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This Handbook of writing and pronunciation is the fruit of several years’ teaching the Arabic language at the United Nations Office in Geneva and interaction with students from fifty different countries, i.e. from different religions cultures, and linguistic origins. It is the collection of lessons prepared to reply specifically to the immediate needs of each student, taking especially into consideration his or her language of origin.

The Arabic alphabet contains several letters and sounds which do not exist in other languages. Learners differentiate between them with difficulty and often confuse them. Among the languages which use the Arabic alphabet, there are several letters which are written and pronounced differently, as in Persian, Urdu or Pashto. This is why, whatever the language of origin of the learner, I insist on good handwriting and good pronunciation from the very beginning.

In these languages, there are also words of Arabic origin, but they have different meanings. This is also true for other languages which do not use the Arabic alphabet but which are influenced by Islam, such as Malay and Wolof, or by Arab-Islamic civilisation, such as Maltese and Spanish.

To know a language is to know the mentality, the way of thinking and of expressing himself, the customs, and the life style of the person who speaks that language. It is never possible to know and understand a people without knowing its language; through studying the language, you can identify with the people and even come to love them.

This book is not a treatise on comparative linguistics. However, instead of dealing only with the languages which use the Arabic alphabet, I refer to other languages, since I find that there are common features which every student of Arabic must know, whatever his language of origin, whether or not it uses the Arabic alphabet.

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