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First Arabic (MSA) lesson - Who are you?

Who's ready for their first Arabic lesson? I won't be teaching it like most other courses are made on here, going through basics then phrases etc - I will just try to follow the layout of the books and other resources that I use also use.


So who's ready for their first lesson?

Basic pronunciation, orthography etc!

I won't be using the Arabic alphabet right now, instead using my preferred form of transliteration. Important things to know are - The stress falls on one of the last three syllables, but I will indicate which syllable has stress by capitalizing the vowel (If a word starts with a vowel and there is no capitalized letter anywhere else in the word, then the stress falls on the first syllable :D. If there are two vowels in the syllable, it means that the vowel is long. I will only capitalize the first vowel out of two. The pronunciation of consonants and vowels is fairly straight forward since I am using a transliteration and if there are any words that need pointing out I will when I come to them :)

Let's get into it! - Who are you?

So I thought I would start of with greetings, as they are the only thing in Arabic that don't require much grammar to use. Let's get started with the most important word in the world:

Hello! Ahlan! (Notice that only the first vowel is capitalized so the stress falls at the beginning of the word :) )

To pronounce this word, both of the A's are pronounced like in "mud" or "stuff". The H in Ahlan IS sounded, just breath a little bit harder when you say the first vowel. Here is a link to Forvo for a better example.

Hello / Ahlan on Forvo

Note that the speaker is from Egypt - He pronounces it just like it should be, but be careful that Arabic has a lot of dialects, and a speaker from the Levant (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon.) struggles to understand a speaker from Tunisia and Morocco about as much as a Spaniard can understand Italian.

But let's not dilly dally on Ahlan. After Hello, the second most important thing would be "How are you?"

KAifa hAaluka

This is the most common way to say "How are you" in Arabic. Literally, you are saying "How your condition". Arabic has no verb for "to be" (Copula) in the present tense, which helps when starting. But there is one catch to this phrase. The word "hAaluka" changes to "hAaluki" when you are speaking to a woman. The majority of Duolingo users use Spanish, so be careful with the fact that A is masculine in common speech, and that I is feminine. Also, the ka/ki ending is the part that means your. hAalu is condition. This is pronounced fairly straightforwardly:

Kay-fo haa-loo-ka (Kay like in the month "mAY", and the O's are like in the word "shOE")

Before I forget, KAifa = How and HAaluka = Your condition"

The reply is fairly straight forward:

  • I = Ana (Doesn't change for gender of speaker"
  • Good/Fine = BikhAir"
  • Bad = SAyyi

Ana is pronounced easily, the same A in stuff and mud but with an N in between them.

The KH is BinKHair is one of the toughest sounds in Arabic. Here is the word on forvo:

BikhAir on Forvo

SAyyi is pretty simple to pronounce, just "say-yee" (Same -ay as in mAY, and yee has the same ee as tree and me) just make sure you say the second Y and don't skip it like I did when I first started.

Last thing I teach you in this post (Before it gets too big :D) is how to ask back:

  • Wa = And
  • Anta = You (To a male)
  • Anti = You (To a female)

Wa is pronounced like it looks. Anta and Anti are both pronounced like they look. Just remember that the I in Arabic sounds like the I in "Machine"

Here is a Forvo link just to be helpful though :)

Anta on Forvo

Here is a little conversation example to put these words into place.

  • Person 1: "Ahlan! KAifa HAaluka"
  • Person 2: "Ana BikhAir! Wa Inta?"
  • Person 1 "Ana SAyyi. :( *Sad trumpet music)"

So I hope you enjoyed the first lesson, even if it was a long read with only a small amount of words to learn. I will make a new lesson tomorrow with a lot more content :).

P.S: I will explain why I chose "Ahlan" and not "Assalaamu-alaykum" next time.

June 3, 2015



Thanks for your efforts! Just as an aside, when you hear Arabic speakers greet each other they tend to toss in a lot of words back and forth, so you might actually hear boom, boom, boom, right after each other: "Marhaba" "Ahlan" (the second "a" can be really stretched) "Kafak?" (that is a shorted version of KAifa hAaluka) and "Alhamdulillah" as a further reply to whatever the person being greeted says. There is usually a lot of enthusiasm and sweetness - especially directed towards children, and a lot of excitement and care expressed towards adults. There is no skipping or rushing this conversation step if you want fit in. :) It's really worth learning Arabic greetings if you have any chance to be around Arabic speakers - it is a real fountain of endearment and love not to be missed. :)


I am going to add most of those tomorrow, I just only had 20 minutes to type up what I did today.


No worries! Great effort here! Thanks!


Actually when I come to think of it when Iuse to study Levant Arabic I only learned Keefak and Keefik for how are you... and I got told to always use ilkadeen with it, probably because my teacher was so against people that spoke Arabic not formally.


Thank you for teaching Arabic, that is very good explanation.

I am a native Arabic speaker if you need any help :)

BTW here is how to type this phrases in Arabic:

  • Hello = أهلاً

  • How are you? (To a male) = كيف حالكَ؟

  • How are you? (To a female) = كيف حالكِ؟

  • I = أنا

  • Good = بخير

  • Bad = سيّئ

  • And = و

  • You (To a male) = أنتَ

  • You (To a female) = أنتِ


Sorry for having the first Forvo link in German :/ Just click the blue play button, everything else doesn't matter!


Hello isn't exactly "ahlan", ahlan is more like welcome.Hello is "marhaban"...I dunno how to explain it but i'll give an example: X: marhaban, kayfa halooka? or marhaban, kayfa halooki? y: ahlan, bikha-yir, wa enta? or ahlan, bikha-yir, wa enti?


I learned several words for Hello in MSA, but Marhaban wasn't one of them. I chose Ahlan because it is (from what I know) the most religiously neutral word. I will add Marhaban in the next lesson.


Marhaban is religiously neutral too :) If you have any question BTW, i can help; Arabic is my native language :)


No you are mixing them up.

Hello = Ahlan = أهلا

Welcome = Marhaban = مرحبا


OK, now that I thought about it,you're right! Oh, I dunno, you confused me hehe....But, I use Marhaban as hello.....and if someone says marhaban to me, i reply with ahlan


If someone said Merhaba. You may reply chokran which means thank you


Taloua, Arabic is my first language too.... Again, I use marhaban as hello and get an "ahlan" or "marhabatyn" back ...are you telling me I've been using the wrong word all these years? :)


I think the two meanings are correct :)


شكراً! أريد أن أتعلم اللغة العربية، أحب اللغات السمية. هل عربي اللغة القوميتك؟

?Also, have you applied for the EN<->AR courses


I'm not fluent, but I thought that I would make some lessons fro the textbook I use.


Which textbook do you use? Al-Kitaab?


I don't actually use textbooks, but pdf and other free online resources. I can post the links to some if you would like.


Oh that'd be great, I'm currently using a "book" my teacher made, but I'm looking for other resources too :D


Hi, not to be rude, because I really love that you're doing this. But if you don't choose to teach the Arabic alphabet, why don't you use other means to show the different sound like 7, 3, 5, .. Or: ḏ, š, ḥ, ..


I will try to find a more consistent system tomorrow


I like the system you used! The one with the numbers is harder unless you know what the sounds of the Arabic letters are. The system you used ties them to English sounds and is just fine by me! :)


It's not harder if he teaches them in the lesson.


7,3,5, ... are completely informal to use.


I was just giving an example. He can also use the transliteration that's used by a lot of universities. But it's important that all of the sounds are clear, and not all of them aren't now.


Thank you to everyone here. This is all very interesting!

As an English speaker, I have no clue what you mean by 7, 3, 5 . I guess I could learn it, but I'd rather learn the actual real letters.

Also we were explained Anta and Anti and then suddenly it was "Wa Inta?" and then someone else (elanbs) said "Wa enta" and "Wa enti" A little help here?

There is an Arabic Memrise course that I am learning to understand the writing.


i am a native arabic speaker i would be glad if you have any question


To anyone who wants to do Arabic lessons like this (or just add on to ones Chuggy 370 makes) I say thank you! :) The more the merrier as far as I am concerned. :)


Do you don't know one sound similar to the kh sound in another language? It's something like the German ch?


They are close, but sleigjtly different. The Arabic KH is said more forcefully. Smart observation though :-)


Why does when the arabs write in their language in the latin alphabet they use symbols as "7"?


This is just a way for typing Arabic in English letters. Because there is no letter sounds in English like the letter "ح" we use "7" Instead of it. And keep in your mind that nothing formal in this way.


You are welcome :)


Great idea, thank you very much!

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