The Arabic alphabet contains a number of sounds that are difficult to pronounce for non-native speakers. Here I’ll give you some tips that will help you with the pronunciation of the sounds in the Arabic alphabet.
Remember that the best way to improve your pronunciation is through listening. And I mean a lot of listening. Start by listening to recordings of the individual sounds and then proceed to listening to recordings of individual words, before listening to whole sentences.
To listen to the individual letter check out the free Arabic Letters Online Application.
To make learning the Arabic sounds easier I have divided them into three groups, easy, medium and hard:
1. Easy Arabic Sounds
The following Arabic letters are pronounced more or less like in English:
ا ā long <a> sound like in the English word “mad”
ء ’ a glottal stop; depending on where it’s put it can be a short “u”, “a”, or “i” sound
ب b the same as our English “b” in “bread”
ت t the same as our English “t” in “tea”
ث th like the “th”-sound in “three”; but not like the <th> in “there”!
ج dj as in the <j>-sound in the name “John”
د d the same as our English “d” in “door”
ذ dh like the <th> sound in “there”; but not like the <th> in “three”!
ز z the same as our English “z” in “zoo”
س s the same as our English “s” in “serpent”
ش sh the same as our English “sh” in “shine”
ف f the same as our English “f” in “ferry”
ك k the same as our English “k” in “kilo”
ل l the same as our English “l” in “look”
ن n the same as our English “n” in “nose”
م m the same as our English “m” in “mouse”
ه h the same as our English “h” in “hurricane”
و w the same as our English “w” in “water”
و ū a long “u”-sound as in our English word “boom”
ي y the same as our English “y” in “year”
ي ī a long “i”-sound, like the two “e”s in “three”
2. Medium Arabic Sounds
Arabic sounds that are slightly different from English:
ر r similar to the English “r”- sound at the beginning of a word, e.g. in “road”, but more towards the front of the tongue and trilled like the Spanish “r”
ح H similar to the English letter “h”, but stronger and more from the throat
ص S similar to the English letter “s”, but more emphatic and “darker”
ض D similar to the English letter “d”, but more emphatic and “darker”
ط T similar to the English letter “t”, but more emphatic and “darker”
ظ Z sounds like a “darker” version of the Arabic “dh” sound
3. Hard Arabic Sounds
These Arabic sounds have no direct equivalent in the English language and they are difficult to pronounce at first.
خ kh like the <ch> sound in the English word “loch”; if you know German, it’s the <ch> sound in the word “Sprache” or the “j” in the Spanish word “jamón”.
ع c this sounds like a high-pitched version of the English <a> sound, but squeezed from the back of the throat
غ gh the same position of the throat as above, but the tongue touches the roof of the mouth; like a French “r”
ق q like the English letter “k”, but produced from much further back the throat and much “darker”
I hope this short blog post helps you get to grips with the sounds in the Arabic alphabet. If you want to learn how to read and write Arabic, then please check out my digital book The Magic Key To The Arabic Alphabet.