Title
Are you sure?
As of June 30, 2018, live e-Tutoring has been discontinued. Please click here for more information.

Want more lessons? Sign up today.

Choose the subscription that is right for you in order to access your full language learning experience.

Greetings and Pronunciation Points

Did you notice that there are many sounds in Arabic that don’t have equivalents in English? The hardest one to master is xayn, or the letter ع, which is pronounced with a tight constriction at the very back of the throat.

نَعَم naxam
yes
طَبْعاً Tabxan
of course
مَعَ السَلامَة maxa s-salaama
good-bye

You also heard the letter khaa', or خ in Arabic, which is similar to ch in German Bach or Scottish loch. Note the word al-khayr in these examples.

صَباح الخَيْر SabaaH al-khayr
good morning
مَساء الخَيْر masaa' al-khayr
good afternoon

Arabic also has the sound h, written in Arabic as ه, which is very similar to English h. But don't confuse it with H, or ح in Arabic, which has much more constriction and is like the sound you make when you blow on glasses to clean them.

أَهْلاً 'ahlan
hello
صَباح SabaaH
morning

Another common Arabic consonant is hamza, which is transcribed as an apostrophe but is written in Arabic like a small backwards 2: ء. It's a glottal stop, or the small catch in your breath when you say "uh oh." In Arabic, it's a regular consonant that comes at the beginning, at the end, or in the middle of a word.

أَهْلاً 'ahlan
hello
مَساء الخَيْر masaa' al-khayr
good afternoon/evening

Also note that the letters ص S, ض D, ط T, and ظ DH are pronounced with the jaw lowered, so vowels around them have a deeper sound, coming from the back of the throat. You've heard a few of these sounds.

مِن فَضْلَك min faDlak
please
طَبْعاً Tabxan
of course
صَباح SabaaH
morning

Don't confuse them with with س s, د d, or ت t, which sound similar to the English consonants, or ذ dh, which has the sound th as in this.

Did you notice the word الـ al- in the following?

صَباح الخَيْر SabaaH al-khayr
good morning
مَساء الخَيْر masaa' al-khayr
good afternoon

الـ al- is the definite article in Arabic, equivalent to the in English. Both in writing and in pronunciation, الـ al- is a part of the word that follows it.

But الـ al- sometimes changes pronunciation. First, if the word before it ends in a vowel, the a in الـ al- will be dropped. You'll see this in transcription, but never in Arabic script.

Second, the ل l- in الـ al- is often assimilated to, or pronounced the same as, the consonant that follows it. When الـ comes before ت t-, ث th-, د d-, ذ dh-, ر r-, ز z-, س s-, ش sh-, ص S-, ض D-, ط T-, ظ DH-, and ن n-, the ل l with change into that letter in pronunciation, so instead of al-, you’ll pronounce الـ as at-, ath-, ad- and so on. These are called “sun” letters, because the first letter of شَمْس shams (sun) is one of them.

In the expression meaning good-bye, both of these pronunciation changes happen. The a- of al- is dropped after the -a of مَعَ maxa, and the l of al- is pronounced like the s- in سَلامَة salaama.

مَع السَلامَة maxa s-salaama
good-bye

Here are just a few other examples of ل l in الـ changing pronunciation before “sun” letters.

الدَرْس ad-dars
the lesson
الرَجُل ar-rajul
the man
الشَمْس ash-shams
the sun
الطـَعام aT-Taxaam
the food