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  5. Someone Explain this: بَعي


Someone Explain this: بَعي

When I am in Duolingo learning words like بَعي Well it suggests that it is a word with a "3" in it. But there shouldn't be a 3 in an alphabet. It doesn't make sense to me, could someone possibly explain?

November 20, 2019



The 3 is used to represent the letter ayn throughout the course. An ayn looks like a 3 reversed when it is in it’s unconnected form. The course also uses a 2 for hamza for the same reason. A hamza looks like a 2 reversed.

This system seems weird, but it is widely used when Arabs write the language in Roman characters (...those used for English) for texting purposes.

A note about hamza. It is a letter, but it represents a glottal stop. “A what?” I hear you saying...a glottal stop is a full stop on air movement through your mouth in the middle of a word. I think the best example of this in English is how a Cockney would say, “li-ul” and come to a full stop instead of pronouncing the tt in little.


Thank you!!! So could you give me another example of a word that has "ayn" in it? So I can understand how the glottal stop works? Also, I am not that far in Arabic on duolingo, will they get into tones?


There is an ayn in araby...arabic. And actually, in addition to being how you spell the letter ayn, ayn means spring (as in water) in Arabic. The letter is sometimes represented by ‘A. It is one of those letters that we don’t really have a corresponding sound for in English, but it sounds a bit nasal to me, and is pronounced deeper in the mouth and is more emphatic than an English A.

Here is a link that explains has some more examples. If you want to hear how they are pronounced, you should be able to copy them into https://forvo.com/


As for hamza, it is a rabbit hole that you could get lost in, and there are discussions (and arguments) about whether it is a letter or not. But for now, an example that will show how it can make a glottal stop within a word: اِمْرَأَة Which means woman. It is pronounced im-ra’ah, with the ‘ representing a glottal stop. It won’t be as pronounced as the Cockney version of little. You can copy and paste the word into forvo to hear how it is pronounced.


I forgot to answer about the tones. Arabic is not considered a tonal language. What Arabic does have is emphatic letters. So there are multiple letters that make s sounds, for example, and a soft h and a hard H.

Like anything, this is confusing at first, but Arabic is phonetic, so in some regards it is actually easier than English, which is not. Arabic is a highly logical language, it just takes some time to get used to the differences, and to learn to read a new script and pronounce letters that don’t have corresponding English sounds.

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