Learning Arabic

Arabic is spoken by over 300 million people throughout Asian and North Africa. It is also the official language of Islam, and so it is estimated to be used by one billion Muslims across the world.

As a native English speaker, one of the main hurdles I see is the way that the text is written from right to left and that the grammar is very different to English. There are also many sounds that I am not familiar with as they don’t exist in English, but someone who knows a language like Hebrew would have an easier transition. The best part of learning a new language though is having a go at these sounds and the realisation that you can make noises you didn’t know you could by moving your tongue around.

Arabic has 28 consonantal phonemes and the nouns are either masculine or feminine. When referring to a male, a masculine noun is used, and vice versa for a female. The feminine noun is usually formed by adding a special character – the ta marbuta – to the end of the masculine noun.

One Arabic word may have a number of plurals and adjectives come after the noun, so a “white house” in English becomes a “house white” in Arabic.
The most basic of sentence is called a nominal sentence, for example, in English it would be “the house is white”; but in Arabic there is no word for the “is” in this sentence.

Having a go at Arabic, even if it is just a simple greeting, will be appreciated by many people if you plan to travel to Asia or Africa, or even if you are just passing through your local community or a mosque.

Give the following a go:

Phrase: As salaamu alaikum – Syllable breakdown:as-sa-laa-mu a-lai-kum
Meaning: May peace be with you and a very common greeting.

Phrase: Wa alaikumu èl salaamu – Syllable breakdown: wa-a-lai-ku-mus-sa-laam
Meaning: And may peace be with you. It is the response to the above phrase.

By Vicki

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January 2018
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