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Reading practice: real words or nonsense?

I'm a complete beginner at Arabic. I've got as far as 'Alphabet 3' here. I've seen forum posts noting that the machine pronunciation can be misleading, so I've turned it off as far as possible. (Also, if I'm trying to practise visual recognition of letters and words, I really don't want the audio, that just gives the answer away!)

My question is, are the sequences of letters real words? Or at least real syllables that might plausibly occur in Arabic words? Or is it just showing you all the letters you should know in combinations?

I seem to be reading a lot of words like 'jajaj' and 'bajar', also some transliterated English names like Bob, Carrie, Cuba etc. I want to learn realistic Arabic phonology, even though obviously I'm not going to be able to read many words when I've only encountered a third of the alphabet. If it's nonsense syllables then it's just reading practice and I should try to avoid retaining the actual sounds.

August 13, 2019



I don’t think they are real words, but simple syllables: just like in learning to read in one’s native language or prior babbling stage in a child’s language development, these help to increase exposure to the next level word elements after letters, their recognition, repetition and speech production.

Eventually, you will be able to recognise them in some words and the previous practice will help you recognise and pronounce words containing these syllables faster.

Imagine learning to read the word lo-co-mo-tive. Each of the syllables individually mean nothing. But grouped together they help you recognise the word. If you wouldn’t have the skills to recognise -co or -mo, you would struggle to read the whole word.

I see your point though, it would be helpful to associate individual syllables with some words so people could see “the bigger picture”.


Thanks, that's a really helpful explanation. I definitely need practice at combining letters and vowels to make syllables, and syllables to make words. And probably there just aren't enough real words that use the limited set of letters I know so far. I'll keep up the practice and see how far I get.


It's a shame that they're so repetitive if they can use any syllables; they could be generating far more varied combinations to test us on. Or is this a deliberate strategy to have us recognize these syllables in particular?


I started this course a while ago but I didn't learn much. After finishing 5 units what I can see is only the Arabic letters which are not easy to see [the font size is terrible] or hear [the sounds is the same...] There are couple of words there like names [Dakar, Kuba, George etc but nothing like full sentences nor even single words like: mom, dad, horse... I am quite disappointed...

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Unfortunately, lot of these have no sense.

I've posted some days back here about the problems with the Audio in the Arabic course on Duolingo. However, I think maybe single letters phonology is OK. But sentences and words .. are something next to a disaster in this course.


Good to know. I'm going to focus on using Duolingo for reading rather than listening / speaking, for now.


Yes, they aren't real words, so no point trying to retain the sounds.


This is saddening. To tell you the truth though, I was sitting beside some Arab boys the other day and they were watching my screen - they seem to be able to identify them as words. I don't know why the translations have not been included as we are learning the words.


Thanks for the info. The words looked kind of nonsense but I'm too much of a beginner to be sure.


Seem to be a mix of real words and nonsense-dito. I tested some 'words' on Google Translate and got occasional matches. For example 'lubb' لب got answer core. You can try to test yourself.

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