Archive | October, 2012

Studying the Alphabet

9 Oct

Now in week 8 of classes, we have wrapped up the alphabet and I am beginning to feel more comfortable explaining the ins and out of grammar, masculine and feminine, and just exactly how this language works! The alphabet is 28 letters, with only 5 different shapes.

Arabic is a phonetic language, unlike English, so once you’ve mastered the ذ د ط ظ ت ض you should be able to simply sound out the vocab words you learn (To this I ask do they have spelling tests as kids? ; )

There are only 2 tenses, the past & the non-past.

And we’ve discussed how transliteration will help us learn the alphabet, but can become a crutch once the alphabet is mastered.

Studying the alphabet, so many letters sound the same, but you’ll notice almost every letter in the English alphabet is represented. Missing letters: C G P V X Q

There are 4 Characteristics of Arabic to keep in mind as you work through the alphabet:

It is read from left <—– right

It is written in cursive, although there are some non-connecting letters

Each letter has 4 positions in a word, and they vary from print to writing: Final < Medial < Initial < Independent

There are 2 layers of writing: Consonants + long vowels

                                                     +Short vowels, grammar, pronunciation

Learning the alphabet means learning the many ways letters are pronounced, retuning your ears and working your throat muscles in new ways or ways your not use to using as letters, but you make as sounds. The simplest way to understand this is the following example, notice where your tongue is when saying these words: bet   bat   but

While saying bet, your tongue is near the front of your mouth, bat your tongue drops straight down to the middle of your mouth, but your tongue recedes back in your mouth towards your throat. Watch the following video on throat positions and pay attention to how emphatic letters are in position.

Here’s a list of throat positions and sounds you will need to master for speaking Arabic:

Emphatic letters: These letters are VERY important to understand and is needed to hear the difference between similar sounding letters. Emphatic letters are deeper in the back of the throat and they also affect the deepness of letters surrounding them Ex. ت and  ط

Voiced: These letters are crisp and easier for English speakers to understand, have both a sound and pronunciation

Unvoiced: These letters make a sound but almost lack a pronunciation (that we are familiar with)

ح Haa is an unvoiced sound, that is the sound of fogging a glass       ه haa is a voiced H sound just like the English h in ‘hat’

Fogging glass: From deep in throat, but unvoiced in letter sound ح

Hacking: Just like hacking from your throat خ

Constricting air: Controlling how much air gets out, voicing the letter at the same time غ ء ع

Glottal stop: While making a sound deep in throat you stop breifly and start the sound again غ ء ع

Gargle: Throat position while voicing the letter غ

Rolling r: Just like imitating a motorcycle! ر

Stutter: Sound made by the Shadda grammar mark

Silence: Yes! There is even a sound for silence made by the Sukkuun grammar mark

Keep practicing your letters and sounds!

Root and Pattern System

We have also talked about how Arabic is a sestemic language like Hebrew and Farsi. What this means is that all words are based off a root and pattern system. Roots usually have 3 letters to them, and then the pattern follows conjugation that tells who you are talking to (me/him), masculine/feminine properties, and who you are talking about. Once you’ve become familiar with the root and pattern system is will make learning vocab much easier! We will talk more about conjugating verbs and masculine/feminine in future posts. The following is an example of the Root and Pattern system:

Root: H I B   ى ح  ى refer to love, and endearment

I love aaohib أنا أحب

You love (M) tuhib تحب

My boyfriend habibi صديقي

Root: S L M   س ل م  words refer to peace

Peace salam السلام

Islam اسلام

Muslim مسلم

Our goal here, is to reach a point where we are doing literal translation. Many of you know, Arabic is an extremely poetic and beautiful language when you understand it.

Hello assalaamu alaykum السلام عليكم for example actual means to wish peace on one (Remember our S L M   س ل م root!!).

Good morning sabaa al-khayar صباح الخير means the beginning of a great thing. Hopefully after years of learning this is where I will be +)

Here is a great Arabic teaching resource for you all. He has many very helpful videos, I watch them constantly as practice and review