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Before tackling learning the Arabic language, I thought of an easier stepping-stone goal that would build confidence and also be useful on its own, for reading things such as bus destination signs and street signs... namely learning how to read Arabic script.

Are there any good techniques or apps to use for this goal?

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  • There are tons of videos with the letters and their pronunciation. You just have to buckle down and learn the alphabet and its sounds.
    – Lambie
    Jul 10, 2023 at 17:58
  • I have no experience with Arabic script, but for learning languages with a foreign script, a popular approach used in some courses is to first start with romanized/transliterated texts, and then to later learn the native script, or to learn it progressively in parallel as you are learning the language. Once you reach an advanced enough level, the language material that you're using will eventually get advanced enough that it's all in the native script (and in the native language as well).
    – Brandin
    Jul 12, 2023 at 8:10
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    As stated in the question, my goal is to learn the script first
    – JoelFan
    Jul 12, 2023 at 11:44

1 Answer 1

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You can create flashcards based on a reputable online source (Princeton University's webpages), learn from a textbook for English speakers (such as "Mastering Arabic" by Wightwick and Gaafar), and/or take lessons from an Arabic teacher who explicitly mentions teaching the Arabic alphabet as part of their curriculum.

There are at least three initial stages of learning, for associating Arabic letters with their sounds:

  1. Taking each Arabic letter in its isolated form, and associating it with their particular sound
  2. Continuing to recognize each Arabic letter after their shapes have transformed depending on their placement in a word, by recognizing their "initial," "medial," and "final" forms
  3. Optionally, memorizing the names of each of the letters (as this can help with memorizing the sounds)

The transformations can be particularly tricky, as the shapes can change significantly depending on their placement. For example, the letter "Jeem" changes from "ﺝ" as an isolated letter, into "ﺟ" as its initial form.

Method 1: Creating flashcards from a reputable online resource

An excellent resource for learning the transformed shapes of the letters are Princeton University's "Arabic Alphabet: The Transformation of the Latin Arabic from its Arabic Equivalent" webpages, which also cover how to learn how vowels are used: https://etc.princeton.edu/languages/arabic/alphabet/forms.html

Method 2: Studying from a textbook that focuses on learning the alphabet

Another excellent resource is "Mastering Arabic 1," a textbook for English learners by Jane Wightwick & Mahmoud Gaafar. The first six chapters focus directly on learning letters of the alphabet, with one letter group per chapter. The chapters include written exercises, audio exercises, and also handwriting exercises if interested (the textbook also includes explanations for recognizing variants of letters used in handwriting versus in print). While the chapters do also include some basic phrases and romanized forms at the end of each chapter, the bulk of each of the beginning chapters are primarily focused on learning the alphabet.

As an aside, the Mastering Arabic 1 textbook (page 12 of the Third Edition) also explicitly recommends using a flashcard system for learning the letters, by suggesting a review system based on spaced repetition, where forgotten cards are reviewed more frequently and easier cards are reviewed less often.

Method 3: Finding a teacher who begins by teaching the alphabet first

Lastly, you can also look for a tutor in-person or on an online platform such as italki, Preply, Verbling, or similar websites. You can search for Arabic teachers who mention lessons focused on the alphabet on their profile and/or curriculum, or choose a teacher with a flexible approach who can begin the lessons by teaching you the alphabet first. They can then teach you with other materials, such as with basic literacy books entirely in Arabic (where they can provide verbal explanations in English) or PDF slides that you can then study or use as a source to make flashcards. A nice benefit of this method is that you can get feedback on your pronunciation when reading words in the Arabic script.

You may find it useful to use a mixture of all three of the above methods. You can begin by using the Princeton University webpages to make flashcards, considering additional practice with the exercises in the "Mastering Arabic" textbook (or equivalent), and also potentially beginning lessons with a teacher, where you can get feedback on your pronunciation as you practice reading.

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