Beginners Guide to the Arabic Alphabet

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The Arabic alphabet (Arabic script) is one of the most fascinating scripts in the world. Whether you’d just like to write your name in Arabic, to read the Quraan, or you’re actually studying Arabic to become fluent – there are many reasons to learn the Arabic alphabet!

To help you achieve your goal to master the Arabic alphabet, I’ve compiled a handy alphabet chart with pronunciation and examples, along with some basic rules and tips for beginners.

5 Basic Rules on the Arabic Alphabet

Before we have a look at the actual alphabet, let’s have a look at some basic rules. Knowing how the Arabic alphabet is used will help you to eventually master it yourself.

#1 Arabic is Written from Right to Left

The Arabic script is written from right to left. This is probably the most significant difference from the Latin script which is written from left to right. While you might find it intimidating at first, let me reassure you that you’ll quickly get used to reading and writing from right to left!

#2 The Arabic Alphabet Has 28 Letters

The Arabic alphabet consists of 28 letters (full letters). Additionally, there are a few derivatives such as hamzah (a glottal stop). The good news is that there is no difference between upper and lower cases. This means that you can’t make any mistakes when it comes to capitalization of certain words, like in English. On the downside, you’ll have to learn the contextual forms of every letter (more on that in the next point).

#3 Most Letters Have Contextual Forms

Most Arabic letters have contextual forms, meaning that the way they look varies according to their position in a word. The main letter form that you’ll see in most Arabic alphabet charts is the isolated form of a letter. Additionally, most letters have a slightly different form when at initial position (first letter in a word), when in the middle of a word as well as at the end of the word. However, when a letter’s middle form is equal to the way it’s written at the end of a word (like it’s the case for the letter a), you’ll start with the initial letter form of the next letter.

While this means that there are actually more than just 28 letters to learn, you’ll quickly find that there’s a resemblance between the different forms of each letter. This isn’t the case for all of them, but for the majority.

#4 Arabic Alphabet vs. Arabic Script

Note that there’s a difference between the Arabic alphabet and the Arabic script. In fact, the Arabic alphabet is used specifically to write Arabic. The Arabic script is also used for several other languages such as Persian and Urdu. Though the core is the same, there are slight differences in terms of pronunciation, writing style etc. For example, there’s no letter p in Arabic, while the Persian alphabet does have the letter p.

#5 Arabic Short Vowels vs. Long Vowels

There’s a common misconception that the Arabic language doesn’t have vowels. The Arabic alphabet totally has vowels! However, when it comes to reading (and pronouncing), you’ll notice that there’s a difference between Arabic long vowels and Arabic short vowels. While long vowels are written out as full letters, short vowels are written as accents above and below the letters. These accents indicate the presence of a short vowel (short a, u, i), as it can totally change the meaning of a word (e.g. past vs. present tense).

While in many written texts (intended for native speakers) the short vowels are often omitted, most resources for language learners, some newspapers and the Quraan make use of fully voweled writing.

Arabic Alphabet Chart

Whether you’re learning Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) or a dialect (Lebanese / Levantine Arabic, Egyptian Arabic…), the script is the same across all dialects of Arabic.

As explained above, there are 28 letters in the Arabic alphabet. Arabic is written from right to left and the letter form depends on the position of a letter in a word. If you’re using a mobile device, make sure to scroll to the right to view the full table.

Tips on Learning the Arabic Alphabet

While it’s great to have a handy Arabic alphabet chart, the best way to learn how to read and write Arabic is by practicing. It will take quite some time to memorize the entire alphabet (including all 4 variations of the letters). If your intention is to learn how to read, write and speak Arabic, the best approach is to practice!

Have a look at the most common expressions in Arabic, such as:

Learning expressions and vocabulary will make your learning more fun and efficient. Seeing the letters in a context will give you mnemonic aid to remember all of them eventually. You might remember that letter ش (sh) is written differently from the isolated form when at the beginning of a word, while the ر (r) is not connected when in the middle by learning the word شكراً (thank you in Arabic).

About Author

Ahlan, I’m Kitty! Welcome2Jordan is the result of my love for Jordan, good food and adventures. Through this blog and my self-published travel guide, I’d like to share information on Jordan and it’s heritage, culture and cuisine.

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