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Lesson Transcript

Halla: أهلا و سهلا Everyone. Halla here.
Simon: Simon here all about lesson 2, all about the Arabic writing system.
Halla: Now, we need you to focus. This is very important and there is a lot of, well, not surprises, but let’s say new system to learn.
Simon: That’s true, Halla. Speaking of the system, Arabic uses the Arabic alphabet as its writing system. The Arabic alphabet originated from Aramaic. Although Arabic inscriptions are most common after the birth of Islam, around the 7th century, the origin of the Arabic alphabet lies deeper in time. The Nabataeans, which established the kingdom in what is modern-day Jordan from the 2nd century, were Arabs.
Halla: Yes. They wrote with a highly cursive Aramaic-derived alphabet that would eventually evolve into the Arabic alphabet. The Nabataeans endured until the year 106 CE when they were conquered by the Romans.
Simon: But Nabataean inscriptions continue to appear until the 4th century CE, coinciding with the first inscriptions in the Arabic alphabet, which is also found in Jordan.
Halla: Also, Arabic alphabet is used in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Pashto, Tulu, Malay, Xhosa and that’s in West Africa.
Simon: Mandinka, Swahili in East Africa, Balti, Brahui, Punjabi in Pakistan, Kashmiri, Sindhi in India and Pakistan, Arwi in Sri Lanka, Uyghur in China, Kazakh in China, Kyrgyz in China, Azerbaijani in Iran, Kurdish in Iran and Iraq, and the language of the former Ottoman Empire.
Halla: In order to accommodate the needs of these other languages, new letters and other symbols were added to the original alphabet. As you can see Simon, it’s extremely important and very useful to know. Also, knowing about 40% of Arabic you can survive in Arabic countries.
Simon: You’ll see it on all street signs, at the airport, train and bus stations, newspapers and guide books, and it can be used for general communication, but I was wondering about something. If you speak Arabic in one country, can you understand it in another?
Halla: More or less yes, especially if it’s written. We might use the spoken dialect to communicate, but when it comes to the written form, we most likely go with standard Arabic. If not, then we write what we say, simple and clear. The written language in each country is as different as it’s spoken. It could be very little or really different.
Simon: And that’s why all foreign students go for standard Arabic?
Halla: Yes. But if they seek to communicate with people on all levels in the Arabic-speaking world, using Arabic is much better. Best Arabic for that is the Egyptian colloquial.
Simon: Well that’s how it happened with me. I started with standard and then went for the dialect to deal with people. Otherwise, it could be a little strange.
Halla: I can only imagine. Okay, great. So Simon, let’s speak about the alphabet. First, the Arabic alphabet consists of three vowels and 28 consonants.
Simon: I had a lot of fun learning those vowels.
Halla: I bet you do. Also, Arabic alphabet consists of 28 characters.
Simon: And you form words by connecting the letters. Arabic does not have words written with separate letters, that’s why each letter has three forms – the beginning, medial, and end – plus the isolated form. That was also fun and very interesting.
Halla: We have these three forms – beginning, medial and end. Because the words in Arabic are always written connected, as you have just said, it’s never separated letters. The form doesn’t change much. Each alphabet keeps its original form or look, but with small changes to make it easier when we write it. Best think, memorize its isolated form then learn it in the other three forms. The shape and looks are really the same. Just connect it to form the words.
Simon: You know guys, if you know the Arabic alphabet, Hebrew, Amharic, Persian, Turkish, it may also be easier to understand and learn mainly because it comes from the same family or is using the same alphabet system, which will make the process of reading and writing much easier and smoother. Also, there’s a lot of common words between them, so it all connects.
Halla: Yes. So when you start learning it, keep in your mind, this is not just for one language, but a true connector to many others.
Simon: I agree with you, Halla. Well guys, that just about does it for today. Thanks for listening and see you next time on Arabic Pod 101 – All about Arabic lessons.
Halla: Thanks Simon مع السّلامة .