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Alif Baa: Introduction to Arabic Letters and Sounds (Al-Kitaab fii ta allum al -Arabiyya - a textbook for Arabic)

4.5 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0878402922
ISBN-10: 0878402926
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Arabic
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Product Details

  • Series: Al-Kitaab fii ta allum al -Arabiyya - a textbook for Arabic
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Georgetown Univ Pr (August 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0878402926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0878402922
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 8.8 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,770,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Recognize that Alif Baa is a college textbook designed as part of a three-year Arabic program. It is very detailed, but includes a lot of linguistic information that a beginner doesn't want. Al-Batal designed this as the definitive text on the Arabic Alphabet, and it is, but if you just want to learn how to read and pronounce Arabic in order to start studying, then you should go for a simpler text. Awde's "The Arabic Alphabet" is the one to choose.

Alif Baa will tell you all the different regional pronunciations of each letter, different handwriting variations, etc. IMHO, that is too distracting for the beginner who just wants to unscramble the script and distinguish k from m, and so forth. The problem is that this book doesn't identify what is essential and what is nice to know, so people come out confused about three different regional pronunciations of one letter, rather than learning jiim = j, etc. These differences don't become important until you have progressed well into Arabic.

Also, the Al-Batal series seems to guard the answer keys to their textbooks like state secrets, one of the biggest student complaints.

And of course, $40 is a lot to plunk down if you can get what you want out of an $8 book (like Awde's).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is by far the best introduction to the Arabic writing system that I've been able to find. The accompanying CD's do what no other books dedicated to teaching the Arabic alphabet do, which is teach the sounds of Arabic at the very same time it teaches you individual letters. "Teach Yourself Arabic Script" for example only describes the particular sounds, which can be very different from English sounds and which one usually needs to hear in order to produce.

"Alif Baa" is also bound on the right-hand side, so the reader instantly gets used to the feel of a book which starts on what seems like the back page. Also, the size of the letters when they are introduced is fairly large so that the reader can see the shape of each letter and their sometimes confusing details, since Arabic letters are often variations on a particular theme. The page layouts are neat and uncluttered, the typeography on even the smaller-printed text is crisp, and write-on lines for student answers are ample.

Also, it is not necessary to purchase the videotapes to make full use of this text, as one reviewer complained. In each chapter there is a page dedicated to a cultural note which is illustrated through video scenes, but this is only an introduction to basic conversation in the Cairene dialect and not an instrinsic part of the book's main task, which is to teach the shapes and sounds of the Arabic alphabet. Contact information for the publisher is given in the back, and the answer key might be obtained from the press, I haven't tried yet. Once a reader has diligently worked through Alif Baa, she or he will be able to jump right in to any basic Arabic course and indeed have a major advantage, since none offer as thorough an introduction to reading and writing Arabic is this title.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a very well-considered introduction to Arabic letters and sounds. It focuses on the difficulties English speakers have in recognizing and pronouncing letters such as "DHaa" vs "daal". The companion cassettes are absolutely necessary; the book is worthless without them. Exercises consist mainly of differentiating between similar-sounding words, and distinguishing what letter actually appears in a spoken word. No "answers" to the exercises are given, but I found none were needed. The book is intended to take 6 weeks of study to finish.
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Format: Paperback
I've been studying Arabic for about a year now (with a couple months' break in the middle) and have been through several other books that introduce the Arabic alphabet. Based on the recommendations of several other reviewers, I ordered the book and the answer key from Georgetown Press. I got the newest version, which is in DVD format. I am very impressed. In the Introduction section, not only do they pronounce all the sounds of the letters, they have a video image of someone pronouncing them. This is really helpful, as not only do you hear the difference, you can also see how the shape of the mouth and position of the tongue changes for the different sounds.

I'm already pretty comfortable with the alphabet, having used Mace's book as well as some other sources, but I've already learned several new things working through the first chapter of this book. They also have video footage of someone writing the letters, so you can see how they are formed.

While I will eventually have to go to school somewhere or do a study abroad to get more experience speaking Arabic in real-life settings, I find Alif Baa a great start for self-directed study. I strongly urge people to buy the DVD edition of this book and the answer key as well--from Georgetown press if not available here.
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Format: Paperback
I first learned to speak Arabic with this text and I now use it when I teach. I have used many texts (some written and published in the Arab world), but non come close to the simplicity of Alif Baa. One thing the editors could work on is updating the pictures in the book. They are dated and almost silly to look at.
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