Learn to Write and Pronounce Arabic-Based Scripts

There are many languages that use Arabic-based scripts, like Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Pashto, Sorani Kurdish and more. A lot of learners find Arabic-based scripts hard to recognize, let alone write and pronounce. In this article, I'd like to use Sorani Kurdish as an example to share with you how to write and pronounce Arabic-based scripts as fast as possible.

Read More: How to Tell the Difference Between Arabic, Persian, and Kurdish
Source: Wikipedia

Why We Use Sorani Kurdish as an Example

We use Sorani Kurdish as an example to easily learn the varieties of the Arabic alphabet for 2 reasons:

Reason #1: There are no hidden vowels in Sorani Kurdish, what you see is what it is,  and that makes Sorani Kurdish the easiest Arabic-based script to learn.

Reason #2: As you can see in the chart below, the Sorani Kurdish alphabet has some extra letters. These "extra" Arabic letters can't be found in Modern Standard Arabic, but you can find them in other Arabic dialects, or other languages that use this script, such as Persian. Let me give you 2 examples:

  • Egyptian Arabic uses the letter "چ ch", which is not available in Standard Arabic.
  • Moroccan Arabic uses the letter "ڤ v" which is not available in Standard Arabic.
The majority of the Arabic alphabet letters are the same for Persian, Arabic, and Sorani Kurdish.

Different Location, Different Shapes

Before we continue, keep in mind that Arabic letters have 4 different shapes according to their location in the word. And these 4 different shapes are Initial, Medial, Final and Isolate.

In Arabic-based scripts, letters attach to each other. And so each letter has different forms depending on where their location is. That is to say, a letter appearing at the beginning of a word changes shape when it appears in the middle or end of the word. But not all Arabic letters change.

Also remember that Arabic-based scripts are written from right to left ←←.

You don't need to know how to read the letters for now, just take a closer look at how the shapes change.

Initial is when a letter comes at the beginning of a word, or after a space or gap.
Medial is when a letter comes between two other letters. 
Final is when a letter comes at the end of a word. 
Isolate is when there is nothing attached to the letter, or there is a space or gap before and after the letter.

10 Groups of Arabic Letters

To make the Arabic alphabet easier to learn, we separate the alphabet into 10 groups of letters. The letters in each group have identical or similar shapes but different sounds.

ARABIC ALPHABET GROUP 1 :  ب ت پ ن

  • ب  same as English letter "b", as in boat
  • ت  same as English letter "t", as in tea
  • پ  same as English letter "p", as in pie
  • ن  same as English letter "n", as in nine

The first three letters without dots resemble something, like a small wooden boat!

The letter "ن n" might look slightly different from the rest, but the Initial and medial form of this letter is identical to other letters.

The four letters above are in Isolate form, because there is nothing attached to the front of end of them. Now let's see the other forms for these 4 letters.

Notice how each letter has a green check sign before and after the letter. The check sign indicates that other letters can be attached to the front and the end of the this letter. For example:

Notice how all the letters attach to each other without a gap:
بببببب  

Some letters might have an X mark at the end of the letter, indicating that this letter doesn't attach to the next letter that comes after. For example:
بببرببب
رببببب

We haven't studied this letter "ر = r " yet, but just notice how the letters that came after "ر" didn't attach to the letter.  

It's difficult to write any real words without a vowel so let's learn the letter "A" now!
(The X mark sign at the end of the letter indicates that this letter doesn't attach to other letters that come after it.)

the red X mark on the left means that this letter doesn't attach to the letters than come after it. 

This letter is very easy, it's just one line. it can't get any easier than that. But In Sorani Kurdish when this letter comes at the initial form we have to add this part to it: ئـ  + ا = ئا   (only in the initial form)


ARABIC ALPHABET GROUP 2 : ح خ ج چ

  • ح  as the letter "h", but more guttural.  
  • خ  like the "ch" in German Bach.
  • ج  same as English letter "j", as in James.  
  • چ  "ch", as in the word cheese.

Some Sorani Kurdish words that contain these letters:

Sorani Kurdish Words
English Translation
چا tea
باج tax
ناخ core

ARABIC ALPHABET GROUP 3 : ر ڕ ز ژ د

  • ر  soft "r", as in the word water.  
  • ڕ  like Spanish trilled "r", as in Roberto.  
  • ز  same as English letter "z", as in zebra.
  • ژ  "zh" sound, as in the word garage.
  • د  same as English letter "d", as in door.  
The main shape of the first 4 letters, looks like a roller coaster. 

 

what all these letters have in common is, they can't be attached to the letter that comes at the end of them. 

ARABIC ALPHABET GROUP 4 : و ۆ

  • و  as the sound "w" in the word water.
  • ۆ  same as English letter "o", as in orange.
These two letter are similar to the previous group in two ways, first they don't attach to the letter after them, second the lower part of the letter also resembles the previous group. 

Note: Just like the letter " ا a ", when the letter "ۆ o" comes at the beginning of a word, we need to add ئـ

ئـ + ۆ = ئۆ

ئۆرۆگوای

ئۆکرانیا


ARABIC ALPHABET GROUP 5 : س ش

  • س  same as English letter s, as in snake.
  • ش  same as the sound sh in the word sheep.

Some Sorani Kurdish words that contain these letters:

Sorani Kurdish Words
English Translation
شار city
ترش soar
سانا Sana (a common name)
ترس fear
پشت back

ARABIC ALPHABET Group 6 : ف ڤ ق

  • ف  same as English letter f, as in find.  
  • ڤ  same as English letter v, as in vote.
  • ق  like the English sound k, but further back in the throat.

ARABIC ALPHABETGroup 7 : ک گ

  • ک  same as the sound "k" as in the word "kite".  
  • گ  same as the sound "g" as in the word "game".

Some Sorani Kurdish words that contain these letters:

Sorani Kurdish Words
English Translation
کار work, job
گورگ wolf
کاک Mr.
مشک mouse

A visual tip to remember these two letters:

The letter ک looks like a cannon, is it a coincidence that the letter ک is also pronounced as English letter k? 

ARABIC ALPHABET Group 8 : ‌ع غ

  • ‌ع  no equivalent, guttural voiced h.
  • ‌غ  "gh", as in the Spanish word higo.
Notice how the letter changes in the medial and final form.

ARABIC ALPHABET Group 9 : ‌ل ڵ  

  • ‌ل   as the letter "L" in the word "let".
  • ‌ڵ   as the letter "L" in the word "all".

A visual tip to remember this letter:

This letter is actually pretty easy to learn, it's the same as the letter L, but reverse it, and with a deeper curve.

ARABIC ALPHABET Group 10 : ی ێ

  • ‌ی   as the letter "y" in the word "yellow".
  • ‌ێ   IPA: e, as in the word "bait".

A visual tip to easily remember these two letters:

ی = English letter "y", just like a yellow duck.

Last Few Individual Arabic Letters:  م هـ ە ا ئـ

  • م  same as the English letter m, as in monkey.

Some Sorani Kurdish words that contain these letters:

Sorani Kurdish Words
English Translation
مراوی duck
ماسی fish
سمت waist
کرم worm

  • هـ same as the letter "h" in the word horse.
Sorani Kurdish Words
English Translation
هاوین summer
هاتن to come

  • ە it sounds like IPA - ɛ , as in the English word "bet".

Some Sorani Kurdish words that contain these letters:

Sorani Kurdish Words
English Translation
ئەسپ house
ئەمەریکا USA
بەرد stone

ئـ

In Sorani Kurdish, if a word starts with these letters ( ا ، ێ ، ە ، ۆ ) then you have to add this letter ئـ  in front (This rule doesn't apply to Arabic or Persian). Here are some examples:

ئاسن  - ا س ن

ئۆف - ۆ ف

ئەڕۆم - ە ڕ ۆ م

ئێران - ێ ر ا ن


Read More!

1) Learn Modern Standard Arabic or Egyptian Arabic?
2) Why Moroccan Arabic Sounds So Different from Modern Standard Arabic
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