Pronunciation & Arabic Letters
There are two levels to address when approaching proper pronunciation of Arabic letters: (1) the names of each letter; (2) the sound that each letter makes. While there are a few letters in the Arabic alphabet which may present particular challenges to non-native speakers such as ghayn (غ) and 'ayn (ع), these sounds can be mastered with a bit of practice. In addition, a number of letters such as meem (م) and nuun (ن), for example, are identical to the English pronunciation. The following chart should help you master the names of each letter and what sounds they make.
How to pronounce each letter in the Arabic alphabet
|Letter Pronunciation||Letter Name||Letter|
A as in Apple
B as in Bat
T as in Tan
Th as in Theory
J as in Jeans
Aspirated H sound, similar to the H in He, but stronger, coming from the windpipe and the back of the throat
Like the "kh" sound at the end of the name "Bach"
D as in Dad
Th as in Them
R as in Raw
Z as in Zoo
S as in See
Sh as in She
S as in Saw, yet a heavier pronunciation
D as in Dawn, yet a heavier pronunciation
T as in Tall, yet a heavier pronunciation
Dh as in "Thar she blows!", yet a heavier pronunciation
No English equivalent. Close to the chocking sound made in the throat.
No English equivalent. Close to the gargling sound made in the throat.
F as in Fan
Like the "qaw" sound we associated with the call of a crow, yet heavier and deeper in the throat
K as in Kite
L as in Land
M as in Meat
N as in Noon
H as in House
W as in Wow
Y as in Yes
Glottal stop as in "uh-oh"
Pronouncing each letter with vowels
While it may be difficult to practice each letter alone, it is easier to practice these sounds with the Arabic long vowels alif (which makes the sounds "aa"), waaw (which makes the sound "oo") and yaa (which makes the sound "ee").
Refer to the chart below to see each long vowel and their pronunciation.
|Sound||Name of Long Vowel||Long Vowel|
Practice Makes Perfect
Now that you know how to pronounce each of the long vowels, use the below alphabet chart to practice saying each letter with the corresponding long vowels. You may also choose to follow along with the video below, so that you can hear the proper pronunciation of each letter with the corresponding vowel.
Alphabet Chart with Long Vowels
Alif-Baa: Learning the Arabic Alphabet in a class or on your own
While learning a language on your own is a challenge, it is possible. One of the best books out there for starting this process is Alif-Baa. I have taught Arabic for several years, and this is one of the most common books in use, particularly in higher education institutions. This means that, should you eventually decide take a course in Arabic, chances are you will be using or will have used the same learning material as those in the class. Furthermore, Alif-Baa includes a DVD for exercises in the book that allow you to hear and see Arabic in action. This is particularly useful for learning how to write and pronounce letters properly.
My advice, therefore, is to spend a bit more on the book with the DVD rather than saving a few dollars by buying a used text. This is not because I am against the purchase of used books - half of my library is used! However, buying the new book, which ensures you will have the DVD, is an important, if not critical step to learning proper pronunciation and writing.