An alphabetical map of the Arabic language and script

خريطة الخط واللغة اللعربية بالتسلسل الابجدي



After the emergence of Islam in 570 AD Arabic became gradually the most popular and prominent of all Semitic languages. Later in addition to Islam and its holy book Koran, other factors like economic (oil), political, geographic etc. contributed to making it also gain further importance and recognition world wide.  Since 1973 it has become one of the official languages in the UN and other international events ahead of German and side by side with English. This explains why it is important to learn Arabic. For those people who want to study a Semitic language will soon find out that it is not possible without learning Arabic because it is the only large Semitic language which has survived to this degree and kept its Semitic characteristics. Arabic has become the main subject within Oriental studies in universities world wide. You do not have to travel so far to study Arabic


However,  Arabic has remained up to our present time difficult to access, not only in the western Christian world but also in  many Islamic countries where it is naturally the second language. A stumbling stone could be that it is difficult to learn Arabic and in fact should not be recommended without learning the Arabic alphabet, although a few attempts have been made in this regard using transcriptions. We are surprised that only a few books really exist to promote this international language in comparison with the number of books that are on the market for some less prominent languages and that those Arab countries which are able to provide financial help and support have not done that till now.  Sometimes Arabic is still regarded as one of the exotic languages like Chinese which people do not learn seriously and usually give up after a few months. Besides, the books which are available do not encourage the starters to proceed further, on the contrary they intimidate them and confirm the idea that Arabic is more difficult than other languages. This book is a new attempt to help the starter. It is especially designed for the west European and North American learner as I have been living in <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Germany</st1:place></st1:country-region> for more than 25 yeas and have been teaching Arabic and English since then. I have had a lot of experience and thought of adopting new ways of teaching Arabic. So I have included some new learning tricks and adopted a new approach. But it is more or less a self-study book than a class-room book. It also gives the learner more insight into this representative of Semitic languages to make understanding and learning more fun.



Definition of the Arabic language

تعريف اللغة اللعربية

ِِِِِِِAt the beginning it is very important to define Arabic to the European and North American learner so that he or she avoids confusing it for example with Persian or other Oriental languages.  Arabic is a language spoken in the Arab world. By Arab world we mean the 22 countries that belong to the Arab league and use Arabic as their standard language. They are (in the alphabetical order): <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Algeria</st1:place></st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Egypt</st1:place></st1:country-region>, <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">Gibuti</st1:city>, <st1:country-region w:st="on">Iraq</st1:country-region></st1:place>, <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Jordan</st1:place></st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Lebanon</st1:place></st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Libya</st1:place></st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Oman</st1:place></st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Morocco</st1:place></st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Mauritania</st1:place></st1:country-region>, <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">Palestine</st1:city>, <st1:country-region w:st="on">Saudi Arabia</st1:country-region></st1:place>, <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Somalia</st1:place></st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Sudan</st1:place></st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Syria</st1:place></st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Tunisia</st1:place></st1:country-region>, <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">United Arab Emirates</st1:place></st1:country-region>, and <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Yemen</st1:place></st1:country-region>. The Arabs can be as white as north Europeans or as black as South Africans. Some of these countries even use other languages more frequently than Arabic as in <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Somalia</st1:place></st1:country-region> and <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Mauritania</st1:place></st1:country-region>. They probably joined the Arab league for economic rather than ethnic reasons. In some other countries the non Arab minorities speak their own languages as in south <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Sudan</st1:place></st1:country-region> or Kurdish in north <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Iraq</st1:place></st1:country-region>. Arabic is also the language of the Koran, the holy book of the entire Muslim world. The vast area of the Arab world and its population of 200 million people together with the oil revenues and other raw materials, its geographical and political importance and being the homeland of Islam and its prophet Muhammad gives it additionally a religious dominance and bestows on it a holy character which helps it rise to international importance and elevates it to the lingua franca of the East and promotes its academic pursuit all over the world. It is one of the languages which are used officially in the United Nations. Arabic is also a very Semitic language which means that it has preserved its main Semitic characteristics which makes it differs greatly from Indo-Germanic languages such as English and French in many ways (this will be explained later) and shares ironically with Hebrew and some other languages a common ancestor. It is regarded as the most Semitic because it kept some typical Semitic language peculiarities as we will see later. It is advisable before learning Arabic to have a look at the map of the Arab world so that its boundaries are clearly defined and confusions such as regarding <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Iran</st1:place></st1:country-region> part of the Arab world would not occur. This is the Arab world.


The principle of Three            ﺔﻳﺛﻼﺜﻟﺍ

The trinity principle as it can be deduced from is name is a Christian principle based on threes. This principle is indeed very Semitic and very useful to apply to the Arabic language. The Arabic verb can be



The difficulty of the Arabic language

اللغة العربية ﺔﺑﻮﻌﺻ


In the beginning a lot of people are very enthusiastic about learning Arabic either because they have been to an Arab country or admire the hospitality and the friendliness with which they were welcomed (especially if you are blonde, have blue eyes and  female) or have an Arab partner or for a variety of other reasons but soon they are discouraged,  lag behind and a short time later even give up altogether and end up saying : Arabic is a language impossible to learn or I am not good at learning foreign languages. The question is: what makes Arabic so difficult? Or is Arabic really difficult? First we should bear in mind that the European starter is confronted with some initial problems. They have got from now on to get used to not only  a totally different language of a Semitic origin with its own peculiarities and some difficult to pronounce sounds but also to learning a new alphabet which on top of that is written from right to left and the single letters of the alphabet (with the exception of six letters) are combined from both sides as in handwriting which makes them lose a little bit of their original shape (these letter combinations are called ligatures which might take very peculiar shapes. A special ligature which is usually found on one key is  لا  la: this is the combination of  ل  L and  ا a: . This combination is often regarded as the twenty-ninth letter of the alphabet and comes before ى in alphabetical order. They are elegant and beautiful in form and fast in writing but difficult for the starter. Lane the author of the most copious Arabic-English dictionary called Arabic Lexicon invented a different way of connecting these letters so as the starter recognises the single letters more conveniently. All letters are simply connected horizontally (without changing their shapes) and not vertically as with ligatures. This is also adopted by the Arabs themselves. However, the student is advised to practice the ligatures later. So you cannot form a word by just putting single letters one next to the other as you are used to. They must be connected with the previous and the following letters. This also gives rise to four kinds of shapes which slightly differ from each other depending on their position in a word namely a front position, a mid position and an end position and when the letter is written alone in stead of capital or small letters we have in the Latin script. But this does not constitute a difficulty and you will be surprised that you will get used to it soon and you will find that this is easily mastered. A lot of letters have the same shape but differ only in the number of diacritical points they get to differentiate between them (maximum of points are three) and whether these points are put above or below the letters. Some people find these points confusing although they reduce the number of letters you have to learn by more than half in comparison with the 26 small letters and 26 capital letters of Latin. In fact you have got only to learn 10 basic forms. The other letters are realised by adding diacritical points to them.


Indeed the absence of short vowels /a.i.u/ in writing and the use of only consonants (the long vowels which are written are first of all consonants but have come to be used as long vowels /a: i: u:/  because they are their nearest sounds ) contributes on the one hand to making reading of words we encounter for the first time difficult if not impossible even to the native speaker. For instance the consonants /ht/ can be read as hat, hit or hut because short vowels have no letters. It looks like shorthand but there are some very useful advantages to this and the vowel is easily determined in context. I usually recommend learning the pronunciation with the word as you perhaps learned the gender or the article of French or a German word. This means that the pronunciation of a word must be recalled from memory. But we cannot deduce from that that Arabic is more difficult than other languages. In fact some parts of this language are much easier than those in English or German. Just take for example the Arabic tense you will soon find that it is much easier than the English tense because it knows only two modes: an action can either be complete (perfect) or incomplete (imperfect). There is no such thing as present simple versus present continuous or present perfect or past simple versus present perfect, past perfect and past continuous. The gender on the contrary to French and German is easy to determine. There is a clear marker which always helps you to tell the right gender.


The existence of so many Arab countries leads to another problem because the learner of Arabic has to start somewhere. The Arabic that is taught at schools is a formal or a written language originally spoken by Quraish a tribe in the present <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Saudi Arabia</st1:place></st1:country-region> and the dialect of the prophet Muhammad. The ascendance of this dialect to Standard Arabic was made possible by the Koran (dialects become standard at some time in their history for a variety of reasons) . A spoken Arabic language which is indeed very important can only be learnt additionally in the country of your choice. So there is  one written Arabic language  but not one spoken Arabic language. Although using Standard Arabic without vowel  ending (pausal ending is quite acceptable and a lot of media make use of it, however in daily life you need to be familiar with special vocabulary or vernacular Arabic depending upon the country you go to. The Standard Arabic used by Europeans when visiting Arab countries sounds very artificial and even funny because it resembles the language of written documents. Just imagine you talk like this: with reference to my phone call of yesterday I would like to confirm….people no doubt will think that there is something wrong with you. A lot of books available on the market use vocabulary which is useful when you read a book or a newspaper. We cannot even recommend you to learn a spoken language of a particular country, this is left to you. I personally recommend Egyptian Arabic which is more widely understood because of its dominance in the film industry and many other areas and perhaps because it sounds more beautiful but this is subjective. This problem does exist in other languages too just think of American and British English differences not only in grammar, spelling, pronunciation but most importantly in vocabulary. Sometimes the existence of the same word in both English versions can lead to slight misunderstandings when you use words like purse, pants and subway. Still the learning of Standard Arabic although not really suitable for use in your free time or when you go shopping has a lot of advantages which justifies the effort of starting with it. Generally it is easier to learn an Arabic dialect after mastering Standard Arabic. Moreover, Standard Arabic functions as a unifying factor and a link between Arab nations since it is used in all Arab countries and through it you have even access to the language of the Koran or poetry or to Old Arabic because thanks to Koran Arabic does not develop so dramatically  as is the case with OLD, Middle or Modern English where you most probably need a translator. This again will be dealt with later in detail.


Finally the learner is also recommended to use a special soft (felt)pen, coloured crayons to highlight certain letters, smooth paper and if you are short-sighted perhaps a magnifying glass will be of help at the beginning in case you have problems with recognising the letters or seeing  the diacritical points. This book, taking into consideration the above mentioned difficulties, gives the European learner some important helpful aids and techniques and a powerful tool to master Arabic more easily and gives him/her more insight into this interesting language for the first time.



The Arabic alphabet (Its Advantages and shortcomings) ﴾  ﺎﻬﺋﻭﺎﺴﻣ  ﻭ  ﺎﻬﻨﺳﺎﺤﻣ ﴿الابجدية العربية                           

As we already mentioned the Arabic alphabet is a consonant alphabet. This means the three short vowels in Arabic /a. i. u/ have no letters but are sometimes realised and called  حركات  movements. Its signs which are set over or below letters are called شكل  shakl plural  اشكال ashka:l (forms)They are used in the beginning for language starters, children, for reading a Koran text and to avoid confusions. These signs did not exist originally. Three consonants /ا Alif. ي  j . و   w/ are also used to represent long vowels /a: i:  u:/ respectively.  The long vowel  ا  a: is not used in Koran scripts and there are a few words which are still written defectively i.e. without ا a: like:

لكن  la:kn ,   هذا  ha:tha: ,   هذه ha:thihi ,   هؤلاء    ha:ءulaء,   ذلك    tha:lika       


When a letter is doubled only one letter is written with a special sign called tashdi:d put over it when necessary. If there is no vowel (or movement of a letter a sign called suku:n is sometimes used. This alphabet system (the absence of short vowels) has its advantages and disadvantages. To begin with the advantages we can say first that it makes writing fast as in shorthand. Second, dialectical vowel differences do not necessitate rewriting because the three short vowels in Arabic /a.i.u/ are not written but spoken. Third it is more economical when writing without the three short vowels. You will naturally save a lot of time, space and energy when writing long texts. The only disadvantage which we already drew your attention to is you can only read a word if you already know the word because otherwise you cannot determine the short vowel: the two consonants ht for example have either /a. i. u/ vowel in the middle because there is no syllable in Arabic which starts with a vowel and the vowel of the  first and last consonant of verbs is always /a/ (see syllable). But  even native speakers have difficulty in determining the right vowel and some dialects differ from Standard Arabic in their choice of short vowels. For example in Standard Arabic the second short vowel in شرب  is /i/  shariba but in the dialect of <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Iraq</st1:place></st1:country-region> and some other countries it is /a/ sharaba. This is a big disadvantage and can be only overcome when you learn a new word you should learn the pronunciation with it. It would of course be convenient if the Arabs added the short vowels to their alphabet as additional independent letters. 


To start learning the Arabic alphabet it is wise not to start alphabetically as most people do and moreover there is no reason why should we start with the letter /a/ and end with /z/ as we are used to. Anyway we will have the chance of grouping the alphabet in the alphabetical order later if you want to. The following grouping can be recommended to make them easier to memorise. Please note that at least two letters of the alphabet, with few exceptions, share the same basic form:


1. / ن  n .  ت  t.   ﺙ  th as in three/

These three letters I chose to start with have the following three things in common: First, they share the same shape and are written on the line although ن is a bit rounder and deeper than  the other two and is written a bit lower because it is combined from above. Second, the number of diacritical  points they have can also be learnt very easily if you just think of the English numbers: one, two and three. One is one point and there is an n in one. Two is two points and there a t in two. Three is three points and there is the sound  th in three.  Third, all the points in these three letters are put above. Two other letter share the same form but differ in the number of points they have. they are set below the letters: ب  b, ي for J and the long vowel i:. Like ن  n , ى  is deeper and rounder and it has often two dots below. Another letter which is motivated by this form but does not belong  to the Arabic alphabet is ب  p like  ب b but has three dots below. All these six letters are combined from both sides and share the same form and they all exist in English.


Names and value: The n is called  nu:n, the letter t  is called ta:ء , the th  is called tha:ء, the letter b is called  ba:ء. ِAll these names follow a certain melody. These letter have also a special value expressed in numbers but this no more conscious.


2. / د  d . ذ  as  th in English this /

These two letters have two thins in common. They share the same form and cannot be connected  to left probably because they their form will get distorted if they were connected from both sides. Letters following these two should take the beginning form as if you are writing a new word.

Names and value:


3. / ر  r .  ز   z . و   w   as in English what /

These three letters also exist in English and like the second group they belong to the letters which cannot be combined to the left.

Names and value:


4. The combination of / ل  l  as in like and Alif  a:  ا  is  لا  la: /

As you see  the Arabic l looks the same but only written from right to left.  The combination of the two la: is a ligature and a bit difficult to write. This combination as we already mentioned is sometimes reckoned to be the twenty-ninth letter of the alphabet and comes before ى . This special letter is also found on one key  on a keyboard because otherwise it is difficult to create. The letter a: is also called Alif  the first letter of the alphabet but since the Arabs do not have vowels as letters Alif  originally served as a carrier for Hamza the true first letter of the alphabet and later represented the sound a:. The name  Alif is the Greek alpha.

Names and value:


5. / س   s . ش   sh  /


6. / ه  h .  ج   j .  خ  ch /


7. / ع  and    غ /


8. /  ص  .  ض   /


9. /   ط  .  ظ    /


10. /   ف  f    .   ق  q  /


11.   / ه   h   /

12.   / م   m  /

13.   /   ك   k  /





The Arabic word for gender is جنس  . This ian arabised version of the Latin word genus English gender.   The gender in Arabic can be determined very easily as there is always a marker at the end of usually masculine words for people which functions as a suffix to show that the word is feminine in gender. Inanimate (things) can be either masculine or feminine but not both as with people and animals. Adjectives and the numbers one and two must agree in gender with their nouns. Numbers from three on wards the so called polarity principle. This means when the noun is masculine the number must be feminine and vice versa. This is very interesting and as far as I know unique of Arabic.  However this makes the matter a bit more difficult. Some collective  nouns
usually those which refer to botany, food, and material can have a feminine singular as with ﺽﻳﺑ   eggs,  ﺔﻀﻳﺑ  an egg, and  ﺕﺎﻀﻳﻳ  eggs


1. The most productive feminine marker is ة called التاء المربوطة or connected t. In fact this is a blend of two letters namely  هh and the two in der zweiten Stamm ﻢّـﻠﺳ  bedeutet „übergeben ein (Geldbetrag), ausliefern, üerbringen, zugeben zustimmen, sich ergebenein dots f     t so this letter is not regarded as a separate letter of the alphabet because  it is a blend. It is pronounced a but sometimes at  when  it is in the genitive . This suffix can be attached to the end of nouns as well as adjectives. This means that adjectives must agree
is with the nouns they modify in gender.  For example:  ﺪﻬﺘﺠﻣ ﺏﻟﺎﻄﻟﺍ   the  (male) student is hard working becomes  الطالبة مجتهدةthe (female)
dent is hard working. The plurals of words denoting inanimate nouns are seen as feminine so the word  بيتbayt   meaning house masculine in gender because there is no feminine ending but its plural form   بيوتbuyut  houses is feminine, so its adjective must be feminine too (gender congruency), However the adjective of the inanimate is always in the singular: البيت جديد  the house is new  becomes  البيوت جديدة the houses are new so the word جديد  stays singular but changes its gender to feminine and becomes جديدة . We do not know why the adjective of inanimate becomes feminine and stay singular at the same time. Perhaps the early Arabs  considered things as uncountable or one unit and  not important. A few words although end in  ة  are not feminine but masculine. This can be a bit confusing: اساتذة  which is the plural of  استاذ


2. Apart from ة there are also other suffixes in some words which show the feminine gender like اء  as in  سماء sky or  صحراء  desert. This is the typical ending of  most colours in their feminine form. The colours as adjectives change their gender to agree with the noun: red احمر in its masculine form changes to feminine حمراء . This also reminds you of <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Alhambra</st1:place></st1:city> in <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Spain</st1:place></st1:country-region>. Most other colours follow the same system.  Another suffix denoting female gender is the ending ى  pronounced a: as in ذكرى remembrance.


3. Furthermore, there are a few words which are feminine although there is  no marker. They look masculine in their form. These words must be learnt by heart, but do not worry the number of these word is indeed small and dictionaries usually help by putting an  م  m after the word to tell you that the word is of feminine gender. م  is like f stands for feminine. It is the first letter of the word  مؤنث  which means feminine. All cities, most countries and parts of the body which come in twos and the natural gender of words like  ام  mother or   اخت sister are regarded  feminine even if they do not have a feminine ending, so the adjective must be feminine.

 ارض  earth,   حرب  war,


4. There are also some words which look masculine in form but can be treated as feminine or masculine without any difference in meaning. There is in fact no evident reason which explains this unique character:



Is Arabic a male language?هل العربية لغة المذكر                                              

Like all other languages the male element is dominant in Arabic too. People might think that the male dominance in Arabic language is extreme.  In fact it is not more male than say English. Like Spanish the parents are الولدان  literally  the two fathers,  الاولاد   children  is  the boys. When the Arabs give the infinitive of a verb they rather say   يفعل   فعل   literally he did, he does. No female verb forms are given. This also goes for speaking about different genders: for example the question what is there in the room? ما ذا يوجد في الغرفة    the
verb يوجد is masculine. The feminine verb ﺪﺟﻮﺗ .



The history of the Arabic language     ﺔﻳﺑﺮﻌﻟﺍ ﺔﻐﻠﻟﺍ ﺦﻳﺭﺎﺗ


The Role of the Koranدور القران الكريم                    

Since its revelation the Koran has played and will continue to play in future a very important role in the Arab world in particular and in the Islamic world in general. Its influence on Arabic has been existential which makes it important for understanding Arabic and cannot be ignored even in language books. Thanks to the existence of Koran the Arabic language experienced a unique turn in its development. Had it not been for the Koran we would not have had the Arabic language we know today. It would perhaps have suffered what Latin suffered, become dead and develop into many different languages like French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian. As we already mentioned the Standard Arabic is the descendant of the language used in the Koran. Koran raised this originally Saudi dialect of Quraish to Standard Arabic accepted and understood by all Arabs. Before Koran the Arabic language was divided into many different dialects. Koran unified them and in this way unified the Arabs and made them a powerful nation and their language rich in vocabulary. Moreover, it made Arabic a holy language and encouraged studying it world wide. Thus the Arabs developed an interest in their language and began reflecting on it and soon many grammar books were written. Arabic became important to non Arab Muslims to understand the Koran because any translation would rob its beauty and melody and  was therefore not acceptable. Verses from Koran are still recited every day and some verses have become proverbial or part and parcel of the Arabic language.


The Koran has also slowed down the diachronic change of Arabic so although we are now in 21st century and the Koran goes back to the seventh century BC, it is still possible to understand it to a satisfactory degree. After the emergence of the Koran, Arabic became so powerful that it suppressed or even perished many languages like Aramaic and exercised great influence on others like Persian. No language in the east was spared. The Arabic influence on Persian can be compared with the French influence on English. On the other hand like English it incorporated a lot of loans from the neighbouring languages and a lot from Greek and Latin. Here is a list of the most important Koran quotes:

 بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم   in the name of God the merciful the compassionate,  الحمدلله     انشاءالله         ماشاءالله اعوذ بالله

This apart from many expressions and names اسماء الله


Model Structures




Writing foreign names in Arabic

Most names of countries, cities don not sound Arabic. After Islam the Arab world expanded but names were not changed   Arabised Names of people.



Singular Dual Pluralالمفرد والمثنى و الجمع                  

The fact that the plural starts from two is not quite acceptable. In Arabic the plural starts from three. There is a singular which is one and a dual which is two. The plural was also divided into two kinds; one plural was a form which denoted a few or some and plural for a lot. Thus the word month شهر  has got two plural depending which had to do the quantity اشهر  (a small quantity) and   شهور    a big quantity.  Now this difference between these two forms has disappeared and the use of one or other of these forms is simply a matter of style. But this does not mean that nouns which have two different plural forms don not have different meanings. For example the word اخ  has  the plural  اخوة to denote natural brothers and اخوان to refer to its figurative meaning brotherhood. Some other people could not even bother about anything which more than three.


Partnerships   الشركاء ﻭﺍ   ﺝﺍﻭﺯﻻﺍ                                                      




The Persian roleدور اللغة الفارسية                                

Although the Persians and Arabs were not always on friendly terms taking into consideration the wars which were waged between these two neighbouring nations and the fact that Persian unlike Arabic belongs to the Indo European family of languages they have a lot of things in common. Apart from adopting Islam as their religion the Persian language was overrun by Arabic after Islam and changed it dramatically. Before Islam the Persians and their Sassanid Empire was very powerful  and consequently more Persian words were adopted in Arabic.  Words like: دين religion, برنامج  program Arabic changes Persian ه  h barna:mah برنامة   to   جj  برنامج  barna:maj, دستور constitution, ميدان square, especially the neighbouring Iraq was long under Persian dominance and adopted many Persian words, so even the name of its capital    بغداد   Baghdad   is taken from Persian. The Arabian Nights الليالي العربية  or   الف  ليلة و ليلة  One Thousand and One Night  are originally Indian and reached the Arabs via <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Iran</st1:place></st1:country-region>. In <st1:place w:st="on">Europe</st1:place> whatever the Arabs brought with them regardless of its origin was considered to be Arabic. This also explains why the Indian numbers are called Arabic numbers. Ironically the Arab press confirmed in their belief  by what Europeans call Arabic numbers started to switch from the Indian numbers they have always been using  to the numbers they thought were Western European or English.


The Persian administration system was very well progressed  and was also introduced in the new Islamic. This also explains the adoption of  some words which have to do.


As the Persian is an Iranian language which have sounds like g as in garden , p  as in peach, ch as in church and the sound   g as in beige they simply added diacritical point according to the custom of the Arabic alphabet:ج   ك  for g,   ج for  ch, ز   for g  in rouge. These sounds are also sometimes used  by the Arab press for writing European words


Without exaggeration half of the Persian vocabulary became Arabic after Islam. However, the problem of false friends should be kept in mind. False friends are words which exist in two languages but have different meanings like English gymnasium versus German Gymnasium.



Phonologyالصوت                                                   The sound system


Emphatic  sounds

The Arabic language tends to turn foreign consonants like t s to their emphatic counterparts. They sound very Arabic and can be misleading even to the native speaker cf <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Italy</st1:place></st1:country-region> ايطاليا


Extension of vowels

Substitution of sounds



Confusing sounds

Weakening of some sounds

Silent letters


Spoken Arabic




Most language books either ignore examining the syllable patterns of a language or mention it only in passing. In fact the understanding of the syllable pattern is of vital importance to understanding the Arabic language.  You will understand a lot of grammar rules more easily and can find out why Arabic tends to change, drop or shorten certain sounds.


The Arabic syllable is very simple. A syllable can never start with a vowel or a double consonant as we have in English.. It cannot also end in a double consonant. So when Arabic adopts a word from a European language and the word has a syllable which starts with a vowel or a double consonant, it must be changed or modified.  Only the following three syllables are permitted:

CV:       a consonant and a long vowel (an open syllabe)

CV        a consonant  and a short  vowel (an open syllable)

CVC      a  consonant, a short vowel and a consonant (a closed syllable)


Any deviation from this pattern will not be tolerated and has to be modified accordingly. The only exception to this rule is a CV:C (a consonant, a long vowel usually a:, a consonant) pattern which is only accepted  in a few cases when the following syllable starts with the same consonant that ends the previous one. In other words when the consonant is doubled as in:

 ma:r run مار ,   da:l lun  ضال   ,  yak tu ba:n ni    يكتبان,  ma:d da    مادة .

In spoken Arabic  this pattern is frequently used.


The following  examples of some foreign words passed into Arabic show how Arabic modify the syllables:

Sponge اسفنج    ,   Platon  افلاطون ,  Frank  افرنج ,  elixir  اكسير

As you can see the word sponge begins with two consonants (sp) . This of course is not acceptable and in order to make the first syllable match the Arabic syllable pattern, the Arabs start the syllable with a Hamza and it is followed by the short vowel i so it becomes ءis (when speaking foreign words starting with two consonants the Arabs or at least those who are not used to European language tend to insert a Hamza at the beginning. Have you noticed that some Arabs say: ءischool in stead of school . In this way he second syllable starts with p but as you know the p sound does not exist in Arabic, so it must be substituted by another sound. The Arabs used to choose f  but nowadays it is substituted by b. This shows that the word sponge was borrowed very early from Greek. So the second syllable becomes fan. The last syllable faces another problem namely the sound or the letter g. We know that g also does not exist but the next  sound j exists so it is substituted by it. However the last syllable will have only one letter and this is not possible but don not worry the grammatical ending which is either  a vowel or a nunation (this name comes from the name of the letter n which is nu:n and is used instead of the indefinite article a or an and its pronunciation is similar to English it can be un, and in depending upon its case)  is also counted. Thus the last syllable becomes in written ج  but read jun. The syllables of the word sponge are: ءis fan jun and this complies with the Arabic syllable pattern. You can now try the other words in the same way. This will help you later when you want to write foreign names in Arabic.


When you come to words like  الى   ءila: , على  عala: and   فيfi: you will understand why these long vowels at the end of these words are shortened when they are followed by another word, the sounds are  combined and the Hamza is assimilated i.e. disappears in pronunction:  في البيت   fil bay ti  otherise thew first syllable would have been fi:l which is not possibe. You will also come across this shortening when you come to those verbs which have a long vowel like  قال  qa:la.  So keep this in mind. It is a great help.



Verb                                          الافعال             To be e in Arabic

A very interesting phenomenon in Arab which as far as I know also exists  in Russian is that verb to be is not used in its present form. The sentence in he present tense is void of to  be for example I am a student is in Arabic I student انا طالب  The verb to be is so to say implied within  a deep structure. This also makes the Arabs do the same thing when speaking foreign languages.


To have in Arabic

It is very interesting to see Arabic uses some prepositions for to have

most prominent among them is



The Arabic vocabularyالمفردات العربية              

Before Islam

The Arabic vocabulary was rather restricted before Islam. Life on the desert <st1:place w:st="on">Island</st1:place> was simple and  there was no need for a lot of ideas and consequently words which are today part of the Arabic language. In this period it incorporated foreign vocabulary  mostly from Aramac, Syiac, Persian, Greek and Latin They were either adopted from other languages, or are loan translations of West European ideas especially English, French and Italian (most Arab countries were colonised by these three powers). The language of the press is to a very  big extent simply loan translations from English. So it easy for those familiar with the language of the English press to understand the language of the Arabic press. Some Latin, Greek and Persian words were already integrated into Arabic and we find evidence in the early verses of Koran. For instance the Latin word strata in Arabic   صراط   ssira:tt


The word  قلم  qalam pencil from Greek has found its way into Arabic even before Islam because it is found in the first revelation:

اقرا   باسم   ربك  الذي   علم    بالقلم   علم   الانسان   ما لم   يعلم   اقرا    و   ربك     الاكرم

Other words from Greek usually  have to do with education and I simply call them cultural words like دفتر  notebook, , ورق  paper    قرطاس     قاموس These things did not exist in Arabia and there was no need for them till the Arabs started to do business with the neighbouring Byzantine and Persian powers before Islam. The word دفتر    exists also in Persian but it means office and not notebook. The Arabic word for dictionary قاموس  is from Greek Okeanos which means ocean since a dictionary was regarded as deep (copious) as an ocean. Sometimes the Arabs  use the word   محيطwhich is simply a translation of the Greek word. Again on the desert island there was no need for a hotel because the Arab custom of hospitality would have never accepted such a thing and consequently no words existed but when the need arose and the Arabs so to say became less hospitable or more business minded the Greek word pandaka Arabic فندق was adopted. Even the words which have to do with military like عسكر and  جندي  were borrowed, the first from Latin exercius and the second from Persian soldier. Even the today´s  militay system is based on the British system.


After Islam


After the industrial revolution till now

After the industrial revolution and production of oil, the Arabs could afford importing technology from the west and borrowed their names together with the products. Later they built an institution like the French Academia Francais called (مجمع اللغة العربية)  tried to use translations for  these words or even finding new words but not quite successfully as we will  see later. So we find the word هاتف side by side with تلفون for telephone whereas the word  ثلاجة  or   برادة  which are also translations for fridge were established. Purists in the Arab world try hard to find an Arabic word for every adoption or at least mould them according to the Arabic sound system but the big number of these words makes it hard to control. After all, since language belongs to all those who use it, it has proved to be democratic. This means that the majority of people decide which words should be in use and which language mistakes to be tolerated or even adopted as correct usage and will not accept an institution made up of a handful of grey-haired men or language dictators.  English has proved to be most democratic in this regard. It is in fact not wise trying to control something which is born to be free. So how can we cope with big infiltration's like the following:

 كباريه cabaret,  شيك check,  كراج garage,  غرام gram, بلاستيك   plastic,   بنسلين  Penicillin,    فيلا  villa ,   تلفزيون  TV ,    غالونgallon.


This also goes for words of currency. They are all of foreign origin because money was introduced after business contacts with the Greek, Persian and Italian and there are no Arabic words for money

فلس      درهم        دينار    ريال     مليم    سنتيم    قرش    جنيه    ليرة    باون    دولار  

and the words derived from them for example the word  مفلس   muflis meaning bankrupt is from فلس  the singular of فلوس


The list can go on and on and is a challenge to Arabic to see how does it incorporate foreign words and  how it copes with sounds which do not exist in its sound system. This will be dealt with in the phonology section but just have a look and try to find the substitute sounds and spot the changes yourself. On the other hand a lot of Arabic words found their way into European languages as a result of Islamic rule of <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Spain</st1:place></st1:country-region> for about 800 years. Here is a short list of these words:

Alcohol, algebra, assassinate, coffee, 


Some other words which are considered to be Arabic are either of Persian or Indian origin but were handed over by the Arabs:

cipher, orange, sugar, tulip


Word formationصياغة المفردات                                  

The affix method                               ﻊﻃﺎﻘﻤﻟﺍ ﺔﻓﺎﺿﺍ ﺔﻘﻳﺮﻃ                                      

All languages use a prefix or a suffix to form new words, for example in English we can form new words from the word comfort by adding the suffix able it becomes comfortable and when we add the prefix un to this we get the word uncomfortable, so can add something at the beginning (prefix) and something to the end (suffix) but  we cannot add anything to the middle the so called infix.  All these three additions are known as affix. The Arabic language is perhaps a unique language which also uses an infix and this ability makes it very flexible when it comes to forming new words. In fact all Arabic words can be traced back to three consonants called the root. These three consonants can be numbered for the ease of reference.The first consonant R1, the second R2 and the third R3.  From these three letters which have a core meaning we can now form new words with the help of the affix method.




Word order

Noun and adjectives

Verbal phrase


Arabic classroom and teacher’s books

Wenn man versucht, sich mit arabischen Muttersprachlern über die arabische Grammatik zu unterhalten, bemerkt man ziemlich schnell, daß dies nicht so ohne weiteres möglich ist. Selbst wenn man mit der arabischen Grammatikterminologie, wie sie etwa in dem Lehrbuch des modernen Hocharabisch (Krahl/Reuschel/Schulz) eingeführt wird, auf vertrautem Fuße steht, stößt man bei dem Versuch, sich verständlich zu machen, sehr schnell an seine Grenzen und es kommt zu Situationen, in denen eine effektive Kommunikation einfach nicht gelingen will. Hinsichtlich der Grammatik scheinen arabische Muttersprachler in einer anderen Welt zu leben, sie scheinen die Sprache aus einer anderen Perspektive zu beschreiben, so daß die Basis für eine Verständigung schlichtweg fehlt. Woran liegt das nun?


Pädagogik scheint ein Fremdwort zu sein. Nicht nur die arabiaschen Lehrbücher sondern auch Schul und Lehrernethoden scheinen noch nach mittelalterlichen Methoden. Dies gilt für das ganze Mittlerosten. Grammatik bekommt die Hauptaufmerksamkeit. Bei der Sichtung der arabischen lehrbücher sei es die jenigen die für Ausländer gedacht sind oder Schulbücher für Araber selber, bekommt man ein gefühl des Unbehagens und erschrekt noch zusätzlich die europäischen Interesierten schnell ab. Alleine bei der Vorstellung des Alphabets beginnt man gewöhnlich mit Alif bzw. Hamza

Außerdem betrachten die arabischen Pädagogen als ob die arabische Sprache strehengeblieben ist und keine Entwicklung wie wir von lebendigen Sprache doch bedürfen diese Änderungen erneut der Kontrolle und Regulierung, um die Reinheit der Sprache nicht zu gefährden. n kennen eingeräumt wird. Viele sogennate Puristen und Fanatiker haben wohl nicht von eine Dynamik der Sprachen gehört. Das Hauptmerkmal der arabischen Nationalgrammatik ist also wohl weniger das präskriptive Element, sondern das explikative, da man stets bemüht ist, die anhand empirisch gewonnener Daten formulierter Regeln zu begründen. (Bohas, Anghelescu)





Hochsprache und Umgangsprache

Taking into consideration the number of people who cannot read or write or who are simply not well educated the question of teaching Arabic becomes clear. A spoken and not written Arabic must be taught so that those people who learn Arabic can communicate with the majority of the Arabs. What’s the use of a standard Arabic of the books and a classic Arabic of the Koran if no communication is possible.



Arabic Media

Boring, translations from English. No originality but imitation



Originally the inhabitants of the <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Arabic</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">Peninsula</st1:placetype></st1:place> which means the present day Saudi Today Arabs are the inhabitansts of a very wide area stretching between <st1:place w:st="on">Maghreb</st1:place> and Maschrik Araber. According to linguistic the research the word Ara bis derived from a Semitic word which means „west“Nach Ansicht einiger etymologisch gesehen von einem semitischen Wort mit der Bedeutung "Westen" ab und wurde erstmals von den Bewohnern Mesopotamiens auf die Völker westlich des Euphrattals angewandt. Andere Sprachforscher sehen denUrsprung eher in dem hebräischen Wort "Arabha" (düsteres Land, Steppe) und in der semitischen Wurzel "Abhar" (reisen, weiterziehen), denn ein großer Teil der Bevölkerung der arabischen Halbinsel war und ist bis heute nomadisch. In einer assyrischen Inschrift aus dem Jahre 853 v. Chr., in der König Salmanassar III von der Niederwerfung einer Verschwörung aufständischer Prinzen durch das assyrische Heer berichtet, wird "Gindibu, der Aribi" genannt. Er hatte sich mit tausend Kamelen an der Streitmacht der Rebellen beteiligt. Von dieser Zeit an finden sich zahlreiche Hinweise auf die "Aribi" oder "Arabu" in assyrischen oder babylonischen Inschriften. Die Aribi dieser Inschriften sind ein nomadisches Volk, das im äußersten Norden Arabiens lebte. In der Antike finden sich bei Aischylos ebenfalls Anmerkungen über die Araber, als "Krieger, die aus einem entlegenen Land mit spitzen Speeren kommen". Die Araber selbst bezeichnen sich zuerst in frühen südarabischen Inschriften als "Araber".



By definition an Arab is one who lives in a wilderness, desolate place or in the plains. Those (Arabs / plains) people named one of their cities Arab the Hebrew word Arab simply means waste, desolation, plain, wilderness 

Plains people being opposite of Hillbillies, plains people or flat landers (in hillbilly speech)
People passed through the desert but no one lived there. Arab: waste, desolation, plain, wilderness. Those called Arabs (flat landers) would have been those who lived in the sticks .. (not cities), farmers and hunters. Those identified as Arabs are also identified as Canaanites, Jebusties, Havites... the native people Arab means plains or wilderness).living in <st1:place w:st="on">Canaan</st1:place>.  which simply means desolation, plain, wilderness  Arab / Arabians, people who live in desolate places or the *PLAINS* /
Arab: waste, desolation, plain, wilderness

In the Arabic language, the word arab (derived from i&#39;rab), means &quot;those
who speak clearly&quot; as contrast with ajam (those who speak indistincly



Words of Arab origin in other languages


The Koran

Mohammed memorized his own utterances and taught his followers to do the same, but no single disciple knew the whole Koranic revelation. When the prophet died, the oracles were found on scattered bits of leather, ribs of palm leaf, and even on stones. These were gathered together, put into a chest and entrusted to the keeping of Haphsa, one of Mohammed's wives. During the reign of the first Caliph, Abu Bekr, a hurried edition of the Koran was made by Zaid of Medina, Mohammed's secretary, relying on oral tradition and scattered writings. But variant texts soon appeared, which alarmed the prophet's followers and prompted the third Caliph, Othman, to order all variants burned and have a canonical edition published by Zaid and three members of the Koraish tribe. Thus the text of the Koran was finally settled within thirty years of Mohammed's death, and in its present form is universally accepted by Moslems as authentic.

In English translation, the Koran is a book of some two-hundred thousand words, divided into one hundred fourteen chapters, called surahs, arranged roughly in descending order of length, with some of the final chapters as short as a single paragraph. Surahs are further divided into verses, totalling about six thousand, and numbered as in the Christian Bible.

The surahs are not numbered in the manuscripts, but are headed by titles taken from a particular matter treated, a person mentioned, or generally from the first significant words. Typical titles are: Women, Abraham, Mary, the Angels, Divorce, Small Kindnesses, and the Disbelievers.

Moslems universally recognize the language of the Koran as elegant in the extreme. "The Koran," they say, "cannot be translated." Nothing can duplicate "that inimitable symphony, the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy." It is admittedly the standard of the Arabic tongue, and as the book itself teaches, beyond the capacity of any human pen. This, they claim, is a permanent miracle, greater than raising the dead and alone sufficient to convince the world of its divine origin.

No satisfactory theory explains either the time or sequence of the purported revelations. Most likely the shortest surahs were the earliest, and references to current events within the text may indicate when some of the statements were made.