This blog was originally designed to keep me sane as I began learning Arabic. It morphed into a blog of musings about Arabic, the Middle East, and the Islamic World, as well as book reviews about those topics. Then, the blog became a place to keep my family and friends updated on my adventures while I was living abroad. During May and June of 2012, I had a 6-week long internship in Cairo, Egypt through a international student organization called AIESEC. I taught English at the Awladi Orphanage in Cairo, home to several hundred children. I lived in an apartment in Nasr City before moving to Maadi (each is a distinct area of Cairo). I experienced President Mursi's election, camped in the western desert, rode camels by the pyramids, and had countless other experiences. I have since moved past this blog, on towards new endeavors, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Learning Letters

The art that people manage to create by using Arabic calligraphy is really amazing. While I know that I will never be able to draw the letters quite so beautifully, I would like to make sure that I master the letters, both in written and in spoken word.

Arabic writing is much like cursive writing in English; most letters can be connected together in one, fluid motion. The interesting thing is that the letters change form. Each letter looks a certain way whenever it is by itself, but once you place it into a word (either at the beginning, middle, or end), it changes. So, not only must one learn the 28 letter alphabet, but they must also learn to recognize all 4 variations of each of those letters.

Last summer, I taught myself the Arabic alphabet by using flashcards. Conveniently enough, I still have the flashcards, but I do not remember all that I learned.

Thankfully, some are easy. The letters that sound like English letters are pretty simple. I know alif (A), baa (B), sin (S), shiin (SH), nun (N), and lam (L) the best. The problem that many of the other letters share is that they represent sounds that would use the same letter in English. For example: "ta," "taa," and "tha," sound much the same; "ha" and "kha" have the same problem; as do "dal" and "dad." The only difference is in emphasis. I'm convinced that learning to hear the difference in spoken word is much the same process as a classical musician must face when learning to identify slight differences in music.

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