Arabic Writing & Pronunciation (1)

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INTRODUCTION

This Manual of handwriting and pronunciation is the fruit of several years’ teaching the Arabic language at the United Nations Office in Geneva and interaction with students from fifty different countries of the five continents, that is to say from different religions, cultures, and linguistic origins.  It is the collection of lessons prepared one by one in order to reply specifically to the immediate needs of each student, taking into consideration his or her language of origin, job, intellectual level, training, etc.

The Arabic alphabet contains several letters and sounds which do not exist in other languages. Learners differentiate between them with difficulty and often confuse them.

Among these students are a certain number whose mother tongue is Persian, Urdu, or Pashto.  They are keen to learn Arabic which is the language of the Koran.  However, many are not interested in learning the Arabic alphabet, as they wrongly think that they know it sufficiently well, since it is the same alphabet that they use in their respective languages of origin, which they have learnt from an early age.  Therefore, they do not think it is useful to learn it again like little children.  This is their argument.  They do not realise that, even if they can master Arabic, what they write must look like Arabic, and what they say, when they speak, must sound like Arabic, and not like Persian or Urdu.  This is the reason why, whatever the language of origin of the learner, I insist on good handwriting and good pronunciation from the very beginning, no matter how long it takes.  Bad handwriting and faulty pronunciation cannot be corrected, if they are allowed to take hold.

It is true that these three languages, as well as others such as Kurdish, Sindhi, Sundanese, Uzbek, Uigur, and Turkish (until 1928), use the Arabic alphabet.  But their writing and, even more so, their pronunciation are clearly different from Arabic.

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