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Your Guide to Numbers in Arabic

From Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Languages > Arabic > Start Learning Arabic by Mastering Arabic Numbers

Learning Arabic numbers is one of the essential building blocks of learning the Arabic language. It’s a first introduction to a new language, alongside the Arabic alphabet and its script.

If you master the Arabic alphabet and numbers, you’ll be ready to learn Arabic in earnest, whether you’re focusing on Modern Standard Arabic, also known as literary Arabic, or a spoken dialect.

We hate to tell you, but Arabic is generally considered one of the hardest languages to learn for English speakers, according to linguists. However, learning Arabic numbers can be a pleasant surprise, learning to count in Arabic is relatively easy and painless.

Arabic is one of the fastest growing languages in the western world, so what are you waiting for?

Just by learning a few new Arabic numbers, you’ll be ready to count to even the highest of numbers. One of the Arabic language’s many contributions to the modern world which may surprise you is that our modern numbers have their basis in the Arabic numeral system, which took over from Roman numbers in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Whether it’s in subtraction, multiplication, fractions or any other mathematical equation, Arabic has had an important impact. But perhaps modern algebra has benefited the most from the Arab world, mainly through ancient Egyptian developments which built on the Greek expansion in the use of algebra beforehand.

But in which direction do you read Arabic numbers?

Why do we talk about ‘Arabic numerals’ in English?

Are there other easy ways to quickly master counting in Arabic?

Why Should You Learn Arabic Numbers and Arabic numerals?

You may have seen the French hit comedy of the noughties, ‘OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies’ – in it, the main character Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, is in Cairo in Egypt.

And in order to survive in this dangerous city, he decides to learn the basics of Arabic, starting with the numbers.

So he learns 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, and decides that that should be more than enough.

However, unfortunately for him it’s of no use at all. The only time he’s able to deploy it is during a scene with a whip, where he manages to count to five and then finishes ‘six’ in French, having exhausted the extent of his Arabic.

However, even in this situation, learning to count in Arabic wouldn’t have done the estimable Hubert any good; it’s a common example of just dipping your toe in a foreign language.

People who study French or German also vaguely know how to count in Spanish…at least to 10.

Same thing for Spanish and French speakers counting in German. But why not go further? Why not learn Arabic numbers and numerals in their entirety?

Plus, as you’ll see below, Arabic numbers follow a much more logical pattern than French or English numbers.

For those people who are really looking to learn Arabic quickly, get some exposure to the Arabic culture, and of course, learn to speak Arabic, the numbers are one of the first things that you’ll learn in your study of the language or in an Arabic class, just like the Arabic alphabet!

The mathematicians among us will grasp the importance of numbers easily, for others numbers and mathematics propose a confusing sea of symbols and digits that is made even more difficult when we are confronted with a calculation that requires the need to convert or add a decimal in. But you don’t need to be a mathematician or a scientist to count in Arabic.

Arabic is widely believed to be one of the most difficult languages to learn, so it’s therefore important to take advantage of everything that is our there to help you out. There’s nothing better for your efforts to learn Arabic than to go live in one of the many Arabic speaking countries, but to do so, you’ll need to know how to count from 1 to several million.

Knowing Arabic numbers will be a great asset in many areas of daily life:

  • Work
  • Negotiations
  • Math and arithmetic
  • science
  • paying and buying things
  • Age
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Time
  • Days and months
  • Date of birth
  • Sports
  • Distances
  • and of course, for your Arabic lessons.

Learning Arabic numbers will help you with many different activities as you go about your daily life. They will help you hold your own in a conversation with a native speaker, without constantly referencing your Arabic dictionary to understand what they’re saying and compose a response.

When you learn a new language, it’s impossible to ignore also learning the numbers and counting in that language. Think of your time in preschool, when you learned to count before ever attempting to read. It’s the same thing for Arabic! Learning to count is key for navigating daily life and surviving an immersion experience in any Arabic speaking country.

After all, how will you manage the souk in Marrakesh if you don’t know the basics of Arabic math?

In Which Direction Do You Read Arabic Numbers?

French, Spanish, English, German, and many other languages are read from left to right, as you already know. This often turns into one of the first stumbling blocks for Arabic students as they work on learning Arabic and the Arabic alphabet.

And this is because the Arab language, which counts almost 300 million native speakers (420 million if you include all the people who use it as a second language, and one billion if you count all the Muslims who consider it a sacred language.) is read from right to left.

Arabic is a Semitic language, which we would say is sinistro (from the Latin for left) verse, in contrast to many other Indo-European languages, which are generally read from left to right and are dextroverse.

Hieroglyphics, Cuniform letters and Oscan (the first known language) are all written from right to left. Arabic is descended from another language written from right to left, Aramaic. This historical heritage is one of the reasons that Arabic is still read from right to left today.

An Arabic class for speakers of English is a better way to learn to count in Arabic than a mathematics class.

What’s a bit confusing, is that Arabic numbers are written from left to right. In Arabic, the largest numbers are on the left, and the smallest numbers on the right.

The direction you read in doesn’t change though. When you read or say a number, you begin with the smallest figure.

So while in English to say 247 you would say two-hundred and forty-seven, in Arabic you say seven, forty, two-hundred.

Telephone numbers are the exception in Arabic, so they are read out number by number, from left to right, the same as we would say them in English.

Why Do We Say Arabic Numerals?

You’ve almost certainly heard of Arabic numerals before.

We say it commonly in English, because our numbers that we use are originally from the Arabic language. Even if we also use Roman numerals.

But are our numbers really already the same as in Arabic? It would mean there isn’t too much to learn…

Confusingly, Arabic speaking people and Muslims call them Hindi numerals, which originated in India. Essentially, what we know as Arabic numerals were actually borrowed by the Arabs from the Indians in the 9th century. These numbers underwent several changes in North Africa, until they reached the form we recognize today as Arabic numerals. They more or less still bear a resemblance to their Indian cousins.

As North Africa is the mostly western point of the Arabic speaking world, these numbers are also sometimes called ‘Western Arabic numerals.’ It was during the Umayyad conquest of Spain that these numbers were first introduced in Europe and then further West, where they gained the name ‘Arabic numerals.’

Reading sacred texts in Arabic is a good way to improve your language skills and learn about the culture at the same time.

Learn to Count: Arabic Numbers 1-10

In order to learn the Arabic numbers and numerals, you’ll first need to learn how to count from 0 to 10.

They’ll obviously be the most important numbers for you to learn, since they make up all the other Arab combined numbers!

Some of the numbers, like 1 and 9 look like the English version, but others look quite different. Some are even a bit confusing, like the 6 that looks like an English 7, or an Arabic 5, which looks like an English zero. And then the Arabic zero looks like our period!

What we call Arabic numerals are actually descendants of Hindi numbers.

What about Moroccan numbers?

You should also know that Arabic vocabulary is different in different North African countries. In Moroccan Arabic, the numbers are even pronounced differently:

  • One : Ouahed,
  • Two : Jouje,
  • Three : Tleta,
  • Four : Arbaha,
  • Five : Khamsa,
  • Six : Seta,
  • Seven : Sebaa,
  • Eight : Temnya,
  • Nine : Tèssha.
  • Ten : ‘Ashra

Here’s a video that can help you learn how to count in Moroccan Arabic:

Tunisian and Algerian Arabic dialects have a few variations due to the pronunciation, but they aren’t too different, thanks to classical Arabic.

Arabic Numbers – A Few Exceptions For Numbers 11 to 19

In English, there are just two exceptions to the general pattern for numbers 11 to 19 – 11 and 12. But from thirteen, you’re just fixing ‘teen’ to the end of the number.

In Spanish or French, it takes until 16 (diez y seis in Spanish) before the numbers start to follow a pattern and you’re just adding 10 to the final number.

In Arabic, the only number with an exception is 11, after which all the numbers follow the pattern of just adding 10. So really, it’s a lot easier to learn the numbers in Arabic than in Spanish or French.

As you can see below, the smaller number is read before the ten, just like we explained earlier.

With the exception of 11 and 12, the smaller numbers are pronounced just the same as on their own, but with the addition of a -ta followed by an -ashar. For example, in Arabic the number 7 is called سَبْعة (sab’ah) and so, the number 17 is سَبْعةَ عَشَر (sab’ata ’ashar).

Like we said before, in Arabic you read from right to left.

Thankfully, the writing of numbers in Arabic is totally logical, and follows a similar pattern to English. You use 1 for ‘ten’ and the other numbers as follows.

Counting From 20 to 99 in Arabic – Understanding the Logic of Arabic Numbers

From number 20, Arabic numbers follow a basic logic. After you get to 20, the numbers go back to an easy to follow pattern, right up to 99, whether in written Arabic, or in spoken numbers.

Learning classical Arabic or Arabic culture through numbers is actually fairly easy, especially once you get past 20. However, the number 20 doesn’t have much resemblance to the number 2, so you do need to memorize it.

Twenty, in Arabic, is عِشْرون (’ishroun). In order to say ’20 + X,’ you’d simply say وَعِشْرون x. You can recognize عِشْرون, and to add the smaller numbers, you just add on the prefix وَ (wa). Wa means ‘and’ or ‘with’ or ‘added to’.

You might have noticed that the twenties in Arabic follow the same kind of logic that we’re used to in English. Except for the fact that in English we generally say twenty-one, but in Arabic they would say one-twenty, because they’re reading from right to left. But it’s the same kind of idea.

How Do You Make the Large Numbers in Arabic?

It’ll be relatively easy for you to learn the rest of the numbers in Arabic. And why is that?

Basically, it’s because even though ’20’ is totally unique from ‘2’ and needs to be learned by heart, the same isn’t true for the tens after it. So from 30 to 90, each ten makes sense and has a link to the numbers 3-9.

Which, of course, is again just why it’s so important to know the first 9 Arabic numbers by heart! The numbers from thirty to ninety are pretty easy, you just add the suffix -oune to the end of numbers 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. It’s pretty much the same kind of pattern we follow in English, don’t you think?

So now that you know how to make the numbers, do you know how to pronounce 43 in Arabic? It’s easy – “Thalaathah wa rabhoune.” We use just the same linking words and suffixes as we did in the twenties to say 3 and 40.

Of course, if you remember the construction pattern for the twenties, it should be easy for you to write, and properly pronounce all the other numbers. Test yourself! Try 33, 56, 73, or 99.

If you know how to tell time, even in Arabic you’ll still know what it says!

And once you’ve gotten to 99 in Arabic numbers you just keep on going, endlessly following the same pattern. Bigger numbers use the same rules as the smaller numbers that came before.

It’s worth noting that the Arabic pronunciation for million and billion aren’t too far off from a lot of European languages, such as French – ‘malioun’ and ‘maliâr.’

How Do You Tell the Time in Arabic?

Telling time in Arabic is pretty simple. You just use the numbers 1 to 12.

If someone asks you “Chahèle raha saha ?” They want to know the time!

You can respond to them by saying, “innaha alththaniata” (It is 2’o’clock) for example, or “Assa’atou athaaniyatou.”

It’s worth noting that Arabic uses a 12 hour, not 24 hour clock, and you wouldn’t say ’14 hundred hours’ in Arabic.

One of the main difficulties that Arabic learners will often run into with this is working out the written Arabic. You can find many different examples of how to tell time on the internet, but the examples are all generally spoken dialects like rif, spoken in Northern Morocco, or darija, another Moroccan Arabic dialect (“Raha zauje” means “it’s two-o-clock.” in Moroccan).

Don’t hesitate to use Google Translate to help you out, they have written Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic as one of their language options.

Or alternatively, who better than an Arabic teacher to help you learn the different ways to tell time in Arabic?

How Do You Count in Arabic? Use Apps!

How do you learn Arabic numbers and numerals?

Learning to count in Arabic isn’t as hard as it seemed at first, right?

Apps are a great way to learn to read and write in Arabic.

Learning all the numbers by heart is a task you’ll find relatively easy, but next you’ll need to learn how to pronounce all of them properly.

Once you’ve mastered the phonetics of Arabic numbers, the next step is to work on the script, and making sure you can write all the Arabic numbers and letters of the alphabet.

There are many websites online that can help you master all of these steps, as well as show you how to write in Arabic and improve your Arabic for free.

You can find lots of different modules, including counting videos to help you learn the patterns of the Arabic number system by heart.

Check out the FunWithArabic website – it’s child friendly and has lots of free resources for learning Arabic, and especially to help you master the script and numbers.

And speaking of technology, there are plenty of ways to learn Arabic by having fun, especially if you opt for some of the smartphone apps that are available for cell phones and tablets.

Many of them, including Tengu Go Arabic Alphabet and Cute Arabic alphabet will walk you through learning your Arabic numbers and letters…even learning the correct stroke order for the script.

You can also find some great Arabic classes which will cover Arabic grammar, verb conjugations, verbs, vocabulary, translations, different colloquial expressions and turns of phrases, pronunciation and phonetics, differences between written and spoken Arabic…

All in all, it’s totally possible to learn Arabic online for free, but it will require a lot of work and dedication!

Not Quite So Easy: Learning to Count in Arabic

Using Arabic numbers for sums and addition might be a bit of a challenge if you need to work a lot with numbers if you have a job in accountancy or mathematics.

Common points of confusion in Arabic mathematics

Arabic numbers can be a bit confusing because the rules they follow change depending on how they’re used.

To make things a bit easier, we’ll quickly run through some of the most common points of confusion, and leave the really advanced methods for later.

  • Even native speakers often use a simplified form of numbers in Arabic, unless they’re in a formal situation.
  • The most common numbers are 1 to 20.
  • The numbers one and two are used as adjectives in Arabic.

Rules for Arabic numbers

Essentially, the adjective – نَعْتٌ follows the modified noun مَنْعُوتٌ :

  • Re gender: if the modified noun is feminine, than the adjective is feminine.
  • Re case: if the modified noun is nominative, than the adjective will be nominative
  • Re plural: if the modified noun is plural, the adjective is plural.

As well as plural, Arabic also has doubles.

This is used to talk about two things or two people. Having a double is fairly practical, you can split humans into three groups: single, a couple, or a group. But for someone whose mother tongue doesn’t have doubles, it can be a bit hard to wrap your head around.

Doubles are used in two ways, depending on the way the word is used in a sentence. It’s always formed the same way, by adding a suffix, and there are no exceptions to the rule.

Since there are two ways to form it, there are of course two different suffixes:

  1. The first is made by adding the suffix انِ ( âni ),
  2. And the second is made by adding a suffix ـَيْنِ ( ayni ).

The meaning is the same, but you choose one form or another depending on the declension. So you could write كِتَبانِ ( kitabâni ) or كِتَبَيْنِ ( kitabayni ), either of which means ‘two books.’

You may have picked up on the fact that the rules applied to Arabic numbers are complicated!

Even professional translators get a bit lost sometimes.

Just like everything else with learning Arabic, mastering Arabic numerals will require quite a few lessons and practice before you know it all.

However, you can find lots of different tools to help you learn, whether online, via an app, or from an Arabic teacher.

Bonus Tip: Arabic Keyboards

Virtual Arabic keyboards are a good way for Arabic students to work on their Arabic, even if they don’t have an Arabic keyboard. It’s a practical way to do some translation, or to look up an Arabic word’s English definition. Virtual keyboards will quickly become your best friend as you try to learn the Arabic language.

If your keyboard isn’t in Arabic, don’t panic! There are plenty of virtual keyboards to help you out.

Plenty of websites offer to turn your typing into Arabic script using online software. This software works a bit like a translation search, with one piece where you type your text, and another with a virtual keyboard that has all the Arabic letters and their latin equivalent for you to click on.

Some of the most useful virtual Arabic keyboards are:

  • http://www.lexilogos.com/keyboard/arabic.htm
  • http://www.arabic-keyboard.org
  • https://www.branah.com/arabic

You can also find out all about Arabic history here

In Summary:

  • Learning Arabic is the same as learning any other language – you’ll need to learn how to count.
  • Numbers 0-9 are your building blocks for all other numbers. There are a couple of exceptions you’ll need to memorize for numbers 10-29, but overall the rest of the numbers follow a basic pattern in Arabic.
  • There are a few more complicated rules you’ll need to memorize if you’re to become truly fluent in Arabic. But don’t worry too much – even native Arabic speakers often make mistakes and errors.
  • Don’t hesitate to take advantage of all the tools that are available: language classes, websites, phone apps, virtual keyboards…it all helps, especially when you’re learning a challenging new language like Arabic!

!Good luck with your Arabic حظا سعيدا hza saeidaan


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