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Jordan language glossary

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278



Language

THE STANDARD ARABIC ALPHABET
Final Medial Initial Alone

CONTENTS
278
280
280
280
280
281
282
282
282
282
283
283
283
284
285

Arabic is Jordan’s official language. English
is also widely spoken but any effort to communicate with the locals in their own language will be well rewarded. No matter how
far off the mark your pronunciation or
grammar might be, you’ll often get the response (usually with a big smile): ‘Ah, you
speak Arabic very well!’.
Learning a few basics for day-to-day
travelling doesn’t take long at all, but to
master the complexities of Arabic would
take years of consistent study. The whole
issue is complicated by the differences between Classical Arabic (fus-ha), its modern
descendant MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) and regional dialects. The classical
tongue is the language of the Quran and
Arabic poetry of centuries past. For long it
remained static, but in order to survive it
had to adapt to change, and the result is
more or less MSA, the common language of
the press, radio and educated discourse. It
is as close to a lingua franca (common language) as the Arab world comes, and is
generally understood – if not always well
spoken – across the Arab world.
Fortunately, the spoken dialects of Jordan are not too distant from MSA. For outsiders trying to learn Arabic, the most

frustrating element nevertheless remains
understanding the spoken language. There
is virtually no written material to refer to
for back-up, and acquisition of MSA in the
first place is itself a long-term investment.
An esoteric argument flows back and forth
about the relative merits of learning MSA
first (and so perhaps having to wait some
time before being able to communicate adequately with people in the street) or focusing your efforts on a dialect. If all this gives
you a headache now, you’ll have some idea
of why so few non-Arabs, or non-Muslims,
embark on a study of the language.

PRONUNCIATION

Pronunciation of Arabic in any of its guises
can be tongue-tying for someone unfamiliar with the intonation and combination of
sounds. Pronounce the transliterated words
slowly and clearly.
This language guide should help, but
bear in mind that the myriad rules governing pronunciation and vowel use are too
extensive to be covered here.

Vowels

Technically, there are three long and three
short vowels in Arabic. The reality is a little
different, with local dialect and varying
consonant combinations affecting the...
LANGUAGE
278
CONTENTS
LANGUAGE
www.lonelyplanet.com
Language
Arabic is Jordan’s official language. English
is also widely spoken but any effort to com-
municate with the locals in their own lan-
guage will be well rewarded. No matter how
far off the mark your pronunciation or
grammar might be, you’ll often get the re-
sponse (usually with a big smile): ‘Ah, you
speak Arabic very well!’.
Learning a few basics for day-to-day
travelling doesn’t take long at all, but to
master the complexities of Arabic would
take years of consistent study. The whole
issue is complicated by the differences be-
tween Classical Arabic (fus-ha), its modern
descendant MSA (Modern Standard Ara-
bic) and regional dialects. The classical
tongue is the language of the Quran and
Arabic poetry of centuries past. For long it
remained static, but in order to survive it
had to adapt to change, and the result is
more or less MSA, the common language of
the press, radio and educated discourse. It
is as close to a lingua franca (common lan-
guage) as the Arab world comes, and is
generally understood – if not always well
spoken – across the Arab world.
Fortunately, the spoken dialects of Jor-
dan are not too distant from MSA. For out-
siders trying to learn Arabic, the most
frustrating element nevertheless remains
understanding the spoken language. There
is virtually no written material to refer to
for back-up, and acquisition of MSA in the
first place is itself a long-term investment.
An esoteric argument flows back and forth
about the relative merits of learning MSA
first (and so perhaps having to wait some
time before being able to communicate ad-
equately with people in the street) or focus-
ing your efforts on a dialect. If all this gives
you a headache now, you’ll have some idea
of why so few non-Arabs, or non-Muslims,
embark on a study of the language.
PRONUNCIATION
Pronunciation of Arabic in any of its guises
can be tongue-tying for someone unfamil-
iar with the intonation and combination of
sounds. Pronounce the transliterated words
slowly and clearly.
This language guide should help, but
bear in mind that the myriad rules govern-
ing pronunciation and vowel use are too
extensive to be covered here.
Vowels
Technically, there are three long and three
short vowels in Arabic. The reality is a little
different, with local dialect and varying
consonant combinations affecting their
pronunciation. This is the case throughout
the Arabic-speaking world. More like five
short and five long vowels can be identified;
in this guide we use all but the long ‘o’ (as
in ‘or’).
a
as in ‘had’
aa
as the ‘a’ in ‘father’
e
short, as in ‘bet’; long, as in ‘there’
i
as in ‘hit’
ee
as in ‘beer’, only softer
o
as in ‘hot’
u
as in ‘put’
oo
as in ‘food’
Consonants
Pronunciation for all Arabic consonants is
covered in the alphabet table on p279. Note
that when double consonants occur in the
Pronunciation 278
Tricky Sounds 280
Transliteration 280
Accommodation 280
Conversation & Essentials 280
Directions 281
Emergencies 282
Health 282
Language Difficulties 282
Numbers 282
Paperwork 283
Shopping & Services 283
Time & Dates 283
Transport 284
Travel with Children 285
THE STANDARD ARABIC ALPHABET
Final Medial Initial Alone Transliteration Pronunciation
aa as in ‘father’
b as in ‘bet’
t as in ‘ten’
th as in ‘thin’
j as in ‘jet’
H a strongly whispered ‘h’, like a sigh of relief
kh as the ‘ch’ in Scottish loch
d as in ‘dim’
dh as the ‘th’ in ‘this’
r a rolled ‘r’, as in the Spanish word caro
z as in ‘zip’
s as in ‘so’, never as in ‘wisdom’
sh as in ‘ship’
emphatic ‘s’
emphatic ‘d’
emphatic ‘t’
emphatic ‘z’
the Arabic letter ’ayn; pronounce as a glottal
stop – like the closing of the throat before
saying ‘Oh-oh!’ (see Tricky Sounds, p280)
gh a guttural sound like Parisian ‘r’
f as in ‘far’
q a strongly guttural ‘k’ sound; also often
pronounced as a glottal stop
k as in ‘king’
l as in ‘lamb’
m as in ‘me’
n as in ‘name’
h as in ‘ham’
w as in ‘wet’
oo long, as in ‘food’
ow as in ‘how’
y as in ‘yes’
ee as in ‘beer’, only softer
ai/ay as in ‘aisle’/as the ‘ay’ in ‘day’
Vowels Not all Arabic vowel sounds are represented in the alphabet. For more information on the vowel sounds
used in this language guide, see Vowels (p278).
Emphatic Consonants To simplify the transliteration system used in this book, the emphatic consonants have not
been included.
LANGUAGE •• The Standard Arabic Alphabet 279
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