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How to pronounce each letter in the Arabic alphabet

Updated on May 13, 2017

Pronunciation & Arabic Letters

There are two levels to address when approaching proper pronunciation of Arabic letters: (1) the names of each letter; (2) the sound that each letter makes. While there are a few letters in the Arabic alphabet which may present particular challenges to non-native speakers such as ghayn (غ) and 'ayn (ع), these sounds can be mastered with a bit of practice. In addition, a number of letters such as meem (م) and nuun (ن), for example, are identical to the English pronunciation. The following chart should help you master the names of each letter and what sounds they make.

How to pronounce each letter in the Arabic alphabet

Letter Pronunciation
Letter Name
Letter
A as in Apple
ألِف (alif)
ا
B as in Bat
باء (baa)
ب
T as in Tan
تاء (taa)
ت
Th as in Theory
ثاء (thaa)
ث
J as in Jeans
جيم (jiim)
ج
Aspirated H sound, similar to the H in He, but stronger, coming from the windpipe and the back of the throat
حاء (Haa)
ح
Like the "kh" sound at the end of the name "Bach"
خاء (khaa)
خ
D as in Dad
دال (daal)
د
Th as in Them
ذال (dhaal)
ذ
R as in Raw
راء (raa)
ر
Z as in Zoo
زاي (zaay)
ز
S as in See
سين (seen)
س
Sh as in She
شين (sheen)
ش
S as in Saw, yet a heavier pronunciation
صاد (Saad)
ص
D as in Dawn, yet a heavier pronunciation
ضاد (Daad)
ض
T as in Tall, yet a heavier pronunciation
طاء (Taa)
ط
Dh as in "Thar she blows!", yet a heavier pronunciation
ظاء (Dhaa)
ظ
No English equivalent. Close to the chocking sound made in the throat.
عين ('ayn)
ع
No English equivalent. Close to the gargling sound made in the throat.
غين (ghayn)
غ
F as in Fan
فاء (faa)
ف
Like the "qaw" sound we associated with the call of a crow, yet heavier and deeper in the throat
قاف (qaaf)
ق
K as in Kite
كاف (kaaf)
ك
L as in Land
لام (laam)
ل
M as in Meat
ميم (meem)
م
N as in Noon
نون (nuun)
ن
H as in House
هاء (haa)
ه
W as in Wow
واو (waw)
و
Y as in Yes
ياء (yaa)
ي
Glottal stop as in "uh-oh"
همزة‎‎ (hamza)
ء

Pronouncing each letter with vowels

While it may be difficult to practice each letter alone, it is easier to practice these sounds with the Arabic long vowels alif (which makes the sounds "aa"), waaw (which makes the sound "oo") and yaa (which makes the sound "ee").

Refer to the chart below to see each long vowel and their pronunciation.

Long Vowels

Sound
Name of Long Vowel
Long Vowel
aa
alif
ا
oo
waaw
و
ee
yaa
ي

Practice Makes Perfect

Now that you know how to pronounce each of the long vowels, use the below alphabet chart to practice saying each letter with the corresponding long vowels. You may also choose to follow along with the video below, so that you can hear the proper pronunciation of each letter with the corresponding vowel.

Alphabet Chart with Long Vowels

Pronunciation Chart

Alif-Baa: Learning the Arabic Alphabet in a class or on your own

While learning a language on your own is a challenge, it is possible. One of the best books out there for starting this process is Alif-Baa. I have taught Arabic for several years, and this is one of the most common books in use, particularly in higher education institutions. This means that, should you eventually decide take a course in Arabic, chances are you will be using or will have used the same learning material as those in the class. Furthermore, Alif-Baa includes a DVD for exercises in the book that allow you to hear and see Arabic in action. This is particularly useful for learning how to write and pronounce letters properly.

My advice, therefore, is to spend a bit more on the book with the DVD rather than saving a few dollars by buying a used text. This is not because I am against the purchase of used books - half of my library is used! However, buying the new book, which ensures you will have the DVD, is an important, if not critical step to learning proper pronunciation and writing.

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