Learn to read, write and pronounce Arabic

Congratulations on your decision to start learning the Arabic script! You will see that being able to read Arabic will baffle your friends and enrich your life. Also, you will no longer be an analphabet when travelling to an Arab country, and there are many of them.

Let's start!

The first Arabic letter you should learn is Baa: Arabic letter Baa in its isolated form

As you may have guessed from the name, this is the Arabic equivalent of B.

Note that Arabic is read and written from right to left. This will take some getting used to, so take a sheet of paper and practise every letter immediately. To write Baa, start at the right tip of the letter, write that curve to the left and finally place the dot underneath. Dots always come last.

One letter is not enough to read anything, so let's have another. May I present to you: 'alif. Arabic letter Baa in its isolated form

This letter's basic sound is a long "ah". We'll transliterate it as "aa".

One very important thing to note is that Arabic is a cursive script, meaning that you have to connect the letters in writing. So to write "baa", we actually have to mesh Baa and 'alif together: با
'alif is an isolating letter though, meaning that you can attach 'alif to something, but you can't attach another letter to the end of 'alif. So to write "bab", the Arabic word for "door", you have to do this: باب

Let's have a little reading exercise. These will come up throughout the lessons, to help you practise. I will show you an Arabic word, and you should try to read it and to understand it, because it's something you can recognize. I'll give you hints. Hover over the Arabic to see the solution.

بابا a baby might say this baabaa     papa, dad
ابا Swedish band aabaa     Abba

Actually this last one was cheating a bit, because in Arabic the band's name is pronounced 'aabaa, with a stop before the name, so my spelling is incorrect.

B and As are getting old, let's have another letter. This one is Taa: Arabic letter Taa in its isolated form

It looks quite similar to Baa, except there are two dots on top instead of one dot beneath the letter. It's pronounced like the English letter T.

Another reading exercise:

بات short girl's name baat     Pat
تاب key on your keyboard taab     Tab

Note that Taa meshes just the same way as Baa does.

This is Thaa: Arabic letter Thaa in its isolated form

It's almost the same as Taa, but there are three dots on top. You will find that it meshes the same way, too. It's pronounced like the TH in "math".

Practise reading:

باث City in England baath     Bath

Here's another letter that looks almost the same: Arabic letter Nuun in its isolated form

This is Nuun. It has basically the same shape as the letters we've seen so far, but not quite. It's not as wide, and it dips below the line. The pronunciation is like the English N.

One more reading exercise:

آن Woman's name aan     Ann
ناثان Man's name naathaan     Nathan

Last letter for today: Arabic letter Waaw in its isolated form

This is the letter Waaw, pronounced either as a W or as a long U sound (transliterated UU). It also replaces the O in foreign words. Note that Waaw is an isolating letter, just like Alif, so whenever you write it, the word ostensibly has to end there, you can't connect the following letter to it.

Finally, here's a LONG reading exercise to practise everything we learned in this lesson:

نو name of a Greek letter nuu     Nu
بون big city in Western Germany buun     Bonn
بوب man's name buub     Bob
بوتان either a chemical molecule or an exotic country buutaan     Butane / Bhutan
وون Korean currency wuun     Won
بانتو African tribe baantuu     Bantu
ناتو international organization naatuu     NATO

Did you manage to read that? If so, I can promise you that you have everything it takes to be able to read Arabic fluently. This was in fact the hardest lesson of all, because you didn't have any previous knowledge. The next lessons will build on what you learned here and you will find them easier, also because you will be able to practise reading much more once you know a few more letters. If you don't feel overwhelmed right now, you can already continue with the next lesson, where you will learn a few more letters and many more words. Otherwise, please come back to it later.

More resources - learn to speak Arabic

Standard Arabic: elementary-intermediate course
Teach yourself Arabic
Learn Arabic the fun and easy way
Arabic-English dictionary
Read & Write Arabic
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