I often hear that Arabic is a difficult language, including pronunciation. There are sounds that don’t exist in English or in Polish. But… sometimes we are just not conscious about their existence. Let’s take a hamza or glottal stop – this is how ء is called. It exists both in English, and in Polish! Surprised?
It is fascinating: to see the similarities where – as it may seem – there are only differences. What do I mean? Who learns Arabic, they know that a glottal stop or hamza is a consonant spelled in this language as: ء. Its carrier is for example an alif, then it looks like this: أ or like this: إ (Of course I mean these little signs written as superscript or subscript.)
When you read about the Arabic sound system on blogs or websites, it seems as if they wanted to scary you to death convincing you how problematic are sounds in Arabic.
As for me, there are not any problematic sounds – I love them all. I don’t know why, but from the very beginning I like the sounds of Arabic, perhaps because of these sounds.
One day I realized that indeed both in English and in Polish there is a “glottal stop”. It is called like this in English; Polish grammarians call it “zwarcie krtaniowe”. I could give a very sophisticated description, but I will spare myself and the readers. Suffice it to give examples, and you will know what it is about.
Glottal stop in English (in Arabic as well) appears in the beginning of the enunciation, before the vowel, for example in words like “I”, “after”, “only”, etc. especially when there are pronounced with emphasis. Another, maybe better example is emphatically pronounced “o-oh”. Before and after the first “o” there is another sound that is not written but it certainly is there.
Also, in Polish a glottal stop in Polish appears in the beginning of the enunciation, before the vowel, for example in words like “ona”, “ale”, especially when there are pronounced with emphasis. Another, better example is emphatically pronounced “nie”. After an “e” sound there is another sound, not written. Isn’t it? It doesn’t have a name, but it certainly is there.
It may also be observed in words with prefixes, e.g., za-awansowany – between these two “a” vowel there is a glottal stop. Sometimes it can be heard between two vowels in words like “boa” or “teatr”, but in these cases it is not considered correct.
Back to Arabic, similarly, like in Polish word “nie” (English: “no”) – in this case لا [read: la] can be pronounced in two ways. In a regular speech it sounds “nie” and “la” respectively, while in emphatic negation: nie’ and la’ – this is how many authors spell this sound (other systems of transliteration can also be found).
Uff, how nice it is to see similarities in our mother tongue and a foreign language. It makes things much simpler…