From English to Arabic: A Learner’s Woes

Always fascinated by Semitic languages (come on, how cool is script writing) and with my soccer career coming to an end, I finally had some free time to pursue other hobbies, one of which was language learning.

In high school, I took many Spanish courses. They were never my favorite classes- let’s be honest, you don’t really learn much about language in a classroom. So, I thought it would be more pragmatic to hire a private tutor- I could learn at my own pace and schedule classes around my own time. And this time I would choose one the toughest languages to learn as an English native, Arabic (cue laughter).

And cue woes.

Why do so many words sound the same?  Sagheer, sareer, qabeeH, Haqeeba, kabeera, sayyara, the list goes on.

Mess up word pronunciation and the world holds a completely different meaning.

When do I write out “alif”? When do I not write “alif”?

Why aren’t the vowels written?

When reading Arabic script— is it “qaTTa,”, is it “qiTTa”, or is it “qeTTa”?

Reading, but more so writing right to left.

The word that’s being described comes before the describing word.

Having to know the singular of a word and then learn a completely new word for the plural form of said word.

Sun letters and assimilation rules when combining with words.

Why does the ending of a word change form depending on the pronoun (I, we, they, he, her, etc.) used?

Why are some words combined depending on how they are being used in a sentence? Fee al-madeena- “in the city” is actually spelled that way but spoken as fil-madeena.

Why is a “nuun” not added to the end of some words when you sound it out it sounds like there should be a “nuun” (ex. jiddan)?

Knowing whether an object is feminine or masculine and remembering to add an “a” for the adjective that’s describing it if it’s feminine. – assayyara jadeeda.

The alphabet specifically the following: ghayn, ayn, Haa, haa, Taa, taa, daal, daad.


Scripting- there are 28 letters in the alphabet and most of the letters have an initial, medial, isolated, and final version- meaning they will be written and will look different depending on where they are in the sentence.

Have I confused you enough?

And I haven’t even written anything in Arabic script.

To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world.” – Chinese Proverb


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