beginning, Duolingo

Duolingo: Descriptions 2

Welcome to the Descriptions 2 skill in Dr. Bulbul’s Guide to Duolingo Arabic. This skill introduces the letter ن nuun and the ‘alif laam ligature—لا—which is actually the combination of two letters.

The official Tips and Notes for this skill (which are quite sparse) can be found here.

The letter ن nuun

The letter ن nuun represents the n sound. Here is what it looks like in its four shapes, with an example word under each shape.

Final Medial Initial Independent
ـن ـنـ ـن ن
جُبن عِند نَعَم رُمّان

A basic noun containing a ن nuun from this skill is the Arabic word for ‘cheese’:


Oddly, this basic word is used as an example word to introduce the letter ن nuun, but it is not translated or used in any other way in this skill. In fact, no actual words are introduced in this skill containing the letter ن nuun.

The laam ‘alif   ligature

The other character introduced in this skill is the laam ‘alif ligature لا. This character is a combination of the letter ل laam followed an ا ‘alif. This is an odd point to introduce the laam ‘alif ligature, considering that we haven’t learned the letter ل laam yet. So, just as a preview and for context, here is a table with the shapes of the ل laam, which stands for the l sound:

Final Medial Initial Independent
ـل ـلـ لـ ل
جَميل كَلب لَم مال

Given the shapes of the letter ل laam, we might expect that a laam followed by an ‘alif would look like لـا or ـلـا, but although logical, that is never the case. Instead the special laam ‘alif ligature is used. (A ligature is a character consisting of two or more joined letters.) Because this ligature ends in an ا ‘alif, which is a non-connector, it has only two shapes:

Final Medial Initial Independent
ـلا لا
سَلام لازِم

In all of the examples used in this skill, the لا is pronounced as laa.

بِلال كِلاب سَلام
bilaal kilaab salaam
‘Bilal (man’s name)’ ‘dogs’ ‘peace’

This skill makes some odd choices with respect to presentation. Just as was the case with the letter ن nuun, although you are introduced to this new character, you are not presented with any new vocabulary items containing it. So let’s learn two extremely basic words that use these two letters:

لا نَعَم
laa na3am
‘no’ ‘yes’

New vocabulary

Here are all of the new words I could identify in this skill:

عَرَبِيّ ذَكِيّ مُتَرجِم
3arabiyy dhakiyy mutarjim
‘Arabic, Arab’ ‘smart, intelligent’ ‘translator’
‘fast, quick’

Picture time!

Can you read the text in this picture?

Good luck!

I hope that this page gave you a better understanding of the material presented in the Descriptions 2 skill. 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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