The Arabic Alphabet

red: sound of the letter in English

blue: name of the letter in Arabic

REMEMBER: Arabic is read from RIGHT TO LEFT, so the order of the alphabet is alif, baa, taa, thaa, jeem, Haa, khaa, dal, thal, etc.

Explanation follows at the bottom for letters: H, kh, S, D, T, TH, ', gh, q, which do not occur in English. The r is rolled like in Russian and Spanish.

NOTE: Arabic letters generally exist in groups of similar looking letters. It is the dots above and below that differentiate them!

There are only 30 letters in Arabic, and no upper or lower case!

no equivalent in English: H, kh, S, D, T, TH, ', gh, q

no eqivalent in Arabic: v, p, ch, ng, and about 10 of the 17 English vowel sounds. When Arabs translate English into Arabic, they write v as f, p as b, ch as sh or tsh, ng as n, and they don't even try to represent the English vowels in their language. But to be fair, English uses the Roman alphabet whose a, e, i, o, u, and y can't even properly represent all the English vowel sounds! Example: father, hat, Canada, date, etc.

vowels: short a, i, u; they are not written. long vowels aa, ee, oo are written as alif, yaa, wow respectively, quite similar to English which expresses long ee as study or long o/oo as window or new.

Explanation of letters:

Technically alif is less a letter than it is a vowel holder and a vowel lengthener for aa. As such, this letter can have the three sounds a, i, u when written at the beginning of a word. In the middle or end of a word, it generally sounds like aa (father).

In Arabic there are two letters which sound like t to the English ear. The letter Taa is an emphatic t which generally means it has a stronger, heavier pronunciation than a regular t. To pronounce it, press your tongue down in the bottom of your mouth and say talk.


This is the ch sound in German doch or Scottish loch and similar to the Spanish g in gente.

This is an emphatic th as in this. To pronounce it, press your tongue down into the bottom of your mouth and say the all as a single word connecting the th sound and all.


This is an emphatic h. It is much heavier and forceful than a regular soft English h. It's close to the same noise one makes when one breathes onto one's sunglasses for cleaning.

This sound has no equivalent in English and is known as the strangled vomit sound as it is simply the constriction of the throat muscles that one uses while vomiting. It must be heard to be mimicked, but in many cases the English ear can't even hear it.


This is an emphatic s. To pronounce it, hold your tongue down in the bottom of your mouth and say psalm.

This sound is very close to the French r in Paris or rue, although it is generally written as gh when translated into English although this bears NO resemblance to English gh whatsoever. It is written as gh as to not confuse it with the regular r that Arabic also has.


This is the emphatic d. To pronounce it, press your tongue down into the bottom of your mouth and say dock.

This grammatical letter has two pronunciations, ah and t. It is only written at the end of a word, and is pronounced t when in a possessive grammar construction and ah when it's not in the possessive case. You only know by learning the possessive case in Arabic grammar. Pronouncing it as ah will get you by though.

This letter is written as q when translated into English although this has no bearing on the pronunciation of the letter itself. To make this sound, pronounce a k but generate it far back in your throat, almost as if you are going to gargle.


This letter is phonetically known as a glottal stop, a sound made by NOT saying anything. It is the sound a Scottish person pronounces when he/she says butter and omits the tt and actually says buh'er, or water as wah'er. American English has this sound as well: it's the sound NOT said between the words the awful. An American/English speaker will almost always pause ever so slightly between the e in the and the a in awful. That is a glottal stop.

Arabic is a cursive-only script, which is to say that Arabic cannot be written with unconnected, separated letters as English usually is (i.e. block letters/non-cursive), therefore all letters must be connected together in general. This is the only aspect of Arabic that makes it look complicated. Fortunately, it isn't. Just keep your eye open for the core part of the letter, and the dots!

The following is what Arabic letters look like, read from RIGHT TO LEFT, when they stand on their own, appear as the first letter of a word, appear as the middle letter, or appear as the last letter in a word. Remember, cursive English is just like Arabic in that the shapes of letters change somewhat from that of stand-alone block letter upper case/lower case equivalents.

Note: don't be deterred by what appears to be a large number of letters to be learned. In practice, the only difference between the shapes in the stand-alone, beginning, middle, and final positions is the omission of the "flourish" which is the swoopy little curved part of the letter either to the left or to the bottom. Keep your eye on the upper and/or right part of the letter AND the dots, and you'll be fine!

Note: it's very important to remember which part of the letter falls above, on, or below the center line of writing.

REMEMBER: read from RIGHT to LEFT.

Glottal stop: unless you want to actually learn Arabic inside and out, don't worry much about the various spellings with the glottal stop, as they trouble even native Arabic speakers!

Note: the letters a, d, th, r, z, and w are never connected to the following letter on the left. The following letter would be written in its beginning form. = walad (boy). Remember, short vowels are not written in Arabic. Another example: = shareek (partner). The short vowel a is not written but the long ee is written as a y. Yet another example: = daanyaal (Daniel). Not that the d and the aa are not connected to the following letters on the left.

Try to read these English words written in Arabic!














1. i n t r n t = internet

2. l y m w n aa d ah = lemonade

3. k t sh b = ketchup

4. k y l w m t r = kilometer

5. t l f w n = telephone

6. t l f z y w n = television

7. a m r y k aa = America (amreekaa)

8. u s t r aa l y aa = Australia

9. b r y T aa n y aa = Britain

10. w sh n T n = Washington

11. n y w y w r k = New York

12. l w s a n j l s = Los Angeles

So now you can read a little Arabic!

And lastly, this is what a computer keyboard looks like in Arabic. The letters in red are the [shift] functions and represent the various forms of the letter alif + hamza and l + alif + hamza, plus the other vowels and diacritical and/or grammatical marks usually reserved for children's books, classical works, or the Quran. Modern Standard Arabic omits these symbols as the reader is expected to already know them.



Good luck learning Arabic!


Megalinks Homesite / Saudi Arabia

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