beginning, Duolingo

Duolingo: Alphabet 2

Welcome to the Alphabet 2 skill in Dr. Bulbul’s Guide to Duolingo Arabic. The Alphabet 2 skill introduces three new letters (ذ dhaal, ج jiim and ب baa’), and you also learn how a given letter can have as many as four different shapes. One new Arabic word is introduced, as well as a few proper names. The official Tips and Notes for this skill (which are quite sparse) can be found here.

If you’re new here, you might first want to review the letters introduced in the first skill: Alphabet 1.

The letter ذ dhaal

In the previous skill you learned the letter د daal. If you put a dot on top of this letter it becomes a ذ dhaal. The sound it makes, transliterated as dh, is the same as the English th sound in the words this and that. Here is what the ذ dhaal looks like:

Name of letter Pronunciation Letter
dhaal dh ذ

We can combine the letter ذ dhaal with other letters we learned previously. Let’s look at a few examples.

Transliteration Arabic Script
dhuu ذو
ziidh زيذ
dhaaraa ذَرا
raadha راذَ
wiidh ويذ
yaadh ياذ

One letter, four shapes

An Arabic letter can have as many as four different shapes, which depend on whether they are connected to letters before them or after them. The names of these four shapes are as follows:

Name of Shape Description
Independent Used when nothing is connected to the letter on either side. One situation for this is when the letter appears entirely alone.
Initial Used when connected to the following letter, but not to the letter preceding it. So the most obvious situation in which this letter is used is at the beginning of a word.
Medial Used when connected to a letter on both the right and the left. So, this situation only arises in the middle of a word.
Final Used when the letter is the last in a word, but it is connect to the letter preceding it.

Note: A letter can be preceded by another letter without being connected to it. This is because certain letters, called non-connectors, cannot connect to the following letter. So, if a letter in the middle of a word follows a non-connector, it appears in the initial form rather than in the medial form. Similarly, if a letter at the end of a word follows a non-connector, it appears in the independent form rather than in the final form. You will see this in some of the examples below.

Let’s look at the different shapes of the letters you’ve already learned, starting with the ك kaaf. Under each shape is given an example of a (mostly made-up) word with that shape of the letter.

Final Medial Initial Independent
ـك ـكـ كـ ك
ديك يَكَر كار ياك

Now let’s look at the ي yaa’:

Final Medial Initial Independent
ـي ـيـ يـ ي
داكي كيد يود داري

Six non-connectors

The remaining letters you have learned (ا ‘alif, و waaw, د daal, ذ dhaal, ر raa’, and ز zaay) are non-connectors. For this reason, they only have two forms, since they can only connect to the previous letter, never to the following one. (Whether we say that there are only two forms – independent and final – or that there are four forms, with medial and final being the same and with independent and initial being the same, depends on how you define the shapes. We’ll go with the “only two forms” version here.)

Let’s start with the ا ‘alif:

Final Medial Initial Independent
ـا ا
يا را

Now the و waaw:

Final Medial Initial Independent
ـو و
يوك دَو

And finally the د daal, ذ dhaal, ر raa’, and ز zaay:

Final Medial Initial Independent
ـد د
يدا رَدَك
Final Medial Initial Independent
ـذ ذ
يذا ذو
Final Medial Initial Independent
ـر ر
يَر رود
Final Medial Initial Independent
ـز ز
يَزو زيد

There are only six non-connectors, and you have learned all six of them. Remember that a non-connector is a letter that cannot connect to the following letter. All letters can connect to the previous letter.

The letters ب baa’ and ج jiim

Two additional letters are introduced in the skill: the ب baa’ and the ج jiim. Neither of these are non-connectors, so they both have all four possible shapes. Here are how the four shapes of these letters look. Under each form is an example of that form.

Final Medial Initial Independent
ـب ـبـ بـ ب
ديب كَبَد بوري دوب
Final Medial Initial Independent
ـج ـجـ جـ ج
زيج بَجَد جيد راج

A few personal names

A few personal names are introduced in this skills, some of them English. A few words are in order concerning two of them:

  • جورج jurj ‘George’. Note that while spelled with a و waaw, the name is pronounced with a short vowel u. So, say jurj, not juurj. Foreign names and brand names are often contain short vowels that are spelled as if they were long. Also note that جورج is actually a quite common name among Arab Christians. Saint George is the patron saint of the Coptic Christians of Egypt.
  • بوب bub ‘Bob’. Same thing here: say bub, not buub.

وَ wa ‘and’

We learn one very simply yet extremely important Arabic word in this skill: وَ wa ‘and’. This is a one-letter word, and the thing about one-letter words in Arabic is that they’re always written connected with the following word. Accordingly, in a well-written text (but not always in sloppily written texts), no space appears between the word وَ wa and the following word, as shown in this example:

رَواد وَجودي
rawaad wa juudii
‘Rawad and Judy’

Given what you have learned so far, can you read who this is a picture of?

Good luck!

I hope that this page gave you a better understanding of the material presented in the Alphabet 2 skill. The next skill is Alphabet 3. Here’s your link back to Dr. Bulbul’s Guide to Duolingo Arabic.

For your convenience, here is a brief summary of the entire Arabic writing system on the Bite-Size Arabic website.

If you would prefer a more structured presentation of the alphabet than that given in the Duolingo course, why not consider working through my book Bite-Size Arabic?


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