KateKatharina’s Online Arabic Tutorial


I wish I could lie to you but I can’t. The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters, a large proportion of which change shape according to their position in the word. A select few are awkward and refuse to join with letters to their left. Many have the same shape when in the beginning or middle of a word but have a different number of dots above or below them. There’s a special symbol to let you know the absence of a vowel sound. In case you were, you know, in doubt.

I’m just back from my second class and am rather disappointed that there has been no opportunity to practise speaking, given that learning the alphabet seems to take an eternity. For this reason, I’m going to teach what I’ve learnt in the way I would have liked to learn it. I’m really not one to say a bad word about teachers (believe me, I’ve a vested interest) but as one of my classmates mumbled after class “she’s awful serious.. she’d want to ligthen up” and of the homework “It’d put you to sleep alright”.

To get us started, watch this. I dare you not to feel a smile creeping uponon your lips.

The only two things you need to remember from this video:
1.That little boy’s adorable voice (Bieber who?)
2.that Arabic has three vowels, which correspond loosely to ‘A’. ‘E’ and ‘U’. They’re a bit like fadas in Irish. For ‘A’ you put a dash above the letter; for ‘E’ below and for ‘U’ its a little sign that looks like a number 9 above the letter. That’s why in the song they sing ‘A, U, E, Be Bu Beey’ etc.

Okay, enough about the alphabet. (For my sake, not yours).

For those of you who don’t know me (I’m looking at the seven people who googled “smail” and were referred to my blog today. Though on second thought, perhaps it was was just one massively enthsiastic malacologist.)

“ismee Kate Katharina”

Say it.

Go on.

Now tell me who you are.

ismee= I

Your name=Your name

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.

Now, Kayf- haluk? How’s life?

I’d hate to pre-empt you but are you feeling fine, thank God? And are you male? Then say this:

Tayeb al-hamdu lelah

Are you feeling fine thank God but worried, because you are female? Then say this:

Tayeba al-hamdu lelah.

Same? Nope. All adjectives (as here ‘fine’) have genders. How do we make an adjective feminine?

Add A.

Hmmm. There’s a problem, isn’t there?

Some of you are not fine. Some of you are tired. Fine. It’s a late blog post. You have an excuse.

Say this if you’re a man:
Ta-ban, which the stress on the ‘ban’.

If you’re female, say….???

Come on, you know this one.

Yes, you got it Ta-ban-a.

I (ismee) really am Ta-ban-na now..

So I guess I should take my leave from you and say

Mass-salama.

Go on, reply to me. It’d be rude not to.

*********************************************************************

PS- Remember ‘share the luv’ on bebo? Well my lovely blogger friend Clariice over at Reise meines Lebens has shared the luv by nominating me for a Liebster blogging award.
I’m not sure if this is an actual award or simply a way to get bloggers to share each other’s work but I’m going to take the opportunity to link you to some blogs that I really enjoy.

1. Comeheretome: UCD history students writing interesting short pieces about cultutal landmarks. They often include scans of really interesting historical documents they have access to. Warning: also write about football.
2. Inside the brain: Love this blog. Irish neuroscientist summarises latest research in his fields in layman’s terms
3.Broadside New York-based writer and author of Malled: my unintentional career in retail writes short, poignant pieces in beautifully crafted prose
4. Kat Richter: Serial-dater from Philadelphia. What more can I say? Addictive and witty.
5. Last but definitely not least: Clariice herself. She writes wonderful poetry in language that I love. It’s totally unique in that it’s sparse but also satisfyingly clunky. Her words are real, soulful and off-beat.

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4 thoughts on “KateKatharina’s Online Arabic Tutorial

  1. Did you know? I was very amused by this entry. It’s a little similar to gibberish, isnt it?
    I couldnt quite follow the thread but the little dialogue felt like one of the children shows 😀

    Thanks very much for your compliment as well!
    “It’s totally unique in that it’s sparse but also satisfyingly clunky. Her words are real, soulful and off-beat.”
    It’s a lazy, drawl that I am adopting, using the simplest format – but hopefully entertaining and contradicting at times. Funny humour, I know but it’s an interesting way to look at things sometimes. I try to rhyme and fix the rhythm most times but doesnt work out too well half the time.
    Glad to have a supportive audience like you too 😀

    • Glad it made you smile, Clariice! I actually really like the drawl you use in your poetry.. It makes it more real somehow than if it were absolutely perfectly rhymed etc. It seems you choose your words first for their emotional value and then for their contribution to the rhyme. I think that’s the right order. 🙂

      • However did you know about the order of my choice??! Absolutely true and I am simply amazed you saw that:)
        There are times when I am stumped/frustrated by perhaps my lack of vocab when I feel it might have fitted in better but there were times when the words just fell on my lap. To make up for the former, I try to read more and store up the words but as you know, our brain cells are limited so…when new ones come in, some of the old ones naturally gets displaced :p

  2. Pingback: Confessions of an Arabic student: Ordering Falafels And Sounding Like A Pirate | Katekatharinaferguson's Blog

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