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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


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! +)


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!!! +)