Alif (also known as Aleph) is the first letter in the Arabic alphabet. By itself it looks as it does above, a straight line sitting on top of the writing horizon. You pronounce the letter's name more like "ellif" (like "ella") than "Al-if" (like "Al") but it is usually written "Alif" in English.
Many times you will see Alif with a vowel called a "hamza" sitting on top of it. This changes the way the Alif is pronounced as you will hear in later lessons. Don't worry about pronouncing the letters exactly at first, it takes time. Alif is generally the equivalent of an English "A" but is more often pronounced like "aaah" (the word "bab" below is pronounced baaab - like a short sheep sound with a "b" on the end!).
First though you should practice writing it and recognizing it.
Alif does not connect to other letters (it stands by itself) if it is the first letter in a word.
Alif does connect if it is a second letter following another letter (but again does not connect to the next letter following it). You'll see more examples but here are some basic words with Alif:
This word is "AL" (pro: "aaal") - it typically means "THE" and is pronounced like the name "AL" but with a big longer on the "A" sound - you can see the Alif in the first position unconnected to the "LAM" (the letter L in Arabic) in the second position. This word is two letters long but is usually connected to another word like a noun. There is no hamza on the Alif in this word and notice how the "LAM" dips below the writing horizon but Alif ends on top of it.
Here is Alif connected from behind in a three letter word:
This word is "BAB" and means generally "DOOR" or "GATE" - notice how the Alif is connected to the "BA" in the first letter from behind, this is typically how Alif is connected from behind. Also notice that it is not connected to the second "BA" in front of it. Some Arabic letters do connect from front and back at the same time. Alif is only connected from the back.
Alif generally looks like it does above when connected but sometimes looks a bit different when connected from the back with "LAM" (the second letter in the word "AL" above):
Alif can either look like this:
(LAM + Alif) - this is a word meaning "NO" in Arabic and is pronounced "LA" with a short "A" - sometimes pronounced more like "LEH."
The Alif can also just rest on top of the loop of the LAM and it means the same thing (sorry for the crude "paint" writing):
Here the Alif comes after the Lam but it looks unconnected but it is, it is a written varient of the first one.
That's it, pretty easy right?
Now click below to watch a video of how to write Alif and also some pictures of Arabic signs with Alif in it to see if you can spot it:
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