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The Arabic Alphabet

The Arabic Alphabet

There are twenty-eight letters in the Arabic Alphabet. Most letters change their form depending on whether they’re in the beginning, middle or end of the word!

It’s not as confusing as it sounds and in fact, many students think Arabic is easier to learn that English once you master the Alphabet, and that’s why you’re here, isn’t it?
The vowels are written as diacritics (little dots and dashes) above below and between the letters and the numerals, well, we’ll get to the numerals later. For now, let’s focus on the lovely Aleph-Baa!

Arabic Alphabet

Learning the Arabic alphabet is very important because its structure is used in every day conversation. Without it, you will not be able to say words properly even if you know how to write those words. The better you pronounce a letter in a word, the more understood you will be in speaking the Arabic language.

Below is a table showing the Arabic alphabet and how it is pronounced in English, and finally examples of how those letters would sound if you place them in a word.

End of the word Middle of the word Beginning of the word Sound Example

ا‎

ـا‎ ـا‎ ا‎ ʾ / ā ‘a’ as in ‘father’

ب‎

ـب‎ ـبـ‎ بـ‎ b ‘b’ as in ‘bed’

ت‎

ـت‎ ـتـ‎ تـ‎ t ‘t’ as in ‘tent’

ث‎

ـث‎ ـثـ‎ ثـ‎ ‘th’ as in ‘think’

ج‎

ـج‎ ـجـ‎ جـ‎ j ‘j’ as in ‘jam’

ح‎

ـح‎ ـحـ‎ حـ‎ Sharp ‘h’

خ‎

ـخ‎ ـخـ‎ خـ‎ ḫ (kh, x) ‘ch’ as in German ‘Bach’

د‎

ـد‎ ـد‎ د‎ d ‘d’ as in ‘deer’

ذ‎

ـذ‎ ـذ‎ ذ‎ ḏ (dh, ð) ‘th’ as in ‘there’

ر‎

ـر‎ ـر‎ ر‎ r ‘r’ as in ‘run’

ز‎

ـز‎ ـز‎ ز‎ z ‘z’ as in ‘zoo’

س‎

ـس‎ ـسـ‎ سـ‎ s ‘s’ as in ‘sit’

ش‎

ـش‎ ـشـ‎ شـ‎ š (sh) ‘sh’ as in ‘shut’

ص‎

ـص‎ ـصـ‎ صـ‎ ‘s” as in ‘sold’

ض‎

ـض‎ ـضـ‎ ضـ‎ ‘d’ as in ‘bulldozer’

ط‎

ـط‎ ـطـ‎ طـ‎ ‘t’ as in ‘Tazmania’

ظ‎

ـظ‎ ـظـ‎ ظـ‎ ‘th’ as in ‘those’

ع‎

ـع‎ ـعـ‎ عـ‎ ʿ ‘a’ in ‘agh’ when suprised

غ‎

ـغ‎ ـغـ‎ غـ‎ ġ (gh) ‘r’ as in ‘Paris’

ف‎

ـف‎ ـفـ‎ فـ‎ f ‘f’ as in ‘free’

ق‎

ـق‎ ـقـ‎ قـ‎ q ‘q’ as in ‘Qum’

ك‎

ـك‎ ـكـ‎ كـ‎ k ‘k’ as in ‘king’

ل‎

ـل‎ ـلـ‎ لـ‎ l ‘l’ as in ‘lift’

م‎

ـم‎ ـمـ‎ مـ‎ m ‘m’ as in ‘moon’

ن‎

ـن‎ ـنـ‎ نـ‎ n ‘n’ as in ‘net’

ه‎

ـه‎ ـهـ‎ هـ‎ h ‘h’ as in ‘house’

و‎

ـو‎ ـو‎ و‎ w ‘w’ as in ‘wonder’

ي‎

ـي‎ ـيـ‎ يـ‎ y ‘y’ as in ‘yellow’

ء

‘o’ as in ‘oh’.
Top vowel

َ‎

a Sounds like ‘a’ in Alabama
Top vowel

ُ

u Sounds like ‘o’ in Open
Bottom Vowel

ِ‎

i Sounds like ‘I’ in India

The Arabic alphabet is written from right to left. It has no capital letters. (Originally Eurpoean alphabet didn’t have capitals either, the Roman alphabet, from which we got ours, existed out of what we now call capital letters, the Capitalis Quadrata. There was also a handwritten script derived from the Capitalis Quadrata, used by the roman soldiers and merchants. Only during the Middle Ages under Charles the Great, capitals where introduced).

The Arabic script is called a running script. In Latin script there is the option to write the letters separate or attached to each other, In Arabic however you are forced to write most of the letters attached and some not. In Latin script when a word doesn’t fit on a line, you split the word up into syllables and break it on that, in Arabic that is not possible. So instead of braking the word into syllables making the word smaller as to fit on a line they make the word bigger by extending the letter, like so
أنا أكب لك رســـالة مملوء بالحــــــــــــــــــــــــــــب “Ana aktub lak risalatan mamlu’a bil-hhub I write you a letter ful of love. Some Arabic letters are almost impossible to pronounce, like the hh (a hot h as if you are cleaning a mirrors, or like if you eat hot sambal and your throat is on fire) the 3 as if you burb or like in English “I say” with a cracking voice and the q which is pronounced very deep in your throat with your huig. The g is like our Dutch g in Scheveningen. The glottal stop lik in English Co-operation or in Cockney bo’lle is also a letter in Arabic.