How to Read Arabic

by Phil Silverwitz

Arabic is one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn. Not only does it boast a flowery and elegant style, Arabic also uses unfamiliar characters to a native speaker of English. While mastery of the Arabic language may take years of intense study, you'll soon be able to make sense of basic Arabic sentences with a few helpful hints.

Learn the 28 basic letters of the Arabic alphabet. While some share similarities with their English equivalents, most Arabic letters look more like complex artwork to the untrained eye (see Resources).

Practice imitating the harsh, guttural sounds of the language. At first, pronunciation may seem like the hard part. However, with enough practice and exposure to the language, what used to sound completely foreign will soon become clear (see Resources).

Recite portions of Arabic text. While you may not initially know what you are reading, recitation will undoubtedly prepare you for the next step in your Arabic journey. Beginners should use a script that includes vowels, as Arabic vowels, which are written above and below the consonants, are not included in most forms of writing (see Resources).

Build a basic vocabulary. This can be done using language books, websites or pre-printed flash cards. The words may even be transliterated for you, but there's no need to cheat if you've already mastered the letters and sounds.

Tip

  • Unlike English, Arabic is written from right to left. In most forms of Arabic writing (except for the Qur'an), vowels are not included. While they certainly still exist, their presence is assumed by native speakers. While Modern Standard Arabic is universally understood in the Arab world, beware that specific words and phrases may slightly differ with regional dialects.

References

About the Author

Phil Silverwitz has been an anchor/reporter since 2007, working with various public and commercial radio stations across the Midwest. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the Moody Institute.

Photo Credits

  • Portrait of a styled children. Theme: education.. image by Andrey Kiselev from Fotolia.com