Introduction to Arabic Alphabet: 21

Make sure to get the number of dots right. Remember it is two for q. Which rhymes.

Now let’s learn another letter. This is a letter so horrible and hard to pronounce, it is known only as... THE DENTIST! I really hate this letter. Actually you might remember that it is called `ain (pronounced like german ein). But in Michel Thomas it’s normally referred to as the dentist. This is not like a glottal stop. It is like you are being strangled while saying the neighbouring vowels.

It is often written as a superscript letter c.

In arabic it is also written like a lowercase letter c. At the start of a word, it looks like this:

But when it is written by itself, it gets a flourishy tail like this:

So that it looks like a backwards number 3.

But in the middle of the word, or at the end of a word, something very unfortunate happens to the c. You see, when you write the c in cursive so that it links to the letter before it, in order to write the c without lifting your pen, the c ends up looking like a loop rather than like a c. For example here is the dentist letter `ain written in the middle of a word:

Notice how it looks just like the f and the q in the middle of a word, but without any dots? It is not an f or a q, it is the c-shaped ain, cursed by the cursive script to look like a loop instead of itself.

At the end of the word it should have a flourishy tail that makes it look like a backwards 3, but because it is connected to the letter before, it looses its c shape again:

All this makes it harder to read, but much easier to write, which is of course why it is written that way.

In English `ain can be written as a backwards apostrophe, or as a c superscript.

Here is the arabic word "with" (maCa):


The vowels are not written, but the `ain still is.

Another equally bad letter is the letter ghain. It is the GH sound from Arabic words "Ghoul" and "Ghana", but it sounds more like a distorted letter R. Ghain is written exactly the same as `ain, but with a dot above it. So ghain is a c with a dot:

Unfortunately, because it has a dot above it, and in the middle of a word it looks like a loop, that makes it basically identical to the letter F in the middle of a word! Here is the letter ghain and the letter F in the middle of a word:

ﻐ ﻔ

The ghain is on the right. The difference between the two depends on the font.

Here is the word for "busy", "mashghuul":


Can you guess a much less confusing word for an African country:


  1. The American spelling is "Ghana".
  2. This word is "manager" in Egyptian Arabic.
  3. This is the word for she, similar to the English "hey ya!"
  4. This is the Egyptian Arabic word for Egypt. 
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