Introduction to Arabic Alphabet:
Lesson 21

By Carl Kenner

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:



Answer: gana
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