Arabic words can be written with Roman letters (the English alphabet) by using capital letters and certain letter combinations to represent sounds particular to the Arabic language. For example, you may see an Arabic word written like this: "sabaaH al-khayr." That capital letter H and those double "a's" are not typo's--they represent sounds that are not found in the English language. The best way to learn these sounds is to use an audio program that allows you to listen to native speakers saying these sounds. This article will attempt to give a verbal description of these sounds and how to pronounce them.
Learn the letters and sounds that are the same in both English and Arabic. Arabic uses the sounds of these English letters: b, d, f, h, k, l, m, n, s, t, w, and z. In addition, Arabic has its own letters that represents the sounds "sh" and "th," so when you see these letter combinations, say them just like you would in English.
Pronounce the vowel "a" as in "father." (Examples: walad, kanada, anta, ana) When you see "aa," pronounce it as "ah" but with more emphasis. (Examples: shaadya,haatha)
Pronounce the letter "r" with a rolling sound, just like in Spanish. (Example: mudaris, faar, sareer)
Pronounce the letter "j" so that it sounds like the "s" in the word "pleasure." (Examples: shajar, majalla)
RuthJ is the author of a student guide to Beowulf, published by Greenwood Press. She is currently writing a book on the technology and material culture of the Middle Ages. She taught her kids at home for many years and learned many offbeat things.