Introduction Grammar Conjugation Vocabulary Links

Introduction:

The Arabic alphabet contains a total of 28 letters that are combined to form Arabic words written in a cursive style from right to left. In this chapter, we’ll talk about each letter separately starting from the first to the 28th. Consequently, you’ll be able to recognize the shape and practice the pronunciation of every single letter in an easy and organized way. Remember always to take your time and concentrate with the shapes and sounds for an efficient learning.

Getting started:

Knowing the abovementioned offers you the readiness to start surfing through the world of Arabic alphabet. Note that the shape you’ll see for each letter is the isolated one used at the end of the word. Those shapes are usually used to define the Arabic letters; you’ll learn the other shapes by the section 2.

1st letter: Alif (ا)

This is the very first Arabic letter. Written as above, this letter is a vowel  that plays a similar role to the English A's in the word “man”. However when having a special character called  “hamzah” above or under  it, it transforms into a consonant. We’ll see about that later. All you’re required to do now is to remember its shape and practice its pronunciation.

 

 

 

 

2nd letter: Ba’a(ب)

This is the second Arabic letter and its first permanent consonant, its pronunciation is identical to the English B’s. As you can notice perceiving the written form of this letter above, there’s a dot below it. Contrary to English that comprises only two dotted letters, Arabic contains many, and so, the number as well as the position of dots in Arabic are very important, since those two parameters represent the only difference between some letters. Retain well the shape of this letter and remember that it has one dot below and listen to its pronunciation by an Arabic native speaker:

 

 

 

 

3rd letter: Ta’a (ت)

You can refer to this letter as the English soft T, as the one the word “ten” starts with. This letter is an early example for you to comprehend the importance of dots in Arabic that we just mentioned few lines above. To do so, simply compare the shape of this letter to that of the previous one: they’re identical, except that the first has two dots above while the second has one below. Hence, the number and the position of dots are extremely deterministic. You’ve already saved the shape of this letter to your photographic memory, all you need to do now is to remember that it has two dots above and to listen and practice its pronunciation:

 

4th letter: tha’a (ث)

This is your fourth letter and third permanent consonant. The pronunciation of this letter is identical to that of the English combination “th” in the word “thunder”.  As for the shape, it’s still a matter of dots, this letter is written identically to the previous two, but with three dots above. Take your time in listening to the Arabic native speaker and practice:

 

5th letter: jeem (ج)

Concerning the form of this letter, a dot is again present. Store it to your memory with a note: it has one dot below. This letter sounds no different than the English “j”:

 

6th letter: (ح)

This is your sixth letter, fifth permanent consonant and first new sound, since there’s no English letter that sounds similarly nor even closely. This letter looks like the letter that precedes it, and again, it’s only the dots that bring the difference: contrary to the “jeem” that has one dot below, this one has no dots. As for the pronunciation, kindly listen carefully to the Arabic speaker and practice:

 

7th letter: (خ)

The seventh Arabic letter’s pronunciation presents, as it’s the case for the previous letter’s, a new sound for an English speaker:

To practice writing this letter, simply write the previous one and give it a dot above.

 

8th letter: dal (د)

The English D’s pronunciation is not different than this letter’s:

This letter’s written form contains no dots.

 

9th letter: thal (ذ)

English speakers are familiar with the pronunciation of this very letter since it’s similar to the “th” combination’s in the word “the”:

This letter is soft; you’ll know later another letter which is reserved to the hard pronunciation of the same sound. This letter is written following the same shape as its predecessor, with one dot above.

 

10th letter: Ra’a (ر)

In fact, the English R’s pronunciation is only a simulated approximation to this letter’s. The Arabic R is rolled, being very similar to that one spoken in east-European countries. The Arabic native speaker will help you to practice it:

When you write this letter, make sure your writing doesn’t contain any dot.

 

11th letter: Zay (ز)

This letter and the previous one have the same form. However, one dot above the first allows you to distinguish it from the second. An English native speaker may pronounce this letter with no difficulties, being already familiar with the English Z’s sound:

 

12th letter: Seen (س)

You can describe this letter as the English soft S, as the one at the beginning of the word “sell”:

Make sure that you retain this letter’s shape well, and practice if necessary.

 

13th letter: Sheen (ش)

As you can notice looking at the shape of this letter, the latter is written in a similar way to that the previous letter is written according to. Once again, the dots play a crucial role: three dots above this letter differentiate it from the letter “seen”. The pronunciation of this letter corresponds to that of the English combination “sh” in the word “sharp”:

 

14th letter: Sad (ص)

This letter represents the hard version of the English S, such as the S at the beginning of the word “son” or at the end of the word “bus”. Listen to the Arabic native speaker pronouncing it:

Get familiar to the shape of this letter and remember that it has no dots.

 

15th letter: (ض)

This letter is characteristic to the Arabic language, since there’s no other language that contains among its alphabet a letter that sounds similarly, hence, Arabic is often known as: The language of ض. Listen carefully to the Arabic native speaker and practice:

One dot above this letter distinguishes it from the 14th Arabic letter Sad (ص)

 

16th letter: Ta’a (hard) (ط)

This letter is reserved for the situations where the pronunciation is equivalent to a hard English T, as the T the word “tall” begins with:

Don’t forget to take your time in retaining the shape of this letter and practicing writing it.

 

17th letter: Tha’a (hard) (ظ)

This letter sounds like a hard English “th” combination, as the one the word “mother” comprises. Learn more about the pronunciation of this very letter by listening to it spoken by an Arabic speaker:

To practice writing this letter, you don’t need much effort as long as you’ve already learned how to write the previous one. Just add a dot above the latter and it’ll change into the current.

 

18th letter: (ع)

Listen to the pronunciation of this letter:

Indeed, this presents another new sound for you, practice it well. Don’t forget to practice writing this letter before you pass to the next.

 

19th letter: (غ)

For an English speaker, this letter, also, features a new sound:

This pronunciation is identical to the French R’s. The shape of the previous letter and that of this one are identical, except that the second has one dot above while the first is dotless.

 

20th letter: fa’a (ف)

An English native speaker is able to easily pronounce this letter, being already familiar to the English F:

Spend few minutes in practicing how to write this letter before you start with the next one. This letter has one dot above.

 

21st letter: (ق)

Listen carefully to an Arabic speaker pronouncing this letter:

There’s no letter in English that sounds similarly, therefore, this is another new sound for you. As for the shape, this letter is not exactly similar to the previous one even without dots when written at the end of a word, since the first goes under the line while the second doesn’t. However, when written at the beginning or the middle of the word, those two letters are quite similar, and again, we refer to the number of dots to distinguish between them. You can easily notice that this letter has two dots above while the previous one has only one at the same position.

 

22nd letter: kaf (ك)

This letter has no dots. However, when it’s written at the end of the word, a “hamzah” is present above it.  We’ll talk about “hamzah” later, in the 4th section. Concerning the pronunciation, this letter sounds simply as the English K does:

 

23rd letter: lam (ل)

This letter is also dotless. Its pronunciation is as easy as it is for an English L:

 

24th letter: meem (م)

This letter is equivalent to the English M:

 

25th letter: noon (ن)

You may wonder why this letter has one dot above while there’s no letter that looks like it. In fact, when written at the beginning or the middle of the word, this letter, the 2nd letter “ba’a”, the 3rd “ta’a” and the 4th “tha’a” look all the same, hence, the dot above this letter distinguishes it from the abovementioned three letters (between which you already know how to distinguish thanks to dots) in the abovementioned positions. The pronunciation of this letter is similar to that of the English N:

 

26th letter: ha’a (ه)

This letter sounds as the English H in the word “hide” does:

 

27th letter: waw (و)

This is the Arabic second vowel and it plays a similar role to that played by the English “double O” in the word “moon”. However, this letter could easily transform into a consonant. This happens when the Arabic 27th letter carries a “hamzah” or when a diacritic appears above or below it, the cases that we’ll discuss with details through the 3rd and the 4th chapters. Listen to the pronunciation of this letter and practice:

 

28th letter: ya’a (ي)

This is the Arabic third vowel that plays a similar role to the English EE’s in the word “deep”. As it’s the case for the “waw”, this letter becomes a consonant when a “hamzah” and/or a diacritic accompany it. As for the two dots below it, these distinguish it from the second letter “ba’a”, the third “ta’a”, the fourth “tha’a” and the 25th “noon” when any of them is written at the very beginning or the middle of a given word. Listen to the very last Arabic letter as pronounced by a native speaker:

 

Conclusion:

This is the end of this section. You obviously realized, going through it, how important it is not to skip it, an importance we referred to at the very beginning. Reading and listening to the content of this section over and over is equally indispensable since, by doing so, you’ll learn little by little the new sounds and link them to their shapes. Remember to focus every time on the new sounds, the shapes and the importance of dots. Table 1 is a very useful tool since it summarizes this section, thanks to it you’ll be able to master the Arabic alphabet’s sounds and shapes.

 

Number

Letter

English equivalent sound

pronunciation

1

ا

A in “have” when vowel, and A in “at”, O in “on” or I in “if” when consonant.

 

2

ب

B

 

3

ت

T in “two” (Soft)

 

4

ث

Th in “thin”

 

5

ج

J

 

6

ح

Not available

 

7

خ

Not available

 

8

د

D

 

9

ذ

Th in “this” (Soft)

 

10

ر

Rolled R

 

11

ز

Z

 

12

س

S in “send” (Soft)

 

13

ش

Sh in “Shall”

 

14

ص

S in “south” (Hard)

 

15

ض

Not available

 

16

ط

T in “town” (Hard)

 

17

ظ

Th in “brother” (Hard)

 

18

ع

Not available

 

19

غ

Not available

 

20

ف

F

 

21

ق

Not available

 

22

ك

K

 

23

ل

L

 

24

م

M

 

25

ن

N

 

26

ه

H in “hair”

 

27

و

OO when vowel and W when consonant

 

28

ي

EE when vowel and Y when consonant

 

Table 1