Learn to read, write and pronounce Arabic

Lesson 2

Welcome back!

Let's have another vowel. This one is Yaa: Arabic letter Yaa in all its forms

What? 4 letters? No, just 4 forms. I give you the shape Yaa will take at the beginning of a word (on the right), in the middle of it (2nd from the right), at the end and in isolation. Very often you can guess how letters will mesh, but not this time. Or would you have thought that Yaa in beginning and medium position looks just like Baa with another dot?
Yaa is pronounced either as a long EE sound (transliterated as II), or as semi-vowel Y as in 'year'. It's also used to transliterate E in foreign names.

Another reading exercise:

يوان Chinese currency yuuaan     Yuan
أني girl's name aanii     Annie
آبي girl's name aabii     Abby
يابان Asian country yaabaan     Japan
بيث short girl's name biith     Beth
تايوان Asian country taaiiwan     Taiwan
ويتني one Houston wiitnii     Whitney
ويني girl's name wiinii     Winnie
توني boy's name tuunii     Tony

Yes, this is the letter to learn if you want to know how to write your name in Arabic.

Now back to consonants. This is Miim: Arabic letter Miim in all its forms

This letter has a tail when no other letters are connected to it. It's pronounced just like an English M.

Practise reading:

تيم boy's name tiim     Tim
تومي boy's name tuumii     Tommy
ناومي first name of a model naauumii     Naomi
ميثان chemical molecule miithaan     Methane
باناما country in South America baanaamaa     Panama
مومباي city in India muumbaaii     Mumbai
بومباي former name of the above buumbaaii     Bombay

And here's Laam: Arabic letter Laam in its isolated form

It meshes in a very boring, expected way, so you don't need to memorize several forms. However, you do need to remember that 'alif looks very similar to a Laam in medium position, but 'alif does not connect to the following letter. It's pronounced just like an English L, and it even looks a lot like an L - mirrored of course, since Arabs write from right to left.

Nice long review again:

ألين Man's name aalaan     Allen
بيل A former American president's first name biil     Bill
نيل Another man's name niil     Neil
ليبيا Country in North Africa liibiia     Libya
مالي African country maalii     Mali
ويليام Man's name wiiliiaam     William
ليما Capital of a South-American country liimaa     Lima
مانويل Man's name maanuuiil     Manuel
ليون City in France liiuun     Lyon
ألبانيا Country in Southern Europe aalbaaniiaa     Albania
نيبال Country in the Himalaya neebaal     Nepal

Now here's a tip: Arabs don't typically write out short vowels, they guess them. However, in children's books and in places where exactness is too important, such as in the holy scriptures, short vowels are indicated.

For a short A sound, draw a short line above the consonant (called fatha), like this "ba": بَ

For a short I sound, draw a short line below the consonent (called kasra), like this "bi": بِ

Two things to note:
1) some people will indicate a short vowel in addition to the long vowel for extra clarity. It's still just one sound - unless the vowels differ, then you get a diphtong like ay, ya and so on.
2) When you need a vowel sound at the beginning of a word, 'alif carries it.

Try to read the following words that contain short vowels. Careful, the extra lines are easy to miss!

بَنين African country baaniin     Benin
يَمَن Arab country yaman     Yemen
إِنويت They live in an icy climate inuuiit     Inuit
يَن Use to buy Sushi yaan     Yen
ليبِيَ North African country liibiyaa     Libya
إِيثَان Man's name iithaan     Ethan
إِيما Woman's name in Jane Austen iimaa     Emma
إِلينوي American state iliinuuii     Illinois

Still with us? It will only get easier from now on. If you're still in a relaxed state of mind, you can already continue with the next lesson. 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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