The following image shows which letters have an equivalent in the English language. Note that the r differs from the English one; it is a trill like in Spanish and Russian.
Because you know English, you have an advantage that speakers of other Western European Languages don't have:
The rest of the letters have no true English equivalents. Before you learn them they will sound silent, or seem like another letter. We will learn to pronounce and recognize these letters later.
Arabic Letters have tails
The Arabic letters actually have extra parts to them. These parts only written at the end of words, a few of them are optional. Look at the picture, these extra parts have been cut off, and brightened so you can see the important part of each letter. Without the extra parts, and you get what letters look like at the beginning of words.
There were some letters that didn't seem to have any extra parts in the last picture. We boxed these letters in the next picture. Some of them don't. These ones don't connect to letters after them. Connecting them to letters after them would make words very difficult to read, and is not allowed. some of these letters do connect, but don't have tails; the whole shape of the letter changes. These letters are circled.
Arabic letters change shape according to place within a word. Usually this means not writing a tail, because the letter is not at the end of the word. But because Arabetics is meant to be written by hand mainly, there are also other changes so that writing is easier (i.e. shortcuts). Here is an important shortcut, Because the shortcut is always used in handwriting, it has made it's way into Arabic printing. Notice how the hole in the middle and final forms of the letter get covered presumably due to thick ink. This comes from calligraphy, Arabetics has an incredibly rich calligraphic history.
There are also even more shortcuts (mainly ligatures), that we will cover later. Just in case you didn't notice Arabetics is written and read from right to left.
The Arabic alphabet is very focused on representing sounds. Some of the sounds may be hard to distinguish for English speakers. See Arabic sounds and Wikipedia:Arabic Alphabet for more details on sounds.
The alphabet does not have capital letters (letters especially designed for names or certain grammar cases). But the way letters are written does depend on the location of the letter in a word. A letter at the beginning of a word (initial) is often written slightly different from the same letter at the ending of a word (final), or somewhere in between (medial).
The easiest way to learn the language is to try to recognize certain shapes in the letters (like hooks, bows, and points). Based on these shared shapes, the letters can be divided in shape groups. See Arabic alphabet (by group) to learn more on how to tell the written shapes apart, and how to write them.
- Note that 'a' is pronounced as the sound 'a' in 'cat' or the sound 'u' in 'but'.
|Stand-alone||Initial||Medial||Final||Name||Transliteration||Phonetic Value (IPA)|
|ﺀ||أ ؤ إ ئ ٵ ٶ ٸ, etc.||hamza||ʾ / ’||[ʔ]|
|ﺍ||—||ﺎ||ʼalif||ʼ, a, ae||various, including [æː]|
Other Accents:(djīm, gīm)
|j||[ʤ] / [ɡ]|
|ﻅ||ﻇ||ﻈ||ﻆ||ẓāʼ||dhž||[ðˁ] / [zˁ]|
|ﻉ||ﻋ||ﻌ||ﻊ||rħayn||rħ, ʻ||[ʕ] / [ʔˁ]|
Other Accents: (ġhāyn)
|g||[ɣ] / [ʁ]|
Other Accents: (gžāf)
|ﻝ||ﻟ||ﻠ||ﻞ||lām||l||[l], [lˁ] (in Allah only)|
|ﻭ||—||ﻮ||wāw||w, u, o||[w] , [uː]|
|ﻱ||ﻳ||ﻴ||ﻲ||yāʼ||y, i, e||[j] , [iː]|
|ﺓ||—||ﺔ||tāʼ marbūta||(ä),äh,ät||[ɛ̈], [ɛ̈t]|
Each Arabic letter is made up of two parts: a shape, a number of dots. Rules for all writing systems using the Arabetic (writing using Arabic shapes, with dots) system. The following Rules apply.
- Every letter consists of a shape with no dots or some dots.
- The placement (above or below) is important. A shape with a dot underneath is not the same letter as the same shape with a dot above.
- The number of dots is important. A shape with one dot is a different letter than the same shape with a different number of dots.
In Arabic Arabetics, dots can only be above or below the shape, never both at the same time. The way the dots are placed relative to each other, (i.e. diagonally, vertically, in a triangle) does not make different letters.