I am trying to learn Arabic using a combination of Arabic for Dummies (AFD) and Google Translate. AFD seems to use transliteration while Google uses actual script. However, there seem to be differences for the same words between the two media. I wonder if this can be because AFD is using diacritics while Google does not and this may be due to the fact that Google may be using some dialect form while AFD may be using MSA.

For example, the phrase for "I am writing" is "ana aktubu" while in Google is "أنا أكتب" (ana aktb). Is this because Google is using dialect (which one?) or some other reason?

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    Welcome to the wonderful world of semitic writing systems which don't usually indicate short vowels. They are often written in dictionaries, religious texts, and teaching materials. And they are usually included in transliterations. Aug 13, 2014 at 5:36
  • While I don't agree with fdb on the degree of utility of Google Translate, it's definitely not a good idea to rely on it as a primary tool for language learning. It's handy for looking up things not in your dictionary but you have to take everything with a huge grain of salt. You can never just "trust" it. Aug 13, 2014 at 23:54

2 Answers 2


Diacritics are not used, because native speakers derive the correct pronounciation without them. They are only used to clarify ambiguities, e. g. let's say there is a word 'kab', one would write the k and the b, but would leave out the fattha. If 'kib' is also a word, and if 'kib' would also make sense in that particular context, in which 'kab' was used, a fattha is placed.

Sry, that I couldn't provide a real, existing example. I still am a learner.


I have never looked at AFD, but google translate is useless for Arabic, and indeed for all languages. My suggestion is that you buy a proper Arabic grammar.

“I am writing” or “I write” is just ʼaktubu, but if you want to stress the “I” you can also say ʼana ʼaktubu. It is spelt أنا أكتب.

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    "Useless" means "has no use". It does not mean "is not as good as hiring a professional". Google Translate is useful but very imperfect. Other examples of how to use the word hyperbolically would be to say that this answer is useless or that attempting to read a foreign language by using a grammar book is useless. (By the way, spelt is a kind of wheat.) Aug 13, 2014 at 14:50
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    May I assure you that google translate is indeed useless as far as Arabic is concerned: it is not capable of rendering any text from English to Arabic or the other way around in such a way that the resulting text is even comprehensible, to say nothing of being grammatically correct. I am not a professional expert on English orthography and follow in this merely the authority of the OED, which regards spelled/spelt, burned/burnt, kneeled/knelt, spilled/spilt etc. as legitimate variants. The literary references in said lexicon attest the long-standing fluctuation between these.
    – fdb
    Aug 13, 2014 at 21:07
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    May I assure you that I just used Google Translate at the Arabic Wikipedia, Arabic Wikinews, and Al Jazeera. It was useful. I was able to comprehend the vast majority. I don't think I have superior powers of comprehension: "The start of the truce in the Gaza Strip and Israel withdraw its ground forces", "Ebola virus is getting more dangerous in West Africa", "Staffan de Mistura, the successor to the Ebrahimi as UN envoy to Syria", "Big win for Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the presidential elections in Turkey". But yes OP should definitely not use it as an instructor for grammatical correctness. Aug 14, 2014 at 0:05

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