Arabic 101

Arabic pronunciation varies widely from place to place.

Standard Arabic will be understood by most educated people, as it is what they hear frequently on TV.

As a general rule:

  • 'a' tends to be like that of 'hat'
  • 'aa' is a longer version of 'a'
  • 'b' as in English
  • 't' as in English
  • 'th' as in English 'thin'
  • 'dh' as in English 'them'
  • 'j' as in 'jam' in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, 'j' as in 'measure' in the Levant (Lebanon, Palestine etc.), and 'g' as in 'give' in Egypt and North Africa.
  • 'H' is a pharyngeal fricative sound at the back of the throat (though not like clearing it). It sounds like you are about to whisper the word 'hello'.
  • 'kh' as in Scots 'loch' or German 'mach'
  • 'd' as in English
  • 'r' a tapped sound like Spanish 'pero', but trilled like Spanish 'perro' when doubled.
  • 'z' as in English
  • 's' as in English
  • 'sh' as in English
  • 'S' like 's' but with the back of the throat constricted. Makes 'a' further back in the throat, 'i' into 'e' and 'u' into 'o'.
  • 'D' like 'd' but with the back of the throat constricted. Same vowel changes as 'S'
  • 'T' like 'D', but equivalent to 't'
  • 'Z' varies: sometimes like 'D', but equivalent to 'th', but other times equivalent to 'z'.
  • 'h' as in English
  • 'q' like 'k' but further back in the throat. Often pronounced like '?'
  • 'k' as in English
  • 'l' as in English
  • 'm' as in English
  • 'f' as in English
  • 'n' as in English
  • '?' as in Cockney 'bottle' ('bo le). A glottal stop.
  • '9' not always pronounced, but essential in Standard Arabic. A voiced version of 'H'.
  • 'gh' a fricative sound at the back of the throat. 'kh' while using the voice box.

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