1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Arabic
  4. >
  5. The Arabic diacritics


The Arabic diacritics

Hi Everyone! I'd like to announce you an urgent news for those whom are very eager and committed to learn Arabic language:

"The Arabic diacritics here is JUST HORRIBLE!" I'm sorry to use that word, but it's actually how it is. For example, the word "name" in English, refers to how someone is called like Mike, Sam, Lidia... so on, its translation in Arabic is "اسم", you can pronounced like "ISM". Very easy isn't it? "ISM" means name in Arabic. But how I could know it's "ISM" and not "OSM" or "ASM"? Actually it's its the original name's diacritic, here in "اِسْمٌ" you can see in the first letter "Alif" there is an inclined small bar called "Kasra" that makes the letter tone, low. As a result, the sound of "I" like in "FIT" is use here, so "اِسْمٌ" is pronounced "ISM". If I want to define this word, to make it general, i'll say, "AL-ISMO" "اُلْاِسْمُ". The letter "O" is equivalent here to " ُ " "TH'AMMA" and "A" is equivalent to " َ " called "FATHA".

So, in general, "FETHA" " َ " is pronounced "A", "KASRA" " ِ " is pronounced "I" and "TH'AMMA" " ُ " is pronounced "O". There is another last basic diacritic called "SOKON" " ْ " which omit all the other diacritics sounds from the letter. In English this sound is easy to perform, it's like when you finish to say a word, that letter without voyelle at the end is equivalent to that same letter with "SOKON". For example if i want to write the verb "To add" in Arabic, I'll write " أَدْ " , you can see the circle on the " د " which means that this letter has no sound, it'll will be pronounced JUST "D".

Ok, sorry, I took it a little bit long here, let me get back to my topic. So "ISM" mean "name" in English. But when you want to say "My name" "ISM" will be "ISMI" " اِسْمِي " and "Your name" "ISMOKA" " اِسْمُكَ " and not "ISMAKA" " اِسْمَكَ " like they wrote it in this course. They used the wrong intonation in the wrong place, "ISMAKA" mean that "Your name" is a C.O.D not a Subject, and it was wrong.

If I said : I saw your name in the list, it'll be " رَأَيْتُ (اسْمَكَ) فِي اَلْقَائِمَةِ " pronounced as "RA-AYTO (ISMAKA) FI-LQAIMATI"

Another example "His name is Peter" --> " اِسْمُهُ بِيتَرْ " " ISMOHO BITAR". So like you could see, one word will have different pronunciations depending on the place he's putting in (I mean its role in the sentence). Duolingo doesn't respect this details in his lessons, so honestly and I don't blame Duolingo, learning Arabic here it's not WORTHY as long as diacritics errors keep turn around here... Have a nice day! :)

September 2, 2019



Thanks for letting us know! Please, tell us again if you see more errors


Sukūn or Sokon? Even this word varies in transliteration depending on what romanization is preferred. My understanding about diacritical markings is that there are different standards for which markings are essential, or to the extent which you describe. The shedda is essential because it tells us to double the consonant when spoken. And is also useful to have the sukūn to let know if a vowel does not follow a consonant? It would be overwhelming to learn or maintain in Duolingo. I think it is better to only use the essentials. Also, since Romanization cannot give an exact model for saying Arabic sounds, we must caution our selves about whether it is ISMAK or ISMOK because an English or Spanish speaker might say is-mack, ismahk, is-mohk, is-mock?

Perhaps the team can provide us with a tips and notes to say which set of markings they will use? And what standard of Romanization they are using? I saw they explained some of the symbols they used on the website tips and notes.

It's maybe not great some of their choices by our opinions, but not terrible either.

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