Archive | September, 2012

The Arabic Alphabet الأبجدية

28 Sep

YAY!! Learning the Alphabet الأبجدية!!

Learning a language with a new alphabet and characters requires the speaker to know how to learn to read (for many its something you haven’t really learned in awhile) and transliteration is usually pretty helpful in the first few weeks or months of learning and getting familiar with the language.

Transliteration is the process of phonetically sounding out the sounds the Arabic letters make in the language you already know. Not all English words are phonetic (like dogz or write) but we know the rules and we can understand it in our own terms. Luckily, and this is one of the myths of the difficulty of Arabic, Arabic is a very phonetic language, and typically words sound is how their spelled in Arabic script. Until you have the alphabet down, you will probably need to use transliteration. Once you do have the alphabet down, transliteration becomes a crutch. Leave it behind in your notes of how to pronounce baa ب and you will learn how to really read Arabic.

English                                  Transliteration                           Arabic

Ex. Hello                              assalamu alaykum                    السلام عليكم


There are 4 Positions for each letter to be in: Independent Position, Initial Position, Medial Position, and Final Position. This is because Arabic is a cursive written language and a letter can appear at multiple spots in a word.


There is also variation in handwriting vs. print, and these variations can be very different. So I will do my best to put both the print and handwriting forms while introducing the alphabet, and anywhere else while learning these basics. The ‘Alif Baa‘ textbook sited in the last post is your best source to practice handwritten vs. print script.

REMEMBER: Arabic is read from Left Right 

Sounds and Pronunciation

Frontal Sounds: These are sounds that are produced in the front of the mouth. Think of the English letters like ‘K’ and ‘B’ they are very easily produced and take no effort from the throat

Deep Sounds: These are sounds that are produced deep in the throat and are often (but not always) associated with unvoiced sounds, like the letters ج ح خ

Emphatic Letters: These letters are also pronounced deep in the throat, but they deepen the sounds of surrounding vowels as well.

Voiced Letters: Fully produced sounds

Unvoiced Letters: Letters that only being but don’t really end, until they merge into the next letter like ح

This sound is not like the voiced H in happy, but unvoiced H has no English equivalent its like fogging a glass



Click on the chart below to open in a new window!


How to Learn a New Language, Step 1 Overcome the Intimidation

24 Sep

Now in my 6th week of learning Arabic (1 hour classes, 4 days a week), we are just finishing alphabet! In fact, our first textbook is entirely devoted to learning our  Alif, Baa, Taa’s. Arabic posses many difficulties, but as far as I’ve seen I think the majority of them are rooted in being able to really, I mean really get the alphabet down. Wrapping up the alphabet in our 6th week of classes comes to:

24 total class hours of study

  double that of individual study

Coming to about 70-72 hours of study just to grasp the basics of the Arabic alphabet and grammar. 

“My Arabic Alphabet Song! Alaf Baa Taa Kids الأبجدية العربية”

My Language History

It might be beneficial for me to share my personal history with learning languages, and why as a senior in college I am watching Arabic children’s cartoons nearly everyday of the week. High school Spanish was the first language I studied, I did 2 years (or 1 year of college level) and I did very well. However like most high-school Spanish students, I can’t remember much from “Como se llama?” So that was it, the very extent of me studying languages for a solid 4 1/2 years. My sophomore year in college I studied abroad in Chiang Mai Thailand. It was through my study abroad program that I was required to take a 6 credit semester of intensive Thai ภาษาไทย, about 9 hours a week of language. And if 9 hours wasn’t enough, my roommate who spoke no English and all of my Thai friends were determined to communicate with me and that meant me learning their language…คุณเป็นอย่างไร!

My study abroad experience was life changing, as most study abroad students say and for me this was especially in the political and language worlds. Thailand is a monarchy, where everything from facebook and blogs are censored and speaking against the royal family can be punished by death, LEGALLY. This experience abroad really sparked my interest in politics and especially US politics, which before hadn’t been very captivating to me.

I truly believe the greatest thing about learning Thai, was that it showed me how appreciated it is by other cultures that you at least TRY and not be a self-centered American and that learning another language is more intimidating than anything. Once I got beyond the fact that yes, I can pronounce a tonal language properly and was even complimented on my accent once… I believed in myself as a speaker of a language other then my own. For these reasons I am now learning Arabic, and hoping to continue with it post-University graduation.

There are multiple ways a language is learned and taught.

I studied Thai the way we all learn our first language as a child. Our Ajan (Professor) first taught us conversational phrases and vocabulary. Once we had a decent foundationin speaking, we began to learn how to read and write the thai alphabet.

In Arabic class we are learning the language backwards, we are starting first with the alphabet with very few conversational phrases and vocabulary words.

I find this very interesting and I have been trying to analyze which is an easier way to learn a language: Does it depend on context? In the spoken country vs a class room in the Midwest. Does it depend on the language that is being learned?

This is an intersting video about the myths of Arabic and an introduction to the Semitic root-and-pattern system. Really interesting!!!!

“Myths and Facts about the Arabic language”

Quick facts from the video:

+325 Million Native Speakers and 1 Billion Muslims

+There is Classical Arabic used in the Koran & MSA or Modern Standard Arabic, although there are dozens of dialects spoken in the Arab world

+MSA is what is used in Media across the Arab world, although the Egyptian dialect is most commonly used for entertainment like movies and soap opera

+Alphabet has 28 letters and is written in cursive form right to left. Of these 28 letters there are only 5 shapes

+Vocabulary is based mostly off a Semitic root-and-pattern system (like Hebrew). S-L-M is the root letters for Peace, like Islam and Muslim.

+Only 2 tenses: Past and Non-Past

Here are the textbooks we are using in class

Our professor also recommended us to get a journal to keep all our vocab in. Your journal can be arranged alphabetically or thematically, I chose by theme because I will be getting an Arabic dictionary and it makes more sense to me for various situations.

And I finally figured out how to attach a link! From now on just click on a photo to get to the link and it will show up in a separate page! +)


Update: Protests and Rage Spread Across Arab World into Global Muslim Communities

24 Sep

Iran protests 2012

Anti-American Protests in Iran

Its been about 12 days since I last wrote about the protests, many evolving into full on riots with death tolls in the Middle East over the anti-Islamic film “The Innocence of Muslims”. Unfortunately since that post developments have not been positive and they are continuing today, nearly 2 weeks since they began, with 21 people dead in Pakistan so far.

From Libya to Egypt the protests spread throughout most of the Middle East and spread to Muslim communities across the world. In the spread of the protests other countries embassy’s were targeted as well, as other anti-Islamic groups in parts of Europe continued to re-translate the film into multiple languages including German and French.

Here is the most comprehensive list I could make of places the protests took place, sourced from the hours and hours of news I watched on the events as they were taking place:

Pakistan police protect the US Embassay

Middle East:

Egypt- Cario: Among the first protest cities

Libya- Benghazi: Among the first protest cities

Yemen- Saana


Tunisia- Tunis

Lebannon- Tripoli, Baalbek, & Beirut: Government has supported quiet protests

Afghanistan- Jalalabad, Kabul & Ghanzi: Mostly quiet protests

Israel/Palestine- Jerusalem

Pakistan- Mardan, Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar: Protests in Mardan reached between 60-70,000 people. So far 21 have died at the governement supported “quiet” protests

Jordan- Ahman


Iraq- Basra

Anti-American rally in Pakistan, where 21 have died so far fro the government supported protests

Protests in Lebannon have also been supported by the government.

Other parts of Africa:

Sudan- Khartoum: Attacks on US, UK, and German Embassy’s in the capitol. Among the first to target embassies other than the US.


Protests in Khartom, Sudan where the US, German, and British emabassys were all sacked

Other worldwide Muslim communities:

S. India- Chennai

Kashmir (Indian controlled)- Srinagar

Indonesia- Jakarta, Surabaya,  Medan, & Makassar


Malaysia- Kuala Lumpur: Quite protest outside US embassy of around 200 protestors

Bangledash- Dhaka

Sri Lanka- Colombo

Germany- Freiburg: Where the film was translate to Duestch and handed out at mosques

Norway- Oslo

England- London: Protests outside US, French, and multiple other embassays

Muslim protesters burn an American flag during a protest against an anti-Islam film produced in the United States in Makassar, South Sulawesi province, Indonesia, Friday, Sept, 21, 2012. The U.S. has closed its diplomatic missions across Indonesia due to continuing demonstrations over the film "Innocence of Muslims," which denigrates the Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Abbas Sandji)

Burning of American flag in Makassar, Indonesia.

Muslims protesting in Britain outside the French Embassay protests and riots across the world, causing unammountable damage, 51 recorded deaths so far, and yet another wedge between Western and Muslim relations have all been cause by an ignorant film. “The Innocence of Muslims” is garabage, to put it ever so simply and I am so disheartened that so many Muslim’s are upset and in the process a growing hate for America and Americans has gotten stronger. The man believed to be the filmmaker is the Egyptian-American Nakoula Basseley Nakoula aka Sam Bacile. Since Nakoula has been taken in to be questions by the feds, and according to the actors in the film he is an Egyptian Coptic Christian. [There has long been conflict issues between Egyptian Muslims and Coptic’s, who make up 10% of the population]. Since the films release the Coptic church has revered the film and condones anyone in the church from supporting the film. For many Coptic’s there was concern a backlash would be targeted to them. Since Pakistan’s minister has put out a $100,000 bounty for Nakoula, although Pakistan as a whole has rejected this.

This film has obviously disturbed Muslim’s across the world, and Muslim leaders are not exempt form this. Pakistan and Lebanon have both supported peaceful protests against the film. In US response there has been 10 ads bought to be put up in NYC subway stations that call Muslims terrible things which I wont repeat. How are leaders in nations across the world responding to this?

Barack Obama:

“The United States of America will never retreat from the world. We will never stop working for the dignity and freedom that every (person) deserves. … That’s the essence of American leadership. … That was their work in Benghazi, and that is the work we will carry on.”

Hizbut Tahir Indonesia:

A prominent cleric in Indonesia urged Muslims there to remain calm despite their anger about the film. But Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, a branch of the international network that advocates a worldwide Islamic state, on its website blamed the U.S. government for allowing the film to be produced and released, calling it “an act of barbarism that cannot go unpunished.”

CNN Channel 9/14/21012 11:06am

Lebanon Secretary General Sayyed Hassen Nasrallah:

“We call for protests tomorrow in the southern suburbs (of Beirut) at 5 o’clock,” Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech. “Muslims and Christians must remain vigilant in order to refrain from sliding towards strife. Those responsible for the film, starting with the U.S., must be held accountable.”

Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur:

“This is not acceptable to the Libyan people; this is not acceptable to our values. We are taking this very, very seriously.”

Libya’s ruling General National Congress, Mohammed Al-Megaryef:

“We apologize to the U.S., to the American people and to the government and also to the rest of the world for what happened yesterday. And at the same time, we expect the world to cooperate with us to confront to what is meant out of this kind of act of cowardice,” al-Megaryef said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki

He urged a “quarantine” of “the racists” (behind the clip) in order to “stop them from spreading … their dangerous thoughts.” He then said that people should “refrain from resorting to violence and exercise the principles of Islam and its civilized values.”

Many leaders have made comments along the lines of:

US’s policy of free speech does not make it OK for someone to make a film against all Muslims

So I leave on a final thought:

An American can say what every they want under free speech, but should they be held reposibles for how people react?


Source 1

Source 2

Source 3

Soruce 4

Source 5

Source 6

Update: Egypt and Libya Protests Linked to Pro-al-Qaeda group

12 Sep

As the news continues to cover the Egyptian and Libyan protests, specialists have drawn closer to the conclusion the the attacks in Libya specifically were not only planned, but linked to a Pro-al-Qaeda group.

The deaths have reached a rumored 14, 10 Libyans while providing security for the Embassy, 1 Ambassador Chris Stevens and 3 Embassy staffers. The Ambassador Chris Stevens was the first to be killed in the line of duty in 33 years. Below is a link to a video discussing those who believed so much in peaceful relationships they devoted their lives to the cause.

Click image for link

Today Libyans in Benghazi responded to the 9/11 protests, offering their condolences to the US and the families of those killed. With signs saying:

  “This is not the behavior of our Islam and Profit” 


What I ask of all Americans, is that we offer Libyans and Egyptians the same respect they are offering us on the behalf of our ignorant film-makers, and their raging radicals. Lets move forward together and not let the actions of the two hateful groups of people on both sides drag us all into their misery.


Image Sources

Current: Uproar in Egypt and Libya over anti-Islamic film, American diplomats targets of rage

12 Sep

Seeing EASky is being made to help better understand Arabic and Middle Eastern cultures, discussing US-Middle Eastern relations seems the obvious thing to do. For me personally our relations is what intrigued me with Middle Eastern culture in the first place. Breaking out on Sept. 11, 2012, was an uproar of anger from protesters in Egypt and Libya over an anti-Islamic film that was made in the US. This film, which I have not yet seeked out to watch, belittles the Prophet Muhammad and has enraged Muslims in the region. What the US State Department fears is that this anger, and backlash (at the wrong people) will spread throughout the Middle East and to other Muslim populations.

Its been reported that one American diplomat was killed as protesters in Benghazi, Libya scaled the walls of the embassy where shots and explosives were set off, among the protesters were a radical Islamic group Ansar al-Sharia. Guns, rocket propelled grenades, looting, and lastly a fire that destroyed most of the consulate after the 3 hour protest and ambush. In the height of the ambush in Cario Egypt, the American flag was taken down, and replaced by a black Islamic flag.  The irony of these attacks and the 11th anniversary of 9/11,  for some depends on if these protests were or were not coordinated.

My thoughts, starting with the attack of the US Embassy, is that it a true shame and sign of disrespect. Not only that Americans were attacked and one murdered, but that they were diplomats. Now I understand that as diplomats they are representative of the US, but as diplomats they are interested in peace. Personally I don’t think any Embassy in any country should ever be attack, I see them as one of the few political reminders (after the wars, arguments over oil, blame, cultural misunderstandings and disputes) that we as humans do hope for peace someday. Every country and every person is on this Earth, and as of the 21st Century there isn’t the moon to opt-out quite yet. As diplomats are representative of the US, this anti-Islamic garbage that was made by an ignorant and intolerant group of people within the US is NOT. What is unfortunate, is that the very consulates that were threatened, attacked, and one murdered, is that they are perhaps the most tolerant Americans as they are willing to live in a foreign country, culture, and language for the sake of good will.

With the attacks aimed at the nearest Americans and symbol of US culture and politics, I want to know why this film was perceived as an American ideal rather then a group of peoples ignorant opinion. What exactly did this film say or portray about Americans? Parts of it were translated into Arabic and posted on Youtube, which is how the message was received in Egypt and Libya. On Youtube I once came across a VERY offensive video about the “Alarming spread of Islam”, if the video wasn’t offensive enough the comments posted below supporting the video were just disgusting. Have people seen similar comments on the particular anti-Islam video in question?

A topic I will later devote an entire post to, is how this is being understand and acted on in the US. Are people especially mad because of the salt in the would of 9/11? How do Americans understand the actions and reactions of the Middle East. To be frank, some Americans have a foul stereotype of bomb throwing men in the desert. Reading how this news was presented by CNN and Huffingtonpost, there are phrases both appropriate to the situation and ones questionable. It seems that Middle Eastern news coverage and media has developed certain vocabulary and phrases, that seem to be especially attached and exclusive to Middle Eastern events. The Huffingtonpost article mentions “bombs going off” and “ultraconservative Muslims”. As I said some appropriate, some also questionable..Read the article for yourself and see if you can find any examples. HUffingtonpost’s article seemed more interpretive, and I found CNNs more report-ive, as it talks mostly about what Hillary Clinton said and the State Dept’s next actions.

Lastly, I am curious how this film and the events of today mean for future cooperation from Egypt and Libya, especially with leaders of both countries having been taken out of position. Will this sentiment towards Americans dissipate? Will Americans sentiment grow with anger?

This national breaking news is sure to have political correspondents running and debating for the days to come. My hopes are that this remains an isolated, terrible misdirection. Apologies be made, and arriving at an understanding on both sides.



Beautiful Arab WordPress’

7 Sep

As I’ve mentioned, I am still new to this whole blogging and WordPress thing. I’m still learning how to navigate the website as a whole and especially struggling to figure out how my posts are organized!! Well during my most recent venture around the site I stumbled into a few WordPress’ addressing Arab issues, many of them travel blogs. I’m under the impression there is a a way to “follow” a blog, but that is another day…. Until then I’m posting links to what I’ve found here, and will continuously add more as I find them!

All credit to the authors and photographers of these blogs, Enjoy!

“Glimpses of Iran”


A well done travel blog. This link goes directly to her Africa section,

including Morroco, Egypt, Tunisia


Blog with a focus on spreading Islam and learning Arabic.

As learning Arabic is inextricably linked to understanding Islam, this blog will help understand both.


A blog written by a student learning Arabic in Jordan


Blog by traveler in Egypt


Syrian cooking blog by my Ustaddah!!! +)


Why Arabic is Important to Me, to You.

5 Sep

Thus far, I am in my third week of learning Arabic with Ustaadha Grinwa/Professor Grinwa. The first few days were intimidating, and there were moments I questioned if I would ever be able to distinguish a single word of the ah- ha- lal- khak heavy language. Yet here I am, my third week in and still infatuated with one of the oldest languages in the world and trying to at least attain the basics. But if you’ve studied a foreign language [outside of high school], you know after the basics you just want to keep going..


As I mentioned, Arabic is one of the very oldest languages in the world and has rapidly spread over the last half a century, with more speakers then it’s ever had before. Arabic is important to its 300+ million native speakers, and its people and influence has become a central topic in today’s American population, culture, politics, and economy. Arabic is important to you. Although often taken for-granted, many aspects of your daily life are centered around the politics and products of Arab nations and you encounter these aspects via friends, classmates, military, the news, this year’s 2012 election, and every time you fill your gas tank.

Arabic’s native speakers extend across 20+ countries that use Arabic as their main language of communication, education, entertainment, and of course the Islam religion. With the spread of Islam between 500-600 bce across north Africa- trickling down the continent, crossing to South East Asia, up into Europe, and scattered across the Americas via travelers and refugees, there are Muslim populations the world over. With this spread of Islam came a spread in Arabic and a change in the Arabic alphabet so more Muslims could read the Qur’an. The majority populations in Chinese speaking Malaysia, Southern Thailand’s native Thai Speakers, the Gambia’s Mandinka and numerous other languages, have all adopted Arabic as a second tongue as a result of Islam. Expanding Arab Sky’s next post will look further into the geography of Arabic and Muslim populations in the Middle East, the U.S. and across the world.

As global citizens, its important understand the diverse populations, languages, and religions as the world. As an American, Middle Eastern and U.S. relations have become more important over the last 30-40 years starting with the 1973 oil crisis and exponentially throughout my 22 year life time. My country has been involved in numerous wars, freedom operations (true underlying motives to be debated later..), dethroning of political leaders and terrorists, asylum for hundreds of thousands of refugees, lives lost on both innocent civilian and US and other military sides, oil crises, the overwhelming Arab Spring, foreign policies, and an immeasurable billions and TRILLIONS of dollars in foreign aid.

 Hamed Jafarnejad/AFP/Getty Images

1. Obama at a press conference in his first 100 days a President, addressing concerns of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

2. Iranian Naval leader showing how easy it would be to close off the Strait of Hormuz and cut the U.S. off from all oil.

The following source provides information on where our $50 billion in foreign aid will be going in 2013. Of the top 10 countries, 6 are Arab speaking countries and part of the Arab League.


For the sake of global communication and international relations, it is last that as an Anthropology student I point out the importance of cultural and religious understanding (so inevitably connected especially in the Middle East) by Americans and other countries around the world. Cultural relativism is going to be Expanding Arab Sky’s- EASs basis for each post, trying to convey all information about the Arab world on its own terms free of judgment or comparisons to the American way of life. There is not right or wrong in Culture, just how it is experienced by natives and how it is perceived by countries like the US looking in.

Finally, two beautiful cartoons on cultural relativism

        Cartoon #48, Cultural Relativism in Classroom