Arabic phonetics for English learners
Thread poster: Gillian Searl

Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:49
Member (2004)
German to English
Jul 25, 2017

Hi all!
One of my jobs (apart from translating German-English) is Regional ESOL Coordinator for the Syrian Resettlement Programmes in the East of England. I coordinate and support the English lessons for resettled Syrians across 6 counties. We have found that many of these people really struggle with getting literate in English, especially if they have missed out on schooling in Syria - which is the case for many.

So today I'm looking for something very specific: I'm told there is an Arabic phonetic system in which you can write English words in Arabic script. I'm not looking for the international phonetic alphabet - I don't want these learners to have to learn another script. I simply want my teachers and students to be able to write English words in Arabic script - as if they were Arabic words. This is used in many phrasebooks - especially for English people. It would have three columns, e.g. for English > Italian:
Italian word - phonetic spelling for English people to read - English meaning.

So in this case it would enable teachers to produce:
English word - phonetic spelling of English word in Arabic - Arabic meaning.

If you know where I can find such a resource, I'd be very grateful. I do realise that not all sounds in English are reproduced in Arabic but anything along these lines would be very helpful. Thank you very much.

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Serena Basili  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:49
English to Italian
+ ...
My two cents Jul 26, 2017

From what I remember of my Arabic studies, you can use the Arabic alphabet and borrow some letters from the Farsi one - more precisely, "p", "v", and some others. With vowels it is different. I was taught to use damma (short "u") also to reproduce "o" and kasra (short "i") to reproduce "e" and "i" sounds. For example, Arab people would write my name "Siriyna" (the "y" stands for "ya" letter - you combin short and long vowels to mark the stress).

Hope this helps - but feel free to ask me more

Edited to add: for "a" sounds, you can use alif if it's stressed or at the beginning/end of the word, otherwise use fatha (short "a"). In case the English word start with a vowel, use alif and put on top of it fatha (if it's an "a") or damma (if it's an "o/u") or, if the first letter of the word is "e/i", put kasra under the alif .

[Edited at 2017-07-26 08:02 GMT]

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Amel Abdullah  Identity Verified
Arabic to English
+ ...
A few thoughts Jul 26, 2017

Although I can't think of any titles offhand, there are language-learning books which use a system like you describe. To get a feel for the letters/sounds involved, take a look at the following pages:

You can probably do what you have in mind successfully with the help of the Syrians themselves...because you will need to understand the differences in the sounds as well as how to join the letters in Arabic as you cannot just write out each letter separately (in isolation) as you might with English.

I hope this helps a bit. I will also let you know if I come across any relevant books or online resources.

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Arabic phonetics for English learners

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