To people in the United States, the Arabic language might seem like a far cry from being anything near common. That does not stop us from stuffing ourselves silly with pita bread and hummus! However, Arabic is the 5th most common language in the world. The Qur’an, which is the book that all Muslims deem sacred, was written in Classical Arabic. Therefore, Arabic is considered a holy language that unifies all Arabs. If you are beginning to go about learning the Arabic language, or are curious as to what you can expect if you decide to pick it up as a second language, we are going to give you a guided tour on what you can do to making learning the Arabic language as simple as possible. Now, before you reach for another scoop of hummus, let’s take a look at what this colorful and mystic language has to offer!
3 Different Types of Arabic
Before we get into the basics, you will first have to decide which type of Arabic you would like to devote your time to. There are three different types, which are as follows:
Modern Standard Arabic: This is probably the safest option of the classical language to learn, because it is Arabic in its modern form. Modern Standard Arabic is mostly confined to being used in formal and written context. You will see Modern Standard Arabic used in education, literature, newspapers, television and news programs, and in political speeches.
Classical (Qur’anic) Arabic: You will want to learn the classic Qur’anic form of Arabic if your interest lies in Medieval Arabic or Islamic studies. Especially if you are taking classes for these courses, then Classic Arabic will be your best option. This is the Arabic that is used in the text of the Holy Qur’an, as well as a number of Arabic religious, intellectual, and legal texts.
Colloquial Arabic: If your ultimate goal is to immerse yourself in the traditional Arabic culture by living in an Arab region or country, then Colloquial Arabic will be able to meet most of your needs. If you visit an Arab country, you will notice that there are 5 families of dialect and sub dialects pertaining to each country, city, neighborhood, and religion. These dialects are specific to each Arab’s mother tongue.
The Arabic Alphabet
To begin learning Arabic, you are going to want to start off with the Arabic alphabet. If you have not been previously exposed to a script language before, this might seem a bit daunting. However, remember that it is best to learn that alphabet with the script and not just the English translations.
ا ـا ـا ا ʾ / ā ‘a’ as in ‘father’ or ‘fawn’
ب ـب ـبـ بـ b ‘b’ as in ‘bend’ or ‘bed’
ت ـت ـتـ تـ t ‘t’ as in ‘ten’ or ‘tent’
ث ـث ـثـ ثـ ṯ ‘th’ as in ‘think’ or ‘thought’
ج ـج ـجـ جـ j ‘j’ as in ‘jam’ ‘jay’
ح ـح ـحـ حـ ḥ pronounce this letter with a sharp ‘h’ sound
خ ـخ ـخـ خـ ḫ ‘ch’ as in the German pronunciation of ‘Bach’.
د ـد ـد د d ‘d’ as in ‘dear’
ذ ـذ ـذ ذ ḏ ‘th’ as in ‘there’ or ‘them’
ر ـر ـر ر r ‘r’ as in ‘rug’
ز ـز ـز ز z ‘z’ as in ‘zoom’ or ‘zoo’
س ـس ـسـ سـ s ‘s’ as in ‘sat’ or ‘sit’
ش ـش ـشـ شـ š (sh) ‘sh’ as in ‘shirt’
ص ـص ـصـ صـ ṣ ‘s” as in ‘solid’
ض ـض ـضـ ضـ ḍ ‘d’ as in ‘down’
ط ـط ـطـ طـ ṭ ‘t’ as in ‘tart’
ظ ـظ ـظـ ظـ ẓ ‘th’ as in ‘them’
ع ـع ـعـ عـ ʿ ‘a’ in ‘agh’, which is pronounced as if you are surprised.
غ ـغ ـغـ غـ ġ (gh) ‘r’ as in ‘Ferris’
ف ـف ـفـ فـ f ‘f’ as in ‘fret’ or ‘free’
ق ـق ـقـ قـ q ‘q’ as in ‘Queen’
ك ـك ـكـ كـ k ‘k’ as in ‘king’
ل ـل ـلـ لـ l ‘l’ as in ‘light’ or ‘lift’
م ـم ـمـ مـ m ‘m’ as in ‘mom’ or ‘moon’
ن ـن ـنـ نـ n ‘n’ as in ‘nest’
ه ـه ـهـ هـ h ‘h’ as in ‘hour’
و ـو ـو و w ‘w’ as in ‘won’
ي ـي ـيـ يـ y ‘y’ as in ‘yell’ or ‘yellow’
ء ‘o’ as in ‘oh’.
Counting in Arabic
Now that you have your letters down, let’s get those numbers down too! We are give you a simple head start on counting cardinal and ordinal numbers in Arabic.
1 – Wahid
2 – Ithnaan
4 – Arba’a
5 – Khamsa
6 – Sitta
7 – Sab’a
8 – Thamania
9 – Tiss’a
10 – ‘Ashra
1st – Awal
2nd – Thani
3rd – Thalith
4th – Rabe’h
5th – Khamis
6th – Saadiss
7th – Saabe’h
8th – Thaamin
9th – Tasse’h
10th – A’shir
Remember that repetition is vital; so just keep on saying these numbers as much as possible until you get them memorized.
Steps to Learning the Arabic Language
Learn at home: Since the Arabic language may seem a little daunting at first, learning at home might be your best option to getting your feet off the ground. There are plenty of online courses that will help you learn at your own pace and comfort, and will get you past the beginner’s stage.
Classes: If sit down classes are more to your liking, consider enrolling in a night course for the Arabic language. Check with your local community colleges or adult schools to see what they have to offer. However, if you are not in an Arab country (which is likely), in-class courses will probably not give you as much information as you need to take on the language fluently. Again, consider purchasing some text books or going online for some more in-depth material.
Resources: The Arabic dictionary can also be a great tool for helping you learn the language. Simply going through words and memorizing vocabulary can be a great way to practice. Keep in mind that Arabic dictionaries list words in three-letter roots, so give yourself some time to get used to this.
Practice! One of the best things you can do, no matter what language you are learning, is to practice with a native speaker. If you live in a country, city, or town where there are not many Arab speakers, go online! There are plenty of places where you can obtain Arabic pen pals, listen to Arab music, or download podcasts to get a better feel for the language. Remember that if you have a computer, you will always have a good plethora of resources at your disposal.
Fact about the Arabic Language
- The Arabic Script is used be 1/7ths of the World’s population today, such as African and Asian countries.
- Arabic is a Semantic language that is closely related to Hebrew and Aramaic.
- It is written in script and not printed, and reads from left to right.
- Arabic words all begin with a consonant, and followed by a vowel.
Even if you do not have your script writing down yet, keep practicing! Learning Arabic is a process, and the more you practice this international language, the more you will feel at home with speaking its language. So grab a cup of Turkish coffee to get excite your senses, and start learning this beautiful and unique language today!