How to Read Arabic: Fast and Free


At first sight, the Arabic Naskh script appears daunting, with swirling lines and hovering dots that go from right to left. To add to that, there are 28 letters, and each letter has three different forms, depending on where it is located in a word. I won’t lie. I was overwhelmed. In fact, I nearly gave up. But a burning curiosity got the better of me, and before I knew it, I was sounding out consonants and vowels.

Here is a step by step documentation of my journey:

  1. I started by memorizing the alphabet in in its isolated form. As I mentioned earlier, different letters in Arabic take upon different shapes, depending on where they appear in a word. Letters include isolated, initial, medial, and final forms. After looking at a few alphabet charts, I used a simple memorization game to help me remember how the different letters looked, when standing on their own: Arabic Alphabet
  2. Next, I used a free online course to help me learn the different forms of the letters. The link that I have pasted here is extremely comprehensive. It teaches you how to read the letters and all their forms from start to finish, as well as how to use short and long vowels. I found the course on Memrise, a free online learning site which is almost like a cross between Duolingo and Quizlet. I worked for about an hour a day during the summer, and basically, upon completing this course, I was able to fully read the Arabic script: How to Read Arabic
  3. My final step is practice. I have found a lot of effective and fun ways to keep up my skills, and I try to spend some time each day. I like to look up articles or texts in Arabic, just to practice reading. In addition, I listen to a lot of Arabic music. While my favorite songs are playing, I like to look up the lyrics (in the Arabic script, NOT ROMANS), and try to follow along. I am also extremely lucky to have an Arabic speaking friend, whom I text each week. It is also really helpful to download the Arabic keyboard on your device, so that you can type, search, and write with ease. Over time, you will see your reading speed increase, as you continue to practice!

And did I mention that I accomplished all of this in a matter of weeks? Learning how to read a language is not hard, and it doesn’t require the help of expensive courses or long lengths of time. All it takes is some patience, hard work, and enthusiasm! If I can do it, so can you! !حظا سعيدا Good luck!

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