Mind your Ks and Qs

Writing Arabic in the Roman alphabet is fraught. First many of the sounds found in Arabic have no equivalent in English. There are a number of systems to handle this using combinations of letters or specially marked letters. Then there is the normal lack of indication of short vowels. Finally, strictly speaking, normal spoken communication does not take place in Arabic, but in a variety of "common" or "colloquial" languages (darija) which can be roughly written in standard Arabic script. To further confuse things different dialects pronounce the letters differently.

It only makes things more confusing when people add non-standard spellings such as "raks" or "taxim" into the mix. The "k" is used for a particular letter the kahf - which sound just like the English "k". Whereas the "q" is used for the qahf which is sounded far back in the throat (except in some regions where it is silent or pronounced as a 'g' hence Raqia is pronounced "rye-a"). Further, the qahf is a "dark letter" which changes the sounds around it - especially the vowels. No matter what scheme you use there is no "x" in transliterating Arabic script.

Also, the Arabic language works on word roots. Whole families of meaning are related by small changes of vowels or additions of a few letters. Therefore, for meaning, it is best to accurately identify what root a word comes from.

So that is:

raqs raqs in Arabic
raqs sharqi raqs sharqi
taqsim taqsim
shukran shukran
Also see:
Common Arabic Words and Dance Terms
Arabic pronunciation
Squiggle Squiggle - notes on Arabic for English speaking dancers.

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