of being a phonetic language, which means that the way you pronounce any word is exactly the same way of writing it. If you can pronounce correctly along with the vowels, you probably will be able to read Arabic very well. The obstacle which most non-Arabic speakers faced when starting to learn Arabic and their inability to pronounce the Arabic alphabet correctly, once they overcome that obstacle, they are free now to face the others.
To learn and know the Arabic alphabet by heart, it is better to practice reading and re-reading Arabic signs aloud, to develop a sort of melody, since it is easier than normal reading. Learn the letters and sounds that are alike in both Arabic and English. Arabic uses the sounds of some English letters: b, d, f, h, k, l, m, n, s, t, w, and z. As well as Arabic has its own letters that represent the sounds “th” and “sh”, so when you see these letter combinations, say them just like you would in English.