Learning the Arabic alphabet is essential when learning the Arabic language.  Arabic letters are written from right to left, in a cursive style, and the alphabet consists of 28 letters. The letters usually stand for consonants, and change shape depending on whether they are at the beginning, middle or end of a word, so they may exhibit four distinct forms (initial, medial, final or isolated). However, six letters (و ز ر ذ د ا) have only an isolated or final form, and so force the following letter (if any) to take an initial or isolated form, as if there were a word break. For example, أرارات (Ararat) has only isolated forms, because each letter cannot be connected to its adjacent one.

Some letters look almost the same in all four forms, while others show considerable variation. Generally, the initial and middle forms look similar except that in some letters the middle form starts with a short horizontal line on the right to ensure that it will connect with its preceding letter.  The final and isolated forms, are also similar in appearance but the final form will also have a horizontal stroke on the right and, for some letters, a loop or longer line on the left with which to finish the word with a subtle ornamental flourish. In addition, some letter combinations are written as ligatures (special shapes), including lām-’alif.

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Click on the Isolated Letters Below to Hear their Pronunciation