Arabic Cursive Writing (2)

One characteristic of Arabic that makes its writing easy is that it is a phonetic language. That is, there is generally a one-to-one correspondence between the spoken form and the written form. In other words, there are no silent letters as is the case with English and French. This is especially true when writing isolated words. However, in writing natural connected speech, one must take heed. This lesson is about common spelling mistakes that Arabic learners make.

Confusing Short Vowels with Long Vowels:

As explained in a previous lesson, each short vowel in Arabic has a corresponding long vowel. The pronunciation between the two is very slight. That is, a long vowel is a prolonged short vowel. In many cases, short vowels in Arabic are written as long vowels. Therefore, you must be pay heed to the length of the sound. The following examples illustrate the difference and reduce the confusion: (A) فَتْحَة fatHah vs. أَلِف alif:

Short vowel

fatHah َ

Long vowel

alif ـا

كَتَبَ كَاتَبَ
عَكَسَ عَاكَسَ
شَتَمَ شَاتَمَ
خَلَقَ خَالَقَ
رَجَمَ رَاجَمَ
(B) كَسْرَة kasrah vs. ياء yaa’:

Short vowel

kasrah  ِ

Long vowel


سَلِم سَلِيْم
سِرْ سِيْر
عَمِل  عَمِيل
سَمِن سَمِيْن
عَلِم عَلِيْم
(C) ضَمَّة DHammah vs. وَاو waaw:

Short vowel

DHammah ُ

Long vowel


سُر سُوْر
يَكُن يَكُوْن
يَقُل يَقُول
يَطُل  يَطُوْل
ثُم ثُوْم

Assimilation of Certain Letters:

Another difficulty that most learners encounter is the assimilation of the ل or the ال in some of the words that start with ال (i.e. the definite article in Arabic). If these words are said singly, the ل is written but not pronounced. In connected speech, both ال are written but not pronounced. The learners mistakenly do not write them, since they base their judgment on pronunciation. Assimilation of ل and ال occur in words that begin with sun letters (i.e. ت ، ث ، د ، ذ ، ر ، ز ، س ، ش ، ص ، ض ، ط ، ظ ، ل ، ن). The Arabic alphabet is classified into two types of letters: sun letters and moon letters. This classification will be explained in a future lesson. In list (A), the learners do not write the ل when they should. Similarly, in list (B), they do not write the ال when they must. (A)
Misspelling Correct spelling
اَشَّمْس الشَّمْس
اَسَّيْف السَّيْف
اَثُّوْم الثُّوْم
اَدَّم الدَّم
اَتَّمْر التَّمْر
Misspelling Correct spelling
وَشَّمْس وَالشَّمْس
فَسَّيْف فالسَّيْف
مِنَثُّوْم مِنَ الثُّوْم
بِدَّم بِالدَّم
أَكَلْتُ تَّمْر أَكَلْتُ التَّمْر

A Problem with the tanween:

Most learners also mistakenly write the tanween as ن, as illustrate in the table below. It is obvious that they rely on pronunciation, and hence write it the way it is pronounced.
Misspelling Correct spelling
كَتَبَنْ كَتَابًا
سَيْفُنْ سَيْفٌ
ثُوْمَنْ ثُوْمًا
بَيْتِنْ بَيْتٍ
خُبْزُنْ خُبْزٌ
شَارِعِنْ شَارِعٍ

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