beginning, Duolingo

Duolingo: Alphabet 4

Welcome to the Alphabet 4 skill in Dr. Bulbul’s Guide to Duolingo Arabic. The Alphabet 4 skill introduces the letters م miim and ت taa’, plus two more diacritical marks: the ُ   ḍamma (used to write the short vowel u) and the ِ   kasra (used to write the short vowel i).

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

The letters م miim and ت taa’

The letter م miim stands for the m sound. Here is what it looks like in the four different shapes. Each shape has an example word under it.

Final Medial Initial Independent
ـم ـمـ مـ م
زيم جَميك مَكَب رام

A real word that we can now read that uses the letter م miim is the proper noun مَريَم maryam ‘Maryam’, which is the Arabic form of the name ‘Mary’:

‘Maryam, Mary’

As for the letter ت taa’, it represents the regular t sound. Here is what it looks like in its four shapes, again with an example word under each shape.

Final Medial Initial Independent
ـت ـتـ تـ ت
بَكَت بَتيك تير بات

A very basic word containing a ت taa’ from this skill is the Arabic word for ‘house’:


Though not introduced in this skill, a useful word that we can now read that uses both the ت taa’ and the م miim is the Arabic word for ‘office’:


Two more short vowels

In the Alphabet 1 skill you learned the fatḥa, which is the diacritical mark used to represent the short a vowel. In this skill, you are introduced to the diacritical marks for the two remaining short vowels. Here are all three of these marks, each written above a line:

Name of Symbol Transliteration Symbol
fatḥa a ـَـ
kasra i ـِـ
ḍamma u ـُـ

Let’s see how these work, combining them with a single letter:

بُ بِ بَ
bu bi ba
زُ دِ ذَ
zu di dha
مُ كِ تَ
mu ki ta

Some new vocabulary

This is the first skill where we really start learning new ordinary words in Arabic. Here are the new words, or at least most of them:

كَراج باب مُمتاز
karaaj baab mumtaaz
‘garage’ ‘door’ ‘excellent’
بَيت كَبير جاكيت
bayt kabiir jakit/jaakit
‘house’ ‘big, large’ ‘jacket’

A few remarks are in order here:

  • Duolingo would have you believe that مُمتاز mumtaaz means ‘amazing’, but its actual basic meaning is ‘excellent’. Sorry, Duo!
  • Duolingo pronounces the word جاكيت inconsistently, including sometimes very oddly as jakyat (or maybe that’s normal in some Arab country). I would consider the normal pronunciation of this word to be either jakit or jaakit

No indefinite article

Note that Arabic doesn’t have an indefinite article, so a noun like باب baab can be translated as either ‘door’ or ‘a door’. There is a definite article, so that we can say ‘the door’, but we will learn about that in a later skill.

Combining nouns and adjectives

The order of the noun and adjective within an Arabic noun phrase is the opposite of that in English. In English we say ‘an excellent jacket’, but in Arabic, what you say literally is ‘a jacket excellent’:

جاكيت مُمتاز
jakit mumtaaz
‘an excellent jacket’

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 Alphabet 4 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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