Last year as I started working in Riyadh as an Architect in an international firm, I have been asked by my colleagues to teach them Arabic. They were all mostly Europeans like me but I was the only one who speaks Arabic fluently! So, I gave them Arabic lessons twice a week after work. And so I thought that it could be nice to offer some very simple lessons on this blog! So, here we go!
Why learning Arabic?
- When you are living in an Arabic country, learning the language is helpful to understand daily conversation, to learn about the culture and to engage business with local people.
- Arabic is the official language of 22 countries and is spoken by 200 Million people in those countries. it is also the liturgical language of a billion Muslims around the world because it is the language of the Quran, the Holy Book of Islam.
How many letters is there in the Arabic Alphabet?
There are 28 letters in the Arabic language, 25 are consonants and 3 are vowels: ا و ي (y, w, a). Every letter can have a sign almost like the “accent” in french on the e (é). It can give the word a short vowel and change the sound of the letter. It is possible to write a word without those small vowels but I should mention them! (See video below)
You can notice that many letters have the same form but number of dots and their location can make a big difference whether they are above or below a letter. So don’t forget the dots, they are important!
Arabic sentences are read from right to left as well as books. However numbers are read from left to right. Letters are written differently whether it is in the beginning, middle or end of the word. Some letters join with the letter before or/and after and some don’t. By the way, there are no Capital letter in Arabic.
Why does Arabic sound different than any other language?
I think that of the most difficult thing is the pronunciation of some letters because they don’t exist in other languages like the
- خ “Kh” or x – Khaled (A name), Khamis (Thurday)
- ع “Aa” or ʕ – Aarab (Arab), Aaoud (Oud)
- ح “H” or ħ – Habibi (my love), Hadika (Garden)
- ق “Q” or q– Qalam (Pen), Qadim (old)
- ه “h” – Hadiya (Gift), Hatef (Phone)
- غ “gh” or ɣ – Ghaba (forest), Ghayma (cloud)
- ث “th” or θ – thoum (Garlic), Thimar (fruits)
- ذ “dh” or ð – Dhura (Corn), Dhib (Wolf)
- ط “T” or tˤ – Ta-era (plane), Tabib (Doctor)
- ظ “Th” or zˤ – Thifr (nail), Tharf (enveloppe)
- ش “sh” or ʃ – Shajara (tree), Shams (Sun)
- ص “S” or sˤ – ٍSandouk (box), Saker (Eagle)
In this video, you can hear the pronunciation of every letter with the short vowel and how it changes the sound of the letter.
Does all Arabs understand each other?
The Classical Arabic (Fus-ha) is the written language. The Fus-ha is taught in school and it is different from the spoken Arabic.
There are many dialects in the spoken Arabic. Syrian Arabic is almost impossible to understand by Algerian Arabic! Lebanese is very different from Saudi Arabic too! But all Arabs can understand the Classical Arabic!