1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Arabic
  4. >
  5. Arabic "ayn" sound = Number 3…


Arabic "ayn" sound = Number 3?

I'm very rusty with Arabic. I studied around 10 years ago, so I was happy to finally notice that Arabic is now on Duolingo. After testing past a few levels and actually getting into a lesson, I noticed that the letter I remember as "ayn" (ع) and the sound I associate with it in my memory are noted in these lessons as the number three (Arabic from English). (Ex: "ki3aa" as a pronunciation.)

In no time in my short time on this planet have I ever associated the sound that comes from pronouncing the number 3 with the sound that comes from reading "ayn". What happens when the lessons actually start involving numbers? It's confusing and not the way I would prefer to store things in my mind. I'm wondering if my lessons are broken or if all throughout, it will be expressed in that way. Am I missing something? I'm really asking.

(If there is already a post about this, I couldn't find it.)

July 22, 2019


  • 1346

3 = ع
6 = ط
7 = ح
2 = ء

These are the numbers used for Arabic letters, in addition to "9" for either ص or ق (Moroccans use it for Q:ق). This type of lettering or typing was developed in the early days of the internet when typing with Arabic was not greatly available and cumbersome at its best (well, still is) so people invented this way to communicate (and actually the list can go on more those mentioned above, it's a personal preference actually).


9 as saad ص

8 as kaaf ق

5 as khalifa خ


So basically, you know how there's more Arabic letters in the alphabet than that in English, right? Good. The letter (ع) doesn't exist in the English alphabet, and there are no letters in the English alphabet close to its pronunciation, so Arabs had to find a way to type this letter using an English alphabet. Then some clever guy realised that if you flip the letter (ع) it looks like a 3 so why not use a three to replace it! GENIUS [well in the times of brick phones that only have English alphabet, that really was GENIUS]

So in short, it is the same letter you've always known. The same throaty sound, just represented using a 3 :"3ayn" instead of "ayn". It sounds like this if you're kinda lost [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSwHMvc0zM4]

Hope that helps :)


Thanks. I'll just try to imagine that. Hopefully I get used to it.


It's still an "ayn". I had to check out a Youtube video from a native speaker who explained it, which was very helpful. It's only represented by a 3 because as SASSYandsisters said, it looks like a flipped 3! The Youtuber said it's the throaty "ah" sound you'd make if you stubbed your toe really hard. Yup - that helped! Lol


Thank-you, I have been struggling with with what a 3 was doing in words. The video was great. Shame Duolingo didn,t offer some explaination


Same question from me!!

Learn Arabic in just 5 minutes a day. For free.