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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).
the 28 Arabic letters have 4 variants:
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
(one) day. This word is made out of three letters, yâ', wâw
and mîm. 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.
my mother. With this word, you should note the following: The
double letters of mîm, 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 yâ', is the straightforward way of indicating
"mine", "my", or "of "me". When
putting yâ' at the very end of a word, pronouncing and writing it
as one word, you can't go wrong.
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.
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.
to repent. Surprise, surprise! One letter becomes another one!!'alif, wâw and/or yâ'Sometimes
they are transformed into one of the others, sometimes they
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:
But for now:
Forget all about it. And save your strength until we get there.
to give. Puh! This time, nothing special happened to the wâw,
but when declining this verb, unpleasant things will become evident.
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.
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
is not difficult to pronounce when standing alone, but can
easily disappear when inside a word.
tâ' marbûTa 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 hâ' and tâ').
h (hâ') stressed h- always transliterated in bold
[-at] (tâ' marbûta)
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
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.
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
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.
greater pilgrimage. This is the word for the most central
religios act in Islam,- the pilgrimage to Mecca.
state, situation. Sorry! Here it was again, one letter that is
substituted with another. But as you see it was a wâw 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
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.
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
to shoot; throw; ejaculate. Here you see in practice what
letters that only can be written in one out of two forms, behave.
untie; loosen. This has been presented here before — double
letter written as it was one.
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, wâw or yâ' 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.
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.
to visit. One more of those words where one letter changes to
another. You should be getting used to these by now.
s (sâd) stressed s, always transliterated as bold s
d (dâd) stressed d, always transliterated as bold d
t (tâ') stressed t, always transliterated as bold t
z (zâ') stressed z, always transliterated as bold z
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
Islam. One thing here: Note the connection between lâm and
These two letters have a couple of interesting forms of joining
together,- not to difficult to grasp, but more on that later.