Gulf Arabic Pronunciation:
The Arabic Sounds II.

Group B – with approximately the same pronunciation as their counterparts in some European languages, but not in Standard English.

gh – ghayr (unlike, non-), ghaalib (triumphant), mughanni (singer)
A guttural sound similar to that of gargling. Like Parisian French ‘r’.

r – raadyo (radio), baachir (tomorrow), mirgad (bed)

x – xaliij (gulf), xanjar (dagger), xuux (peaches)
Similar to German Bach, Spanish Juan, Scottish Loch Ness.

l – ‘light, soft’ l: li3ab (he played), laysh (why?), layla (night)
but ‘dark, hard’ l in: allaah (Allah)

An Arab siting in the desert Group C – sounds different from the sounds encountered in any common European language.

^ – il-^arab (the Arabs), ^abdallah (Abdullah), bi^iir (camel)

’ – sual (question), mumin (believer), muallif (author)
This is the so-called glottal stop, or hamza. It is like a very short pause between the two parts of the word it “divides”. It is rarely heard in Gulf Arabic.

H– aHmar (red), il-Hiin (now), Haggak (to/for you; yours)
Like breathing on your hands in winter to warm them up.

Emphatic sounds:
The following sounds - S, T, and DH - are called the emphatic counterparts of s, t, and dh. They are pronounced with greater muscular tension in the mouth and throat, and with a raising of the back and root of the tongue toward the roof of the mouth.

S – SaaliH (an Arab name), xaaliS (complete, pure), SabaaH (morning)

T– Tarrash (he sent), tiTbaxiin (you (fem.) cook), maTaa3im (restaurants)

DH – DHallayt (I stayed), bu DHabi (Abu Dhabi, in relaxed speech), ir-riyaaDHa (sport)

A not very common sound in colloquial Gulf Arabic:

q – al-qaahira (Cairo) , quluub (hearts), daqiiqa (minute)
This is a sound used in Standard Arabic as well as in dialects of most parts of Oman and Iraq. It’s basically a ‘k’ pronounced far back in the mouth. In Gulf Arabic it is usually pronounced as ‘g’, hence guluub, dagiiga.


The Gulf Arabic vowels, generally, are not difficult for the English speaker.

short – a, i, o, u
long – aa, ii, ee, oo, uu
diphthongs – ay (ey), aw


A double consonant may change the meaning of a word, so be careful to pronounce it correctly. As you can hear from the recordings, you must prolong the time you spend pronouncing the doubled consonant in a word.

darast – I learned, I studied
darrast – I taught

mara – woman
marra – time, occasion.