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Unique sounds in the Arabic language - heavy vs. light letters

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Lecture challenge level

         See also: Light versus heavy, Be careful, Drill, Video

Compare the light to the heavy letters

Watch videos
 (under 2.12 min each):

1- Compare Easy to Difficult Sounds.                       2- The Hardest letter

Now here is a matter of phonetics...

Arabic has seven heavy sounds that do not exist in the English language.

As well as seven lighter sounding counterparts that do exist in both the English and the Arabic language.

What does counterpart mean?

Counterpart means for every heavy sound in the Arabic letters there is also a lighter version.

The seven heavy letters, or the "tricky" sounds, are all covered in this lecture.

Let's take a look together.

  Compare the SOUNDS of the heavy to light letters.

(The sounds are recorded and not the names of the letters).


14-2 light v.s. heavy sounds



 Found in Arabic & English 


Found only in Arabic NOT English


       1 d   (day)



3 h   (happy)




5 s   (sad) 


See more examples of heavy sounds

Be careful

1- Differentiating between light and heavy letters is critical to pronouncing Arabic correctly.

Let's say it again: Critical.

Try not to be a student of Arabic who says light letters instead of heavy letters... when the letter is clearly heavy.

Learning Arabic means putting a little extra time, in the beginning, to hearing the difference between isolated heavy and light sounds.

Then as you get better try to capture the heavy letters within the midst of a word. Which gets more challenging.

"Are you a little bit confused? Let's study together!"

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English speakers have a hard time capturing the heavy sounds -- and tend to alter them to light sounds or skip over them entirely. They just look the other way and ignore the letter all together.

Revisit the above table over and over and over again until you get it.

A native speaker may notice your replacement of heavy for light sounds.

Falooka places a dot under transliterated heavy sounds. For example: - - -

2- Is there any good news?? Yes.

Heavy letters are frequently replaced by light letters in Egyptian Colloquial/Spoken Arabic.

Why is this good news?

Because light sounds are much easier to capture.

Note: MSA/Classical Arabic (more formal Arabic) preserves the heavy sounds.


3- The letters on the right side are replaced by the left column when speaking Egyptian Colloquial/Spoken Arabic:

used in both classical & colloquial Arabic

used mostly in classical & and not colloquial Arabic

د ذ
ت    ث
ء   ق 

4- For MSA/Classical Arabic remember to gently stick out the tongue from the mouth for the following letters: 

ث  ذ  ظ 


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