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Levantine Colloquial Arabic is a spoken dialect with no official status or rules of orthography. Native speakers tend to borrow spelling conventions from Modern Standard Arabic with some accommodations to account for LCA pronunciation. Arabic script, however, is ill-suited to show the actual pronunciation of LCA and the sound changes that occur when words are inflected. Even if you are comfortable with Arabic script, it is advised that you pay close attention to the phonetic transliteration to determine a more precise pronunciation of words and phrases. IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbols are found in [square brackets] in the descriptions below. You may find exceptions to the following rules, especially when it comes to words borrowed from other languages.


The following sounds are also found in English and should pose no difficulties:
bب[b] as in bedbána بَنى (build)
dد[d̪] as in dog, but with the tongue touching the back of the upper teethdáris دَرِس (study)
fف[f] as in fourfētūra  فاتورَة (bill)
jج[j] as in pleasure and beigejísim جِسِم (body)
hه[h] as in househājam هاَجم (attack)
kك[k] as in kidákal اَكَل (eat)
lل[l] a light l as in lovelíbis لِبِس (get dressed)
mم[m] as in moonmēt  مات (die)
nن[n] as in nicenísi نِسي (forget)
pب[p] appears in some foreign borrowingsspōr سْبور (sport)
sس ث[s] as in sunsíni سِنِة (year)
šش[ʃ] as in showšū شو (what)
tت[t̪] as in tie, but with the tongue touching the back of the upper teethtlēti تلْاَتِة (three)
ŧث[θ] as in think; this pronunciation found in Standard Arabic is an ‘educated’ variant of ث pronounced as [s], used in certain words.náŧir نَثِر (prose)
vف[v] appears in some foreign borrowingsmūvī موفي (movie)
wو[w] as in wordwēn وَيْن (where)
yي[j] as in yesyíktub يِكْتُب (he writes)
zز ذ[z] as in zoozār زار (visit)

The following sounds have no equivalent in English and require special attention. However, some exist in other languages you may be familiar with.

rر[ɾ] tapped (flapped) as in the Spanish cara, or the Scottish pronunciation of treeráma رَمى (throw)
ɣغ[ɣ] very similar to a guttural r as in the French Paris, or the German rotɣēr غَيْر (different)
xخ[x] as in the German doch, Spanish rojo, or Scottish locháxad اَخَد (take)
qق[q] like k but further back, almost in the throat, with the tongue touching the uvulaqanāt قَناة (channel)
ɧح[ħ] like a strong, breathy h, as if you were trying to fog up a windowyíɧfur يِحْفُر (he digs)
3ع[ʕ] a voiced glottal stop, as if you had opened your mouth under water and constricted your throat to prevent choking and then released the constriction with a sigh3írif عِرِف (know)
ʔء ق[ʔ] an unvoiced glottal stop, as [ʕ] above, but with a wispy, unvoiced sigh; or more simply put, like the con-striction separating the vowels in uh-ohʔíbil قِبِل (accept)
The following sounds also have no equivalent in English but are emphatic versions of otherwise familiar sounds. An emphatic consonant is produced by pulling the tongue back toward the pharynx (throat), spreading the sides of the tongue wide as if you wanted to bite down on both sides of your tongue, and producing a good puff of air from the lungs.
ɖض[dˁ] emphatic dɖárab ضَرَب (hit)
ʂص[sˁ] emphatic sʂúbuɧ صُبُح (morning)
ʈط[tˁ] emphatic tʈálab طَلَب (ask)
ʐظ[zˁ] emphatic zbūʐa بوظَة (ice cream)


In LCA, vowels have some fluidity to their quality—their pronunciation is affected by neighboring consonants. The phonemic transcription offers an approximation based on the Arabic script. However, you should rely on the audio tracks to mimic a more precise pronunciation. Foreign words, in particular, may deviate from the rules below. Final vowels may be marked as long, but in reality, are often pronounced somewhat shorter.
aـَThe most versatile of the vowels, amay be pronounced a number of ways, most commonly [æ] as in cat (but with the jaw not quite as lowered as in English); sometimes [ɛ] as in bed, but sometimes more open, as the French é [e]; [a] as in stock when in the same syllable with ɧ or 3; usually [ɑ] as in father (but shorter) when in the same word as q, ɖ, ʂ, ʈ, ʐ, or, in most cases, r

kátab كَتَب (write)

ɧaʈʈ حَطّ (put)

ma3 مَع (with)

ɖárab ضرب (hit)

áʂɣar اَصْغَر (younger)

āـَا[æ:] / [a:] / [ɑ:] as with a above but longermaqāl  مَقال (article)
ãـان [ɑ̃] (nasal) as in the French écranēkrã اَيْكْرون (sunscreen)
eـَ ـِ[ɛ] as in bed, found in some foreign words.esprésso اَسْبْرَسّو (espresso)
ēـَي[e:] as in play (but without the glide to [j])

wēn  وَيْن(where)

nēm نام (sleep)

iـِ[ɪ] as in kid; [ɛ] as in bed when in the same syllable with ɧ or 3; when in the same word as q, ɖ, ʂ, ʈ, or ʐ, [ɨ] with the tongue pulled back a bit

3ílim عِلِم (science)

šíliɧ شِلِح  (undress)

ɖidd ضِدّ (against)

īـِي[i:] as in ski; [ɛ:] and [ɨ:] as with i above (but longer)

في (there is)

ybī3 يْبيع (he sells)

ʂʂīn الصّين (China

oـُ[o] as in know (but shorter and without the glide to [w])doktōr دُكْتوْر (doctor)
ōـَو[o:] as with o above but longernōm نوْم (sleep)
uـُ[ʊ] as in bookyíʈlub  يِطْلُب (he orders)
ūـُو[u:] as in moonšū شو (what)

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