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Alphabet 1 Edit

Reading back to front Edit

Did you know that Arabic is written right to left?

English letters Arabic letters
d د
aa ا
daa دا

(See? Right to left! How cool is that?)

This means that when you pick up a book or magazine written in Arabic, you should start reading from the back cover — which, of course, is the front!

Aah!! Edit

When Arabic is written using English letters, sometimes there’ll be two vowels in a row.

English letters Arabic letters
daa دا
duu دو
dii دي

This doesn’t mean that there are two vowels in Arabic, but rather that there is one loooong vowel. Yes, Arabic has both short and long vowels! You’ll be learning more about this soon.

Oh, duh Edit

When you see a tiny forward slash above a letter, it means this letter has a short ah sound right after it. We’ll talk more about this later.

English letters Arabic letters
d د
da دَ

Wow, yeah! Edit

Sometimes و = uu (long vowel) and other times و = w.

English letters Arabic letters
zuu زو

BUT

English letters Arabic letters
zaw زَو
wa وَ

Same with the letter ي: sometimes ي = ii (long vowel) and sometimes ي = y.

English letters Arabic letters
zii زي

BUT

English letters Arabic letters
zay زَي
ya يَ

The key is other vowels! If there is a vowel right before or right after و or ي, then they become w and y. Otherwise, they’re just the long vowels uu and ii.

Alphabet 2 Edit

Mighty Morphing Power Letters Edit

In English, letters can change shape, like if they’re uppercase or lowercase. Letters in Arabic change shape, too, based on where they are in comparison to other letters. Look at the shapes of ب b:

Position Arabic letters English letters
Independent ب b
Beginning of word بَر bar
Middle of word جَبَر jabar
End of word رَجَب rajab

Letters can have up to four shapes, though some have fewer than that.

Alphabet 3 Edit

In the beginning... Edit

In the last skill, you learned to recognize some letters (like ب and ج) by themselves and at the beginning of a word.

English letters Arabic letters
Bob بوب
George جورج

Here’s how ب looks in other positions:

Position English letters Arabic letters
Middle kabar كَبَر
End kab كَب

And here’s how ج looks:

Position English letters Arabic letters
Middle kajad كَجَد
End kaj كَج

Exciting!

Letters vs. words Edit

Arabic has 28 letters and several smaller markings (like short vowels) and you’ll be learning all of them in this course! So you need lots of practice with letters at first.

That’s why you’ll go through several lessons on the alphabet and then you’ll get to one with new vocabulary. But don’t worry, there will be more and more vocab as you progress in the course!

Alphabet 4 Edit

The Beautiful Camel Edit

Did you know that vowels in Arabic can be short or long, and that using the wrong one might change the meaning of the word?

Vowel length Arabic letters English letters Meaning
Short جَمَل jamal camel
Long جَمال jamaal beauty

At first, it’ll probably be tricky for you to hear the difference between short and long vowels. It’ll come with practice!

I Have House Edit

Notice that there is no word in Arabic that means a or an.

Word Meaning
بَيت house / a house
جاكيت jacket / a jacket

This isn’t the case for the word the, though...We’ll talk about the later.

Descriptions 1 Edit

In English, when you want to describe a noun with an adjective (like “a pretty house” or “a big door”), you put the adjective (pretty, big) before the noun (house, door).

Have you noticed how it’s the opposite in Arabic?

Phrase Translation
بَيت جَميل a pretty house (literally: “a house pretty”)
باب كَبير a big door (literally: “a door big”)

Descriptions 2 Edit

Duo amazing!

That’s what you’re literally saying in Arabic when you want to say “Duo is amazing!”

That is because most of the time, the words am, is and are simply aren’t expressed in Arabic.

Phrase Translation
جورج سَعيد George is happy (literally: “George happy”)
جودي مِن جوبا Judy is from Juba (literally: “Judy from Juba”)

This fun, right?

Countries 1 Edit

Uh-oh Edit

You already know that the letter ا makes a long aaaaah sound. But it can also do other things!

For example, it can “carry” the tiny letter ء . This letter (called “hamza”) is pronounced like the sound you make between “uh” and “oh” when you say, “uh-oh!”

Words that sound like they start with a vowel in Arabic usually start with hamza first, then the vowel.

Notice that ء can appear in different spots, depending on the vowel it’s written with.

Above the ا

English letters Arabic letters
2a أَ
2u أُ

Below the ا

English letters Arabic letters
2i إِ

What’s the Deal With the 2? Edit

In English, there is no letter that corresponds to ء . Since ء looks like a reversed 2, we write it in English letters using the number 2. Check out these examples from the course:

English letters Arabic letters
2a أَ
2u أُ
2i إِ
2uu أو
2ii إي

We owe this innovation to the texting culture. Because the texting technology was originally based on the English alphabet, Arabic speakers got used to texting in Arabic using English letters. Since there’s no good English letter equivalent of ء, they started using 2.

Omar is... Edit

Th Edit

Read these words out loud:

th version one th version two
three the
moth mother
tooth smooth

Do you notice that the sound of th is different for the words on the left side than it is for the words on the right side?

In Arabic, those two th sounds are actually different letters!

سيث (siith) “Seth” is like the “th” in “three.” We write ث as th in English letters.

ذَكِيّ (dhakiyy) “smart” is like the “th” in “the.” We write ذ as dh in English letters.

Zero vowels Edit

There is a marking in Arabic that tells you when there is no vowel. It looks like a tiny zero:

كَبُر = kabur كَبْر = kabr

See the small zero there in kabr? It’s telling you this word is pronounced kabr. Here are some other examples:

مَسَك = masak مَسْك = mask

جَبَر = jabar جَبْر = jabr

This is at you! (aka you got this) Edit

In English, when you want to talk about things you have or possess, you just say I have a pen. In Arabic, you say this a little differently.

Arabic version Literal translation Meaning
.عِنْد جودي بَيْت at Judy a house Judy has a house.
.عِنْد عُمَر كَراج at Omar a garage Omar has a garage.

Countries 2 Edit

You’ve already learned that when you see أ / إ at the beginning of a word, it’s just pronounced ء. The ا stays silent.

But what about when it’s in the middle or at the end of a word? You might see ء either on the line or on top of other letters. Don’t worry about learning the rules for which happens when — just know that these forms exist and learn how they sound.

Phrases Edit

ع = 3 Edit

Today, you’ll hear a sound that we don’t have in English: ع !

Pronouncing ع can be a bit tricky at first. Some people compare its sound to the sound you make when you yawn, some say it’s the sound you make when you hurt yourself and it hurts real bad — some even say it sounds like a duck.

You can try this: get close to a mirror, open your mouth wide and fog up the mirror with your breath. You should feel how tight your throat gets when you do this. Now, while doing this, say the vowel a as in cat. That’s about the right sound.

Because this letter, when it’s not connected to another letter, looks like a reversed 3, we’ll write it as a 3 in English letters. For example, we write the word عَرَبِيّ as 3arabiyy.

Yaa dude! Edit

In Arabic, you use the word يا (yaa) before addressing someone. You can think of it as an attention getter, kind of like “hey!” but not as informal.

أَهْلاً يا عُمَر!

Hello, Omar.

شُكْراً يا كَري!

Thank you, Carrie.

He is to she what 2anta is to 2anti Edit

In English, when you’re talking about someone, you have to specify their gender with either “he” or “she.” In Arabic, you also specify gender when talking to someone directly.

Feminine Masculine
2anti أَنْتِ = you (female) 2anta أَنْتَ = you (male)
hiyya هِيَّ = she huwwa هُوَّ = he

Descriptions 3 Edit

In Arabic, all nouns and adjectives are either masculine or feminine, even when they don’t refer to people. Feminine nouns and adjectives usually end with the letter ة. This letter sounds like a short a and it can only be found at the end of words.

If an adjective describes a noun, it has to agree with the noun: this means that if the noun is masculine, the adjective is masculine, but if the noun is feminine, then the adjective is feminine.

Masculine Feminine
مُتَرْجِم ذَكِيّ = a smart translator (male) = mutarjim dhakiyy مُتَرْجِمة ذَكِيّة = a smart translator (female) = mutarjima dhakiyya
أُسْتاذ أَمْريكِيّ = an American professor (male) = 2ustaadh 2amriikiyy أُسْتاذة أَمْريكِيّة = an American professor (female) = 2ustaadha 2amriikiyya

You and Me Edit

ghhhhhh Edit

Have you ever gargled? If so, you probably already know how to make the sound of the letter غ. Put some water in your mouth, throw your head back and gargle away! That’s your Arabic homework.

In English, we’ll write غ as gh.

ا = ى

At the end of a word, ا may appear in a different shape: ى. The two alifs (ا and ى) are not interchangeable, so you’ll need to memorize which is used where.

on, on top of = (3alaa) عَلى

Standard Arabic = (al-3arabiyya l-fuSHaa) اَلْعَرَبِيّة الْفُصْحى

Great Britain = (bariiTaanyaa l-kubraa) بَريطانْيا الْكُبْرى

Yes or no? Edit

Have you noticed that questions that start with a question word in English (what, who, why, how, when, etc.) cannot be answered by yes or no, while questions that start with a verb (are you, did we, can she, will they, has he, etc.) require an answer with yes or no?

Why did the duck cross the road?

-Yes ❌

-No ❌

-To prove he wasn’t a chicken! ✅

Did Adam have a belly-button?

-Yes ✅

-No ✅

-At 3PM. ❌

-Because she was smart. ❌

-Through telepathic mind control. ❌

Well, in Arabic, yes/no questions begin with the word هَل (hal). هَل doesn’t have a translation in English — it just means, “hey, I’m a yes/no question!” هَل you ready for this?

University Edit

Ha! Edit

Arabic has so many cool sounds! Like the ح, for example. This is the sound it makes when you get close to a window, open your mouth wide and fog up the window. Try it at home!

Don’t get this new sound mixed up with the other h (ﻫ / ه), the one that sounds like the first letter in the word ‘house’ in English. See if you can hear the difference between the two in today’s exercises. And don’t get discouraged if it’s tricky at first! You’ll get there!

The university is a girl?? Edit

Remember that when an adjective describes a noun, it has to match the gender of the noun — a masculine adjective with a masculine noun, and a feminine adjective with a feminine noun. This is true for all nouns, even those that don’t refer to people!

Masculine Feminine
بَلَد عَرَبِيّ = an Arab country مَدينة عَرَبِيّة = an Arab city
بَيْت جَديد = a new house جامِعة جَديدة = a new university

Are you...? Edit

My uncle is dear Edit

Another cool, new Arabic sound is خ. To make this sound, you need to gargle with water but without the singing. Try to whisper the vowel a as you gargle and you should be making the right sound.

We write خ as kh with English letters.

This is not the same as غ (gh), which is the sound you make when you gargle normally, without whispering.

expensive, dear = (ghaalii) غالي

my mother’s brother = (khaalii) خالي

The Edit

To say the house instead of a house in Arabic, just put the two letters اَلْ (al-) in front of the word بَيْت.

a thing the thing
بَيْت = a house اَلْبَيْت = the house
باب = a door اَلْباب = the door
مَلِكة = a queen اَلْمَلِكة = the queen

You can do this with any noun in Arabic!

Family 1 Edit

Mr T Edit

Ready for a cool new sound? Let’s call it Mr. T. This is a bigger, stronger version of regular t. It’s the sound of the letter ط in Arabic and we write it as capital T in English letters.

How does Mr. T sound different from regular t?

t + a = ta, close to standard American English “tap”

T + a = Ta, close to standard American English “taco”

Listen to the vowels — a vowel that comes after Mr. T sounds farther in the back of the mouth, while one that comes after t sounds closer to the front of the mouth. Some words may sound similar, but if one of them contains regular t and the other Mr. T, they are different words!

to repent = (taab) تاب

to be good, pleasant = (Taab) طاب

Gender is complicated Edit

You’ve seen ة at the end of all feminine nouns so far. However, there are a few nouns that look a little different! These include:

mother = (2umm) أُمّ

sister = (2ukht) أُخْت

daughter / girl = (bint) بِنْت

Oh my! Edit

If you want to say something like This is my house in Arabic, you need to add an extra little ending onto the thing that is mine.

something my something
house = (bayt) بَيْت my house = (baytii) بَيْتي
mother = (2umm) أُمّ my mother = (2ummii) أُمّي

You just add ي at the end of the noun. Now it’s yours! Be careful, though — this only works for words that don’t end in ة.

What's your name? Edit

q, not qu Edit

Another distinct Arabic sound is ق. It’s kind of like the sound k in English, except much deeper in the throat. Practice it and you’ll totally get it!

We write ق as q with English letters.

Iraq = (al-3iraaq) اَلْعِراق

-ak and -ik Edit

Remember how, in order to say my house you just add ي at the end of house? ? Well, to say your house or your son you add ـَك (-ak) when talking to a man and ـِك (-ik) when talking to a woman.

son = (ibn) اِبْن

your son (to a man) = (ibnak) اِبْنَك

your son (to a woman) = (ibnik) اِبْنِك

Family 2 Edit

Mr. T’s little brothers Edit

You already know the difference between regular t and Mr. T — the vowels around Mr. T sound tougher, more serious and grave than they do around regular t. There are actually three more pairs like ط / ت in Arabic.

Another pair is ذ (dh) and ظ (DH) These two letters are similar, but the vowels around DH are further back in the mouth.

warner, herald = (nadhiir) نَذير

equal = (naDHiir) نَظير

ت <- ة ##

If you want to say that a city is my city or your city, something funky happens. Remember, مَدينة (city) ends in ة. You make that ة into ـَت (-at) (!!), and then you add the “my” or “your” endings you already know.

Word With English letters Meaning
مَدينة madiina a city
مَدينَتي madiinaati my city
مَدينَتَك madiinatak your city (to a male)
مَدينَتِك madiinatik your city (to a female)

This doesn’t apply just to “city” but to all nouns that end in ة.

Word With English letters Meaning
جارة jaara a (female) neighbor
جارَتي jaaratii my (female) neighbor
جارَتَك jaaratak your (female) neighbor (to a male)
جارَتِك jaaratik your (female) neighbor (to a female)

What’s whose? Edit

As you know, each Arabic noun is either masculine or feminine, and adjectives have to match that gender.

Masculine noun Feminine noun
The house is pretty = (al-bayt jamiil) اَلْبَيْت جَميل The city is pretty = (al-madiina jamiila) اَلْمَدينة جَميلة

This gender never changes! Since بَيْت is masculine, it remains masculine, even if the person who owns it is a woman. The same is true for feminine nouns.

Person being spoken to Masculine noun Feminine noun
Male Your house is pretty (to a male) = (baytak jamiil) بَيْتَك جَميل Your city is pretty (to a male) = (madiinatak jamiila) مَدينَتَك جَميلة
Female Your house is pretty (to a female) = (baytik jamiil) بَيْتِك جَميل Your city is pretty (to a female) = (madiinatik jamiila) مَدينَتِك جَميلة

A house will always be جَميل and a city will always be جَميلة, regardless of whose it is!

Clothes 1 Edit

ض / د Edit

The new letter ض (Daad) is so important to the Arabic language that Arabs sometimes refer to themselves as أهل الضاد “people of the Daad.” We write it capital D with English letters.

ض is the last of Mr. T’s little brothers. It makes the same sound as د except the vowels around ض are more serious and grave. Here again, it will take practice to distinguish the two, but it’s important that you try!

Arabic version English version Meaning
دَلّ dall to show, guide
ضَلّ Dall to stray

Mr. T's family Edit

You’ve now met all of Mr. T’s relatives. Some resources refer to them as “emphatics.” Here they all are with their non-emphatic equivalents.

Mr. T and relatives, Arabic version Mr. T and relatives, English version Regular letters, Arabic version Regular letters, English version
ط T ت t
ظ DH ذ dh
ص S س s
ض D د d

Remember the letters in the left columns sound like those in the right columns except further back in the mouth.

Have at you! Edit

You probably remember that in order to say “Judy has” in Arabic, you use the word عِنْد “at/to” followed by “Judy.”

Arabic version Literal translation Meaning
.عِنْد جودي بَيْت at Judy a house Judy has a house.

What about “I have” and “you have”? Well, you also use عِنْد. Instead of someone’s name, you add a short ending to عِنْد — the same endings as when you say “my house” or “your house.”

Arabic version Literal translation Meaning
بَيْتي house-my my house
.عِنْدي بَيْت at-me a house I have a house.
-- -- --
بَيْتَك house-your your house (to a man)
.عِنْدَك بَيْت at-you (male) a house You have a house. (to a man)
-- -- --
بَيْتِك house-your your house (to a woman)
.عِنْدِك بَيْت at-you (female) a house You have a house. (to a woman)

I got nothin' Edit

To say “do not have / does not have” with the word you know for possession (عِنْد), all you need to do is add the word لَيْسَ (laysa) in front of it!

“have / has” sentences Translation “do not have / does not have” sentences Translation
.عِنْد جودي بَيْت Judy has a house. .لَيْسَ عِنْد جودي بَيْت Judy does not have a house.
.عِنْدي كَلْب I have a dog. .لَيْسَ عِنْدي كَلْب I do not have a dog
.عِنْدِك وِشاح You have a scarf. (to a woman) .لَيْسَ عِنْدِك وِشاح You do not have a scarf. (to a woman)

The blue (wo)man (adjective) group Edit

So far, every time you’ve seen an adjective describe a feminine noun, this adjective has ended with the letter ة.

مَدينة سورِيّة = a Syrian city اِمْرَأة ذَكِيّة = a smart woman

But some adjectives (especially adjectives that describe color) take a different form in the feminine.

Masculine examples Translation Feminine examples Translation
بَيْت أَزْرَق a blue house مَدينة زَرْقاء a blue city
.اَلْبَيْت أَزْرَق The house is blue. .اَلْمَدينة زَرْقاء The city is blue.

It’s easiest to learn those special feminine adjectives together with the masculine: practice saying “2azraq / zarqaa2” أَزْرَق / زَرْقاء and repeat it until you’re blue in the face!

At home 1 Edit

ص / س Edit

The new letter ص (written capital S with English letters) is another of Mr. T’s little brothers. It contrasts with س in the same way ط contrasts with ت : mostly with vowel sounds that are further in the back of the mouth.

Sam = (saam) سام

to fast = (Saam) صام

Sword or dagger? Edit

One more alif! While regular alif looks more like a sword, dagger alif is a tiny vertical line that sits above a letter, more like a dagger. It only appears in a few really old words in Arabic and it sounds exactly like ا.

this (masculine) = (haadhaa) هٰذا

but, however = (laakinn) لٰكِنّ

God = (allaah) اَلله

Sneaky Al Edit

You know اَلْ means “the.” However, you may have noticed it’s used differently in Arabic than “the” is in English. For example, look at these sentences:

This is a house = (haadhaa bayt) هٰذا بَيْت

This is a city = (haadhihi madiina) هٰذِهِ مَدينة

BUT

this house = (haadha l-bayt) هٰذا اَلْبَيْت

this city = (haadhihi l-madiina) هٰذِهِ اَلْمَدينة

The ONLY difference between “this house” and “This is a house” is اَلْ ! Sneaky, sneaky Al.

In My Bag Edit

There, there Edit

The word هُناك (hunaak) means both “there” and “there is/there are.” So how will you know the difference? It’s easy: word order! When هُناك comes first in a sentence, it means “there is/there are.”

هُناك = there is/are Translation هُناك = there Translation
.هُناك بَيْت There is a house. .اَلْبَيْت هُناك The house is there.
.هُناك وِشاح أَبْيَض There is a white scarf. .اَلْوِشاح هُناك The scarf is there.

There is no spoon Edit

To say “there is no” or “there are no,” simply add the negator لَيْسَ in front of هُناك.

Sentences with “there is/are” Translation Sentences with “there is no” Translation
.هُناك بَيْت There is a house. .لَيْسَ هُناك بَيْت There is no house.
.هُناك وِشاح أَبْيَض There is a white scarf. .لَيْسَ هُناك وِشاح أَبْيَض There is no white scarf.

Office Edit

House of Bob Edit

In English, if Bob has a house, you call it “Bob’s house.”

Possessor + ’s + what they possess

In Arabic, a very common way to express the same thing is called iDaafa. In iDaafa, the order is reversed.

The thing they possess + possessor

English examples Equivalent in Arabic English letters
Bob’s house بَيْت بوب bayt buub
Carrie’s door باب كَري baab karii
the girl’s dog كَلْب اَلْبِنْت kalb al-bint
the boy’s scarf وِشاح اَلْوَلَد wishaaH al-walad

If it helps, you can think of it as “the house of Bob” instead of “Bob’s house.”

Notice how in Arabic, the thing that is possessed never ever gets اَلْ even if the meaning in English is “the house” or “the dog.” It’s just the bare word!

What the ة ?!! Edit

The letter ة is a tricky one. First, it only ever shows up at the end of words. Second, you probably remember that it turns into ـَت (-at) before “my,” “your,” etc.

Arabic examples Pronunciation Meaning
مَدينة madiina a city
مَدينَتي madiinatii my city
-- -- --
جامِعة jaami3a a university
جامِعَتَك jaami3atak your university (to a man)

Here is something else that makes ة tricky: when the first word of an iDaafa (aka the thing that’s possessed) ends in ة, like in مَدينة بوب “the city of Bob” or “Bob’s city,” the spelling of ة doesn’t change but its pronunciation does. Instead of a, it is pronounced -at.

Arabic examples Pronunciation Meaning
مَدينة madiina a city
مَدينة بوب madiinat buub Bob’s city
-- -- --
جامِعة jaami3a a university
جامِعة كَري jaami3at karii Carrie’s university
-- -- --
قِطّة qiTTa a cat
قِطّة اَلْوَلَد qiTTat al-walad the boy’s cat

As in all iDaafas, the first word can’t have اَلْ “the” on it. It’s just the bare noun.

Describing a picture 1 Edit

His and hers Edit

You already know how to say “my” and “your.” But what about “his” or “her”?

For “his,” just add (-hu) ﻪُ at the end of the word. And for “her,” add (-haa) ها instead. It’s that simple.

a (noun) Pronunciation Meaning his (noun) Pronunciation Mean

ing

her (noun) Pronun

ciation

Meaning
مِعْطَف mi3Taf a coat مِعْطَفهُ mi3Tafhu his coat مِعْطَفها mi3Tafhaa her coat
بَيْت bayt a house بَيْتهُ baythu his house بَيْتها baythaa her house

Remember that if the noun ends with ة, it turns into ـَت (-at) before “my,” “your,” “his,” “her,” etc.

a (noun) Pronunciation Meaning his (noun) Pronunciation Mean

ing

her (noun) Pronun

ciation

Meaning
مَدينة madiina a city مَدينَتهُ madiinathu his city مَدينَتها madiinathaa her city
قُبَّعة qubba3a a hat قُبَّعَتهُ qubba3athu his hat قُبَّعَتها qubba3athaa her hat
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