Reading Arabic Characters

A few years back, I took a conversational Arabic class before visiting the Middle East.

I thought I’d use memory palace techniques to re-learn my now-rusty Arabic skills…and go an extra mile and tackle the written Arabic language.

Not an easy task!

I obtained a copy of Rosetta Stone Arabic (levels 1-3) to help with written/oral integration but the Arabic alphabet continues to elude me.

It turns out I’m not alone! Memorizing languages is generally a “whole brain” exercise, where words processed by the “right brain” are integrated to visual images in the “left brain”, but Arabic is an exception: Scientists have now proven that reading Arabic text is exclusively a ‘left brain’ activity.

On the flip side, it also explains how native Arabic speakers have difficulties learning a second language: they’ve grown up essentially just using their left brain for all language activities, and have to “learn” to use both side for non-Arabic languages.

I’m not sure what’s more difficult: trying to shut off half of your brain or trying to use an unused half of your brain!

I’ve spent the past week investigating techniques to learn and use the Arabic written language but have failed miserably so far.

This is very interesting. Where did you read about the Arabic to Left Brain association? My native language is Urdu, very similar to Arabic. I often feel like I am left brain dominated. I wonder if there is some connection.

Thanks,
Asjad

That is a tough language to read – no vowels. :slight_smile:
I learned how to read the letters once, but it was a long time ago and I’ve forgotten. I think it could be done with standard mnemonic techniques.

Brainstorming some ideas:
ا = looks like 1 and is the first letter in the alphabet: alif
ب = “ba” sounds like “bottom”, and that is where the dot is
ت = “ta” sounds like “top” and that’s where the dots are.
ث = “tha” emphasized, so an extra dot. “Tha” sounds like “three”.
ج = “gim” is possibly related to “camel”. It’s similar to “ba”, but looks like it has curled forelegs, or leans forward to spit, depending on its position in the word.
ح = “ha” – maybe the camel spit the dot on someone and is laughing
خ = “kha” – the camel is clearing its throat, getting ready to spit again, storing it as a dot on top
د = like a “D” without a line on one side
ذ = emphasized “D” with (dot)
etc.

We could add it to the weekly memory challenges. I’m interested in learning it, as well as the variations for other languages like Farsi and Urdu.

Sounds great. Urdu is a mix of Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian and Turkish. A slight evolved form of Arabic, if you ask me. For example, there is no alphabet for P, so Pakistan becomes Bakistan (باكستان) in Arabic. Urdu offers “پ”, three dots at the bottom (similar to “tha” except nuktaas are at the bottom). So, in Urdu, Pakistan is پاکِستان.

Here are the alphabets for all three. See how Urdu offers the most alphabets. One of the reasons is that is one of the most recent lanugagues.

Arabic:
ا ب ت ث ج ح خ د ذ ر ز س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ك ل م ن ه و ي

Persian:
ا ب پ ت ث ج چ ح خ د ذ ر ز ژ س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ک گ ل م ن و ه ی

Urdu:
ا ب پ ت ٹ ث ج چ ح خ د ڈ ذ ر ڑ ز ژ س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ک گ ل م ن و ہ, ﮩ, ﮨ ھ ء ی ے

Now, I need your help with PAO system. I have just started making my own scheme. I am ok with making images out of six numbers. But what do you do with 3 or 5 numbers?
For example, how would 145 work? or 01345? You can use any PAO to explain. Thanks in advance for your help?

Sounds great. Urdu is a mix of Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian and Turkish. A slight evolved form of Arabic, if you ask me. For example, there is no alphabet for P, so Pakistan becomes Bakistan (باكستان) in Arabic. Urdu offers “پ”, three dots at the bottom (similar to “tha” except nuktaas are at the bottom). So, in Urdu, Pakistan is پاکِستان.

Here are the alphabets for all three. See how Urdu offers the most alphabets. One of the reasons is that is one of the most recent lanugagues.

Arabic:
ا ب ت ث ج ح خ د ذ ر ز س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ك ل م ن ه و ي

Persian:
ا ب پ ت ث ج چ ح خ د ذ ر ز ژ س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ک گ ل م ن و ه ی

Urdu:
ا ب پ ت ٹ ث ج چ ح خ د ڈ ذ ر ڑ ز ژ س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ک گ ل م ن و ہ, ﮩ, ﮨ ھ ء ی ے

Now, I need your help with PAO system. I have just started making my own scheme. I am ok with making images out of six numbers. But what do you do with 3 or 5 numbers?
For example, how would 145 work? or 01345? You can use any PAO to explain. Thanks in advance for your help?

Along with 00-99, you can create objects for single digit numbers. Most people use a rhyming systems*,

1=bun
2=shoe
3-tree
4-door
etc.

or a number shape system, which I don’t use, so can’t help you with. :stuck_out_tongue:

But, once you decide on your objects, then a three digit number, like 145 could be Person (14) interacting with the number object (5). In my case, Andy Dick trapped in a bee hive. But depending on how you think about the numbers, you can break them up like 1 45 (or my cousin being eaten by a bun).

I would break up 01345 like this, 01 34 5 (Person/Action/Number Object) (Will Riker playing a beehive like a fiddle (him and the bees make beautiful music together)).

Hope that helps,

–Larry

*You mention that your native language is Urdu. Native English speakers generally have a soft spot in our hearts for number rhyming systems, because most of us as children learn

1, 2,
Buckle my shoe
3, 4
Shut the door
5, 6
Pick up sticks
7, 8
lay them straight
9, 10
a big fat hen.

When I made up my number objects, 2, 4, 6, and 10 couldn’t be anything else, but a shoe, door, sticks, and a hen. With your two languages (at least) you might have an advantage over picking objects, because you have more sounds to choose from when identifying an object. For me, the letters BB might be a basketball, burnt bread, or a baby blanket, but you have a whole 'nother language to choose from.

Good luck!

Thank you Larry! This is very helpful.

Hello Josh,
I see that your post is of a several years ago.
I’m in the early start of learning Arabic. Totally beginner and my goal is to be able to read it within 2 months.
Did you focus further on Arabic?
Do you have suggestions how to use mnemonics to learn it? In your post you are referring to some letters but, every letter has a begin, middle and end form. The letters you have written down are the end forms,

thanks!
Ruben

I haven’t done any more with Arabic, but you could repeat the process of creating mnemonic images for other letter positions in the same way. See also the “related links” section on this page for other discussions about Arabic letters.