By Slitine Alaoui Ismail
Rabat – As any other language in the world, Arabic also has its own characteristics and features that set it apart from other languages.
Sometimes, new students of Arabic find it difficult to distinguish between these features, especially when it comes to spelling and dictation. The following features are what every new learner of Arabic should know before she or he starts his journey of language learning.
The first feature that makes Arabic special and someway a confusing language to learn is its dots. First sessions of Arabic are dedicated to teaching the alphabet, which is profoundly different from the alphabets that many have been familiar with for a long period of time. So, when you start learning this alphabet, try to make sure that you are putting dots in the right place. Otherwise, you will completely change the meaning of the words that you are about to write.
For example, (qul; say) and (ful; a very famous type of flowers) are two words that share the same pattern, but they are grammatically different. This first word is a verb that is conjugated in the imperative form; whereas, the second is a word that refers to a type of flower.
It is crucial to know that the dots have the potential to change the meaning of words.
Right to left
Unlike Spanish, French, and English that are written from left to right, Arabic takes the opposite direction. So, whenever you have a dictation activity whether inside or outside the classroom, you always have to make sure that the margin of your paper you are using is positioned on your right side. It is a very simple move, but it is very necessary. Therefore, do not forget to do it whenever you start jotting downs the words that your teacher has selected.
Emphatic vs non emphatic
Some students get puzzled when hearing some emphatic letters like . This not because they are difficult to learn, but because they have their non-emphatic counterparts. When your ears hear a list of non-emphatic letters (see image), you might have difficulty distinguishing between the emphatic letters and the non-emphatic ones. For example, your teacher might intentionally give you examples like these two words (Sarir/sarir/) the first word with the emphatic (sad) letter refer to a noisy sound that some insects produce, while the one with the non-emphatic letter (sin) means bed.
For the sake of avoiding misspelling words that have these emphatic and non-emphatic letters, student ought to practice pronouncing them whenever there is time for that. Practice makes perfect.
Long vs short vowels
As it is known, Arabic has twenty- eight letters alongside some other important symbols and markers. This list of letters includes both twenty-five consonants and three long vowels that function as consonants as well. (aa) (uu) and (ii) are the three letters that play the role of both consonants and long vowels. These long vowels are very important and without them the meaning will not be complete and the possibility of missing them might result in changing the meaning of the given words.
Each long vowel that has been recently mentioned has their short vowels that correspond to it. FatHa correspond to the long vowel, Damma corresponds to and Kasra correspond to. These short vowels share the same importance that their long vowels counterparts have. Studying both long and short vowels carefully and mastering the way they are pronounced will certainly help you avoid any linguistic troubles in the long run. Also, as an Arabic language learner you will not be using short vowels as you progress and reach advanced levels in studying Arabic.
Some words in Arabic are written in a similar manner with the same letters, but the only way to distinguish between them is to use these short vowels correctly. To show the importance of the short vowels, I have selected the picture that is included below.
Initial, Medial, and Final position.
All the twenty-eight Arabic letters takes different positions when writing them. Some of these letters change completely and some of them take slight changes. The perfect way to master writing these letters when they take different positions is to watch some videos that show how these letters are written when they are initial, medial, or final. Also, the picture below from Google will help you.
Connecters vs non connecters
Out of twenty-eight letters, there are six letters that do not connect to any letter that comes after it. The non-connecter letters are:
Whenever you come across these letters, make sure that the letter that comes after is not connected to it. The rest of letters connect, but as mentioned earlier, they should be written correctly according to the position they are taking.
This is the list of features that might cause some confusion for new Arabic learners. I hope that listing some of them and explaining them will be of a great benefit to you as a new student of Arabic.