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Arabic - عربي

تعلم قراءة وكتابة العربية


Arabic Reading and Writing Basics

In addition to the Arabic language, the Arabic writing system is also used for the Urdu (mainly Pakistan) and Persian (Iran) languages, among others. Urdu and Persian have more letters than Arabic. So once you can read one, learning to read other languages becomes easier.

Arabic uses many dots, and symbols above and below. The Arabic writing system is "cursive", so most letters in words are connected to each other. Therefore, most Arabic letters have a beginning form, a middle form, an end form, and an isolated form. For most shapes most forms resemble each other, making them easier to recognize.

The Basics
  • Arabic is written from right to left down pages, like so:

<-------- Writing begins here

Writing ends here <-----------------



Shapes vs. Letters

  • Many Arabic shapes end in tails.
  • Tails can only be seen in isolated-form and end-form.
  • The most important part of a shape is the part ignoring the tail, This part is called the shape-essence.
  • Recall: A letter is a shape plus a number of dots.
  • Dots are either placed above or below a shape, to make a letter.
  • Placement of dots matters (Possible placements: over OR under the shape)


  • In most printing
    • 3 dots are grouped into a triangle
    • 2 dots are written side by side
    • dots appear as diamond shapes, or square shapes, or circles.

  • In fast writing by hand by experienced Arabs
    • 3 dots is written in such a way: ^
    • 2 dots are written as a dash - or somewhat like a tilde ~ (except it's mirrored horizontally)
    • Other shortcuts are used.

Other Variations

  • Dots are sometimes written as hollow circles on childish hand-made posters.

  • The placement of dots (such: in a diagonal line, in a vertical line, in a triangle) do not make different letters (i.e.: it doesn't matter), and variation in placement of dots is used in fancy fonts.

← read from right to left ←
ا ب ت ث ج ح خ
د ذ ر ز س ش
ص ض ط ظ
ع غ ف ق
ك ل م ن ه و ي

Letter names (transliterated)

→ read from left to right →

Alif, Baa', Taa', Thaa', Jiim, Haa', Khaa'

Daal, Thaal, Raa', Zay', Siin, Shiin

Saad, Dhaad, Taa, Zaa

'Ain, Ghain, Faa, Qof

Yaa', Waw, Haa', Nuun, Miim, Laam, Kaaf'

ب , ت , ث , ف Remember to read from right to left when reading Arabic letters (i.e. this way: <---). Those letters at the top are (starting from the right) baa, taa, thaa, and faa. Now don't get confused, the first three do look similar, but are different letters because of the dots. The first letter up there has one dot underneath, The second one has two dots on top. The third one has three dots snuggled up in a triangle shape. And the fourth letter has a different shape and has one dot.
Now, does the first letter make the sound baa? No. The first letter's name is baa (ب). The sound it makes is the "b" sound, excluding all vowel sounds.
"taa" (ت) makes the "t" sound. The pattern is that all letters are named with the sound they make at the beginning of their names. All letters make consonant sounds.

The letters are (ه) Haa, (ك) Kaaf, (م) Miim, and (ي) Yaa. Haa (ه) makes the English "h" sound. It is never silent. Kaaf (ك) makes an English "k" sound. Miim (م) makes the "m" sound. Yaa (ي) makes the consonant "y" sound as in "you".

The unique thing about ه (haa) is that in most styles of writing all its forms look different. Recall that every Arabic letter has 4 forms (usually only 2 significantly differing forms).

Connectors and non-connectors

Words are made of letters of different kinds.

  • Letters are split into two groups:
    • Connectors
    • Non-connectors
  • Every Connector letter will connect to the next letter in a word.



ب + ت  ←  بـ ـت  ←  بـت


Notice that ب (baa) is connected to the next letter. This is because baa is a connector, not because the next letter is one.


;Another example:

ه + ت + م  ←  هـ ـتـ ـم  ←  هـتـمNotice that ه is connected to ت and ت is connected to م .


The above examples also show letters changing form in order to connect. Example: ه (haa-single form) became هـ (haa-initial form), they are both the same letter, but in different forms, so they can be handwritten together. But how do we know which form a letter is supposed to take on in a word?


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