How to know when to use harakat, and when to use the normal vowel sounds?
I'd like to try typing out arabic words more instead of selecting them from the word bank during lessons but I just can't remember when to use a haraka, and when to use the actual vowel. I know it has something to do with length but I just can't tell the difference when it comes to arabic words being casually said. Is there an easier way to tell?
You just learn which word has which vowels :( If you are more advanced, you learn which word model, ort pattern, has which vowels. For example the word مدينة (madina, a city) is the same model as the word سفينة (safina, a ship) or جزيرة (jazira, an island) so they have exactly the same vowels at the same place (ma-dii-na, sa-fii-na, ja-zii-ra). If you know one you know all of them.
Be careful though, it is not always straightforward. Look at the adjectives: جديد (jadiid, new), كبير (kabiir, big), طويل (Tawiil, long), رخيص (rakhiiS, cheap), all have the same pattern, a short "a" and a long "i". But no, بارِد (baarid, cold) and many others have a long "a" and a short "i". It's a different model!
(I am not an advanced student, corrections are welcome)