Frequently Asked Questions on Learning Arabic Language


Note These are frequently asked questions I usually receive (FAQs). It has a growing list of common questions selected from hundreds of visitors and students of Arabic language.

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Info I want to get an Arabic tattoo. Any suggested styles or phrases? Which font should I use?

  • Many ask about getting Arabic tattoo. Click here for my tips and suggestions.
  • Info Are there Arabic letters pronounced as the letters "P", "G" or "V" in English? - Amadou (Senegal)

  • In Arabic there is no letters equivalent to the letter "V", "P" nor the letter "G" (as in "Game") in English, but some languages that use the Arabic alphabets (such as Urdu and Farsi) put three dots under the letter (Ba') which is then pronounced as the "P" in "Pound" and the letter (Jeem) which is then pronounced as in "G" in "game" or over the letter (Fa') which is then pronounced as "V".

  • InfoAre there "capital" and "small" Arabic letters? - Sara (USA)

  • In Arabic there is no such thing as a capital or a small letter. Letters are written in the forms listed in the tutorial only.

  • Info How do you translitrate Arabic words in English characters? When the word starts with a vowel e.g the word "aam" (uncle in Arabic) what symbol would i use to represent it in English? - Johanna (Oxford, UK)

  • When translitrating using English characters and the Arabic word starts with an Arabic letter that is not easily represented in English, such as Hamza or Ain, then the classical way is to use double "A" (aa) to represent the letter "Ain" with Fat-ha [example: "Aam" (uncle in Arabic)] and an apostrophe before the o,u,e,i, etc. to represent the Ain or Hamza in other cases, examples: ('oud : ???), (ra'e' : ???? ).

  • InfoI'm trying to learn how to write in Arabic. I noticed that some letters are written thick and others are fine (and most letters have fine parts and thick parts!). How can I 'draw' the Arabic alphabets correctly?! - Maria Cristina (Brazil)

  • There are many types of styles of writing Arabic (sometimes called "calligraphy"). As mentioned in the tutorial, I used the Naskh (or Nasekh) style as it is the clearest and most common in print. This is the style you will read if you pick up a newspaper almost anywhere in the Arab world (some other countries that use the Arabic fonts in other languages use other writing styles, such as "Ruq'a", "Thuluth" or "Kufi"). This shape of the letters (where in the same letter it is somewhere thick and in another fine) was originally due to the shape of the "pencil" used while writing in ancient times, which gives the writer the ability to be "artistic" while writing the letters. The modern printing machines and software fonts kept the most common style, hence you get this style while writing in Naskh. You don't have to worry about writing it this way as almost no one cares or "draws" the letters this way (other than artists, designers and calligraphers). Just write the Arabic characters as you simply as possible. If you install other fonts on your system you'll notice that the sahpes of the letters in many of the more contemporary ones are uniform all over the letters. Try installing Arabic Tahoma font for example.
    For more advanced information and examples on Arabic scripts and styles of writing try this excellent book: Arabic Script: Styles, Variants, and Calligraphic Adaptations If interested in Naskh (or Nasekh) style specifically. This is a good book to start: Arabic Calligraphy: Naskh Script for Beginners
  • InfoI'm still not sure how to pronounce Hamza? Are there some examples of similar pronounciation in English?! - Niki (USA)

  • Here's what one American visitor suggested (thanks PJ). maybe this will help: The following words in english that might help describe the sound:
    1- Hawai'i Pronounced: Hawa-i (a little pause at the end. That's how the natives say it)
    2- Uh-oh! (as in "Uh-oh, here comes trouble!) 3- I live in the deep south. Country folks say "breakfast" like this: Breh-fus. There is a break between syllables, and the "k"/"t" are both dropped. The break where the "K" is dropped is what's called "lazy english". Start the word, and just as your about to hit the "k", you stop and go to the "f". So, the "k" never makes it out of the back of the throat. Try this: Think about the letter k. what it sounds like. Hear it in your mind. now say it. But before you make a sound stop.
    That's the best I know to describe it. Anyway, try listneing several times to the Hamza Lesson in this tutorial.

  • InfoDoes your tutorial teach "Modern Standard Arabic"? What are other 'forms' of Arabic? Which one should I learn? - Roland (Hong Kong)

  • Yes. This tutorial teaches Modern Standard Arabic. It is a modern simplified version of the classical Arabic. The rules you learn here are exactly the same for all 'forms' of Arabic for reading and writing. In fact, there are no 'forms' of Arabic. There are different dialects for spoken Arabic. Arabic is the official language in 22 countries, spoken as a first language by more than 300 million people and it is the second language in many Islamic countries because it is considered the spiritual language of Islam (we're talking here about more than 1 billion people). This vast geographic, ethnic and cultural diversity created so many dialects of Arabic.

    It is advised to learn the Modern Classic Arabic as it is the form of Arabic closer to the classic and the one used in printing books, media, official and commercial form in every country that has Arabic as an official language. However, if you are interested in merely learning spoken Arabic, then my advice is that you learn the Syrian Colloquial Arabic. It is the closest dialect to the classical Arabic and it is the one of the most common and widely understood dialect in the Arab speaking world. The best way to do it is to immerse yourself in an Arabic course in Syria. Or you can get this book to learn it: "Arabic manual, a colloquial handbook in the Syrian dialect for the use of visitors to Syria and Palestine"
  • InfoWhy are there so many different dialects in Arabic? What are the major ones? Do I need to learn writing the Egyptian dialect, Moroccan dilaect, Syrian dialect or Saudi dialect to be able to write in that form? - Jose (Spain)

  • There are spoken dialects in Arabic. These are not written, they only are spoken, so you don't need to "learn" them. It's true that some spoken words differ vastly from one area to another in the Arabic speaking countries, but it is always written the same classical way. The 4 major forms of Arabic are Levantine or eastern Mediterranean (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine), north African (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Lybia and Mauritania), Nile valley (Egypt and Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Djibuti are also close) and Arabia or Persian Gulf area (Iraq, Saudi, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar). To understand the difference between spoken dialects you can compare it to the different dialects or ways of speaking Spanish in Spain, Mexico and Chile, speaking Portoguese in Portugal and Brazil, or speaking English in the US and Scotland! Fus-ha Arabic (written classical Arabic) is used in every school, newspaper, book, TV news and cartoons in every Arabic speaking country! It is totally understood in every Arabic country.

  • Info I just installed Arabic fonts and Arabic keyboard stickers. However I have the Arabic letters in their original detached form only printed on the keyboard! How do I type the other forms of the letters (in the begining, end and middle of the word)? What about typing "Tashkeel"? - Matthias (Uruguay)

  • The letters on Arabic keyboard are only shown in their detached form only. The software that is compatible with Arabic letters (for example MS Word) would automatically switch the form of the letter to the correct form if it will appear in the beginning, the middle or end of the word while you are typing the word. For example, after you type a space after fininshing typing the word, the software transforms the letter you are typing into its final form, and so on.

    As for Tashkeel (Fat-ha, Dhamma, Kasra and Tanween), they tanween should go on top of the letters. In other word, in whatever software or word processing application you are using, you should type the Arabic letter you want first (for example "Alef" - which usually corresponds with the key "H" on most keyboards systems) and THEN the Tashkeel. The software of application should then automatically put the tashkeel on top of the letter you just typed (or below it if it is a Kasra or "Tanween bil Kasr" - See Lesson 4). In the case of "Shadda" you also type the letter (for example "Seen"), THEN the "Shadda", THEN the Fat-ha, Dhamma, Kasra or Tanween. The software should automatically shape the word in the correct form.

  • Info I noticed that you call the Arabic vowel marks "Tashkeel" or "Haraket". Is there a difference? Are there Arabic websites that I can refer to for practice of Tashkeel? - Gabi (Canada)

  • Vowel marks or Diacritics are called in Tashkeel in most Arabic speaking countries. In some countries they call them Harakat. They are the exact same thing (both are known and correct). Unfortunately, there is a small number of books, let alone websites that use Tashkeel. Mainly Tashkeel is used only in children books, religious books and poetry books. Also old or ancient literature use Tashkeel. Most Arabic literature does not use Tashkeel (with few exceptions) and Arabic is read correctly by convention. I don't think that you'd be able to find Arabic websites that use Tashkeel, other than websites focused on Quran or religious literature. My advice is to get your hands on some Arabic children book or Arabic poetry book for a start! Religous text tend to be really sophisticated and hard for beginners. Try these excellent Arabic Poetry Books

  • Info I'm visually impaired and I am studying Arabic through the internet with the aid of a screen reader (text-to-speach, i.e. the voice machine reads for me letters, words, sentences and entire texts). But specially arabic is not being easy because of the short vowels and pronunciation marks. I have installed all types of Arabic fonts and installed various virtual keyboards and arabic editors softwares. But none of them solved my problem in adding hamza to the letters or vowel marks (tashkeel)? Is there something out there than can help me? - Cássio (Brazil)

  • Arabic requires a more sophisticated and mature text-to-speach software. I recommend a software called Ibsar from Sakhr is designed for the visually impaired in Arabic. Give it a try.Additionally, to be able to write Arabic vowel marks and hamza, your operating system or software need to support it. Try getting your hand on Microsoft Office with Arabic support. This should make your system be able to type Arabic vowel marks and hamza. You would still need an Arabic keyboard (or accurate virtual keyboard) to be able to know where the vowel marks are situated.

  • Info I use instant messengers (MSN, Yahoo or Google talk) or Facebook to communicate with Arabic speaking friends. They sometimes use numbers in their conversations (for example "kul 3am wa anta bi'7eir"). I'm sure the numbers are to be associated with a particular Arabic letter. Which letter each of those numbers represent? And why do they use this method? - Kelly (USA)

  • Numbers were used in the early days of the internet when Arabic characters were not commonly available in every platform or program. They were used as a "chat lingo" to replace Arabic letters that have no equivelants while transliterating Arabic word using Latin characters. They are still commonly used now when one does not have access to Arabic keyboard for example. The numbers where used for the simple fact that they look similar to the Arabic letters they are replacing! This table shows the list of Arabic letters and their equivelent in this "chat lingo":
  • Arabic letters and their "chat lingo" equivelents
    Arabic Letter Pronounced
    Chat Lingo Equivelent
    Ha' H
    Kha' Kh
    '7 / 7'
    Sa'd S
    Dha'd Dh
    '9 / 9'
    Ta' T
    Za' Z
    6' / '6
    Ain' A
    Ghain Gh
    3' / '3
    Qaf Q
    8 / 9
    Hamza U


  • Also you can use the form below which changes any transliterated text into Arabic characters. You can use it to copy and paste the text from your friend's IM or Facebook pages and you should be able to read the whole thing in Arabic, assuming that you can read Arabic by now:

  • Loading Ta3reeb...

    InfoWhere can I practice reading Arabic words? Any recommendations? - Roxana (Bolivia)

  • Here are few words for you to practice reading Arabic. I intentionally left out the most of the Tashkeel so you can see how it is read by convention. Click here to go to the examples page
    Also, for more advanced practice of vocabulary, I recomend this excellent book: Build Your Arabic Vocabulary: 1,000 Key Words to Move Beyond Beginner Arabic. To practice Arabic Verbs, this is a good starting point for the more advanced stage: 501 Arabic Verbs: Fully Conjugated in All Forms

    InfoI have children and I want to teach them Arabic and keep them practicing it. What do you recommend? - Vincenzo (Italy)

  • Other than Arabic children books, watching Arabic cartoons is actually the best way to learn Arabic and keep practicing listening.. even for adults! Arabic cartoons are usually made exclusively in simplified classical Arabic. I highly recommend you get your hands on Arabic cartoons DVDs if you can. Here's somewhere to start searching.

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    . HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OUT OF THIS ARABIC LANGUAGE COURSE? Do you hate huge paper dictionaries as much as I hate them? While learning Arabic or if you are traveling to an Arab country, I highly recommend getting an Arabic language electronic dictionary. I spent some time browsing the Internet looking for a good one. I ended up choosing the Language Teacher by ECTACO. I was really startled by the value! They make dictionaries in more than 20 languages (including Arabic) and in various price categories. I recommend these dictionaries to anyone who intend traveling to Arab countries or wants to learn Arabic on the move. They also make great gifts! You can familiarize yourself with such dictionaries here. Make your time learning Arabic easier - you have no idea how much help you can get from a tiny handheld device. I guarantee you'll be as amazed as I was.

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    Created by Fadi S. ©1999 | |

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    Fadi's Arabic Tutorial. 1999 (Fadi S.)

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