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
(B) كَسْرَة kasrah
vs. ياء yaa’
(C) ضَمَّة DHammah
vs. وَاو waaw
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
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 Problem with the tanween:
Most learners also mistakenly write the tanween
, as illustrate in the table below. It is obvious that they rely on pronunciation, and hence write it the way it is pronounced.