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Writing Arabic (Audio)

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 part I


The little secret to understand writing Arabic, is thinking of it as handwriting. Just like you connect letters together when you write, so you will connect letters when you write Arabic. Their shapes will change in order to adjust to the writing of other letters, so that it becomes possible to write without lifting the pen up from the paper (of course, when marking the dots, you will have to).
22 of the 28 Arabic letters have 4 variants:

1. Standing alone.
2. As the first letter in a word.
3. Inside the word, between two other letters.
4. As the last letter in a word, joining to the letter in front.

As for the remaining 6, they never join to the following letter, even when they are inside a word. This means that the writer has to lift his pencil, and even if he is inside the same word, the following letter will have to be written as if it was the first in a word. Examples of these odd 6, see 'alif and ww.

                     'a/'u/i/ ('alif)

b (b')

t (t')

th (th')

m (mm)

w/ (ww)

                                                        h (h')


                                                        y/ (y')

Examples and Grammar

yawm- (one) day. This word is made out of three letters, y', ww and mm. But as you see in the Latin transliteration, there is a forth letter coming through: 'a'. This is the short a, unlike the long a, as in 'alif above. In Arabic this is the source of frustration for beginners: Short vowels are not written. That is, there is a way of writing the three short vowels, is small curls above or under the letter it follows, but beyond sometimes religious works, and school books, these are omitted.
The 3 short vowels are: a, u, i. And that's it!
There is a system to how these vowels are used,- Arabic is a very organized language. For now, just settle with learning the sound of each word. That is the best.

'umm- my mother. With this word, you should note the following: The double letters of mm, are not written each by themselves, they are written as one letter. There is a curl to indicate just this, but at this beginner's level, the same rule applies as for the short vowels: Learn the sound for each word.
Note that the suffix of a y', is the straightforward way of indicating "mine", "my", or "of "me". When putting y' at the very end of a word, pronouncing and writing it as one word, you can't go wrong.

wathaba- to jump, to leap This is a verb. Note that it really means "he jumped, he leaped", as masculine singular past, is presented as the core form for a verb.
Arabic verbs are declined stricly according to 1., 2., or 3. person, gender, and singular, dualis (!!!) and plural. But the good news is: Only two tenses: Perfect (past) and Imperfect (now), while Futurum is simply made by adding the prefix "sa-" to the Imperfect form.

tba- to repent. Surprise, surprise! One letter becomes another one!!
One of the more time consuming challenges students of Arabic will have to face, is getting a hold on the many irregularities that occur when one of these 3 letters are found in a verb:

'alif, ww and/or y'
Sometimes they are transformed into one of the others, sometimes they disappear.
But for now: Forget all about it. And save your strength until we get there.

wahaba- to give. Puh! This time, nothing special happened to the ww, but when declining this verb, unpleasant things will become evident.

Writing Arabic (Audio)

part II


As it would become more and more apparent, most Arabic letters have the same shape as one, two or three others, but that dots are used to separate them. Dots in our days, can never be omitted.
This lesson introduces altogether 4 sounds that are unfamiliar to most Western languages. These have one common factor, they are heavily stressed. Special attention should be paid to the cayn, as well as to the ghayn. The former is a new sound to most, and calls for special practice,- few Arabic students do this, unfortunately they leave it as a pausal stop.
Ghayn is not difficult to pronounce when standing alone, but can easily disappear when inside a word.
The t' marbTa belongs to a category of itself: It is more a femine mark, than a letter. In most cases it should not be pronounced, but f.x. when suffixes follow, it is pronounced as a normal t (it is a mixture of the letters h' and t').

j (jm)

h (h') stressed h- always transliterated in bold

kh (kh')

c (cayn)

gh (ghayn)

                                                 [-at] (t' marbta)

                                                            l (lm)

Examples and Grammar

khalaca- to undress.
jacala- become; bring [someone into a state]. Arabic is a very rich language in its vocabulary. This means that expressions can be very clear, or consciously vague. For the student of Arabic, this is a challenge.
This verb is only one out of many different verbs that carry more or less the same meaning. But do not be scared: Most of the different words are true synonyms in normal use of Arabic.
ghalla- crops, produce, yield. Here again, note that double consonants always are written with one letter only. This noun has the feminine mark, which is only pronounced (as a t), if there is a suffix following it.
Very often, when it has nothing to do with human beings, the same noun can indicate two quite different things,- with only the feminine mark as a difference.
Hajj- greater pilgrimage. This is the word for the most central religios act in Islam,- the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Hl- state, situation. Sorry! Here it was again, one letter that is substituted with another. But as you see it was a ww that turned into 'alif, that is one of the long vowels. Normal consonants will only have this thing happening to them, in a very limited number of cases (and you won't need to worry much about that for still a long time).

Writing Arabic (Audio)

part III


Here comes the largest chunk of Arabic letters that only can be written in two variants: Standing alone, following another letter. None of these allows any subsequent letter to join. This involves that the writer will have to lift his pencil up from the paper, and write that subsequent letter as if it was the first in a word.
The last letter, the hamza, is not really a letter, there is no sound to it, and in transcriptions, no Latin letter is used, only an apostrophe. What the hamza indicates is a pausal stop in the pronounciation. No sound, simply a little stop. However, the hamza is no big obstacle for the Arabic student. Few Arabs emphasize the hamza when they speak themselves.

d (dl)

dh (dhl)

r (r')

z (zy)

                                                          f (f')

                                                          q (qf)

                                                          k (kf)

                                                         ' (hamza)

Examples and Grammar

qadhafa- to shoot; throw; ejaculate. Here you see in practice what letters that only can be written in one out of two forms, behave.
fakka- untie; loosen. This has been presented here before double letter written as it was one.
dar'- protection. Here you see the hamza, and how it appears. Note that the hamza can be written in several different ways. In most instances you will see it with a "hamza carrier", that is either 'alif, ww or y' with a hamza floating above this. In this example it appears without, but you will soon enough see plenty of examples of "hamza carriers". This is slightly complicated, but do as you must at this level: Learn by heart, and leave difficult grammer for later.
firaq- teams or farq- difference. This is one of very few words, where short vowels would have been useful. Both these are written in the same way, even if one is plural and the other singular. But you will have to read the real meaning out of the context, and from there remember the correct pronounciation.
ghurfa- room.
zra- to visit. One more of those words where one letter changes to another. You should be getting used to these by now.

Writing Arabic (Audio)

part IV


By now you should be getting a grasp on writing and reading Arabic. The letters presented here are not saddled with special characteristics, differing them from letters in earlier lessons. One little thing perhaps: Note that even if nn is resembling letters like b', t' and th', it is still making up a group of its own: It is drawn with a round loop, when standing alone or as the last letter in a word.
Have you remembered to start practicing on your own? However evident, let us underline: There is no better way of learning to read Arabic than through writing Arabic text on your own.

s (sn)

sh (shn)

s (sd) stressed s, always transliterated as bold s

d (dd) stressed d, always transliterated as bold d

t (t') stressed t, always transliterated as bold t

                                 z (z') stressed z, always transliterated as bold z

                                                               n (nn)

Examples and Grammar

shatt- beach.

danna- being miserly.

nasr- victory. Hey, this is the same as former president of Egypt's name: Nasser. I guess that it is a good name for a ruler of a country.

matr- airport.

      'islm- Islam. One thing here: Note the connection between lm and  'alif. These two letters have a couple of interesting forms of joining together,- not to difficult to grasp, but more on that later.

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