Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Learning Arabic Numbers

Asalamu Alaykom,

Let's be productive and learn some Arabic.

Granted, I'm not The World's Best Arabic Teacher.

Sometimes, however, not being good at something means that you've found a lot of techniques to cope with your inability.  These coping mechanisms for memorizing Arabic numbers I can pass on to you.

Lots of times we don't tackle new things because we assume it will be too hard; like those times when we read a news article with a tricky name.  We gloss over that strange set of letters because it's not familiar.  We ignore what could make us smarter.  We limit ourselves---not because it actually is too hard but because jumping over the chance to learn is too easy.


Arabic numbers really aren't that difficult.  Afterall, like our Western version of numbers (which we call "Arabic"), there are only 10 possibilites.  It's a limited scope.

This is from a phone app in which you can learn Arabic numbers.  Here is the link if you're interested.

If you take a look at the numbers listed above on the chart you'll recognize a few.  However, only two of them stand for the same numbers used in the West.

This looks like one and has the same value as one.

This looks like nine and has the same value as nine.

So, actually you don't have to learn 10 numbers.  You already know two numbers in Arabic!  Yaay for you!

There is another number which LOOKS like a number you know but it's not.  That's something that has taken me a while to get used to as I shop in Egypt.

That circle

is NOT a zero.  Think of it as a fist.

How many fingers are in that fist?



Okay, we can't see all five of his fingers but we are going to hope that he's not had any chainsaw accidents.

So, that circle stands for five.

If that big circle stands for five, then what stands for zero?

I want you to imagine something very small----smaller than a zero.  Imagine a little dot.

THAT is zero; just a little dot!

On the set of numbers I showed you above, they didn't show the zero and that's too bad.  The numbers we need to teach are 0-9.  That's true in both number systems.  When you realize that those are the numbers (and not 1-10) it makes everything easier.  I'm constantly amazed as an elementary teacher how many number displays eliminate the zero.  ZERO is key to understanding how the number one can become a ten.

Here's the number ten in Arabic.

That's what you see on the chart above.

I could also display it like this:

Time for a little test!

What's this number?

Remember that even though the Arabic letters are read from right to left, Arabic numbers are read just like our Western numbers.  So...this is...


Good!  (You did get that right, didn't you?)

Last one...

Come on!  If you can't tell me this number...

Psst!  It's the same number in the West...

Yes!  It's nineteen!

If your brain hurts, stop here and come back another day.

If you feel brave, like a kilted Scottish warrior, carry on!


You can see that number and know it's a number two, right?

This is how the number two looks when it's lying down.

What if it stood up so it was more vertical than horizontal?

Can you still see that it's a number two?

The same is true for the number three.

This is how it looks when it lies down.

But this is how it looks when it stands up

Yes, you can see see the number three...if you...kind of tilt your head to the right.  Go ahead and try that.  No one's looking. Do it fast though, because you're supposed to look like you're busy writing that report.

Now you can see that the number three is little.  It's not big.  You know who is bigger?

Four!  Four is bigger than three.  Okay, I know that it looks like a backwards three but that's because it's a little on the immature side (like most 4-year-olds).  It is, I insist, a four.  It's big!  It's a four.  It's just might seem like a three...but it's not.  


are little.  They like to lie down and take naps


Can you also plainly see what number this is?  It's the number 23

Hey, Two and Three!  WAKE-UP!  I'M TRYING TO TEACH HERE!

Thank you.  Now that they are standing straight up, can you still see that it's the number 23?

What's this number?

Three.  Four.

Thirty-four!  34 is the correct answer.

Do you remember this number?

It's a five.

Let's review


One, Two, Three (though in Arabic they'd be lined up coming from the right to the left)

Four, Five


Okay, now six is going to be another one of those numbers which LOOKS familiar.

I know it looks like a seven but it's NOT.  It's a six.  

It's a six!  Really.  It is.  It's trying to fool you into thinking it's a seven but it's a six.   

THIS is a seven. 

Two fingers up like victory.  Try it yourself.  Yaay!  It's a seven.  It's cool.  You know how people feel good about lucky number seven?  They feel so good about it that they want to raise their fingers up.

  Miley loves seven.

Will Smith loves seven.

President Obama loves seven.

Okay, basically everybody loves seven.


Put your two fingers down.

It's an eight.

Up is seven...

And eight is down.  If you know the alphabet for ASL (American Sign Language), you'll remember how"G" is up and the same fingers going downward is "Q".  It works that wasy for  "K" being up and later "P" is the same fingers but going downward.  Whatever comes beforehand is up and whatever comes afterwards is down.  

And you already know nine.


It's a good idea to play around with the numbers.  Have fun with them!  Write them out.

Answer some questions on a pad of paper.  Refer to the lesons above. 

1.  How old are you?

2.  How long have you lived at your current address?

3.  If there's a big pizza in front of you, how many pieces can you eat without feeling too full?

Playing around with the numbers is key.  If you don't play then they don't stick.

Up until now, I haven't told you the names of the numbers.  So, with no further ado, here they are:

Can you read that?  The print is a little small.  

Here's another list of numbers.  This one goes all the way up to 20.

See how they left out sifr?  Sifr is zero.  Always forgotten!

You'll see that there are going to be different ways of spelling these number names phonetically.  Basically, you say it like you see it.

Here are the numbers on this book cover with the written Arabic and the transliterated Arabic.  Visuals help.  

I'm also going to post this video.  Yes, it's for kids but you don't have to be a kid to enjoy it.  I like how the numbers wahed and etneen are praying!

Go ahead and sing out the names of the numbers.  Moving your mouth helps your brain to remember.  Even if the song goes quickly, you can catch those moments to say the number names.


What's great is that if you know the number then you basically know the days of the week too.

The Word Collector did a post on it.

The days of the week in Arabic-speaking countries start with Sunday.  It's important to know this and commit this to memory.  The week ends on Saturday and the new week begins on Sunday.  So, the first day is Sunday.

  1. Sunday            Al-Aḥad
  2. Monday          Al-Ithnayn
  3. Tuesday          Ath-Thulaathaaʼ
  4. Wednesday    Al-Arba’aa’
  5. Thursday        Al-Khamīs
  6. Friday            Al-Jumu’ah
  7. Saturday        As-Sabt

Do you get it?  Most days of the week is only ever so slightly different than the numbers.  Friday would be the exception.  It means, "gathering" because that's when the Muslims gather together for communal prayer.

To speak very formally, you would say Yaom Al-Ahad, Yaom Al-Ithnayn  and so on.

Here's a video to help you with pronunciation.

Catchy tune, eh?  I bet you will never forget the number seven in Arabic now!

Time to review!

Please use the list of days to answer some simple questions.

1.  What day is it?
2.  What day is it tomorrow?
3.  Where you live, what is the first day of the work week?
4.  Which day do Jews have their sabbath or day of rest?
5.  Which day do Christians go to church?

I hope you were able to answer those questions.

Have you liked learning?  I feel so alive when I learn something new.  Alhumdulillah for the ability to absorb and remember information.  Truly, our brains are miraculous creations.  We might as well use them!

If you would like more, then check out http://studioarabiya.com/blog There are free Arabic downloads available including number cards.  Mashahallah they are well done.  One thing I like with Studio Arabia is that I had trouble downloading the files, wrote to them and got an immediate email reply with the files.  That's very nice and appreciated.  

May Allah reward you for all the time you've taken to learn the language of The Holy Quran.

Light and Love!


UmmTimo said...

What a fantastic way to teach numbers. I am Egyptian but born and raised in America, I can not read or write in Arabic, even the numbers are hard for me. This was a great way to learn. Very creative and fun especially the numbers two and three.

Yosra said...

Asalamu alaykom UmmTimo,

Thanks for playing along. I haven't had any class in a while so I made my blog into a class until I get one.

That's interesting about you! I didn't know. You are not the first Egyptian I've met with this inbetween cultures existence. Your life in America becomes the focus and then you realize as an adult that you should have had some functional Arabic too. I know a former colleague who has this problem. She was born in the U.S. to Egyptian parents but married an Egyptian and moved back here. She looks fully Egyptian and parents at school will try to speak to her but she can't actually deal on serious matters in Arabic. She has to speak in English. She also needs help from her kids to read and write Arabic. She is functionally illiterate in this country; her parents' homeland.

I'm glad you liked numbers 2 and 3 especially. Seriously? They've given me a lot of confusion over the years so I have had to find ways of dealing with them.

Love and Light :)

Anonymous said...

Great lesson. I can see why you are a teacher! So agree that number charts will be more organic and helpful as 0-9.

Are you interviewing for more positions or taking a break? Is your son being home-schooled meanwhile?

Deanna Troi

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Deanna,

Nice to see you're still in the galaxy. Glad you liked the lesson.

Oh Lord! I interviewed on Sunday and they were very pleased. I was very hopeful. It was narrowed down to two. I got a computer-generated response that someone else got the job. I am still in a state of LA LA LA (fingers in my ears) I don't believe it.

I've got trouble brewing with AbuBoo in America. He is making demands about Mr. Boo's lack of schooling. While I can offer a stop-gap measure at home, I need to get my 2nd grader back to work...errr...school. I want to! I just can't make it happen the way I would like.

Thanks for asking.

Thanks for caring.

I appreciate everyone who is kind.

Light and Love!

Yosra said...

This goes out to the sister who would like to remain anonymous:

Asalamu Alaykom Sis,

I'm glad that you're getting something out of my postings. Alhumdulillah.

You're wondering about making hijrah and that's great. More people could roll it around in their heads as an option. You say you have a good man with you and I'm glad of that. Going it alone---as I did is very difficult. As you've probably read on my "Making Hijrah" series, I married after being here for four months. Being a couple in a Muslim country is much, much better.

If you haven't read what I wrote about making hijrah, then do. It's not necessarily typical---I mean I HOPE not every woman's child acts as crazy as mine did in a foreign country.

You have asked for my email. I don't usually give it out any more. It's had a strange way of backfiring on me. So, I take it that it's not a good idea. However, you can always post questions in the comments---anonymously if you wish...but pick a name...and then I can print the questions with my answers.

However, I don't want to waste a chance for the most people to get the most benefit. I don't want to carry on a private conversation that others don't understand. So, whatever you want to ask, please understand that others probably want to know too. So, ask it, allow it to be published and then I can respond to it.


Love and Light!

New Wife said...

I always remember that arba3a takes four strokes to write :-)

Anonymous said...

Amazing basic lesson.

Mf said...

Assalaamu alaikkum warahmathullahi wabarkathuhu ...
This is very to useful for parents and also to teach for our children.jazakallahul hayran.May Allah gives you all goods in this world and also in the hereafter InShaAllah.....

BSKJD4.7 said...

This really helped me remember my numbers.I kept getting mixed up with 2 and 6. Same with my 7 and 8. Thanks for the help!

Anonymous said...

sista3, As salaam wa alaikum, sis I just came across your blog and think its wonderful Masha Allah, I am a American muslim living in Alexandria with my husband who is Egyptian I have no outlet to socialize with sister because I don't of course speak Arabic been trying to find a way to learn but it seem that there are no resources here as there are in Cairo. I'm a stay at home mom and trying to homeschool my kids so that they won't be far behind there American counterparts and at the same time trying to keep there Arabic up with their counterparts here. do you have any ideas on resource that are available here in this area or know of someone who could help with the Arabic for me and my children Insha Allah. they were in school here for 3yrs before I actually came here myself , I sent my oldest two here two years before I came myself so that they would know the language me and the baby came almost a two years ago know.

Yosra said...

A salamu Alaykom Sis,

Nice to hear from you. Ramadan Kareem!

I'm not too well versed on Alex. Check my Twitter feed for a Dutch sis there named Jasmine. She seems very savvy.

What I will say in general is that kids learn best from being around other kids. I would not recommend home-schooling if your goal is for your kids to learn Arabic. Choose an international school in English and it will have National Arabic curriculum as well. I totally understand your reluctance to protect your kids but it's possible to find a quality place inshahallah.

We can write more when I'm back in Egypt inshahallah.

Love and Light!