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Stanford Language Center:

Arabic Alphabet Video Tutor

April 2001 - Ongoing

The Arabic Alphabet Tutor is a Video-based online tool for teaching students of Arabic how to properly write Arabic letters.

Joseph Kautz
Project website »

Need or Problem:

Learning to write in Arabic is difficult for a variety of reasons. The script is completely unlike roman scripts, the letters are written from right to left, and finally letters change appearance depending on where they occur in a word. This project was designed to allow students to practice on their own without requiring the native speaker to be present.


The solution to more efficiently teaching how to write in Arabic actually came from another web site dedicated to teaching the even more complicated writing system of Japanese. Prof. Saeko Komori of Chubu University in Japan created a website that showed video clips of Kanji characters being drawn with a calligraphy brush. I showed Arabic Instructor, Khalil Barhoum, this Japanese site and he recognized that such an approach would be helpful for his learners too. With that the idea for the Arabic Writing Tutor was born.

After filming Khalil Barhoum writing each letter in each position, I built a website that allowed users to view the video clips by clicking on the letter they want to practice.


To create the web site, I video taped Khalil Barhoum with a digital camcorder from the Academic Technology Lab. After filming the tedious task of reformatting and dividing the raw footage into small QuickTime video clips began. Finally, I created the website that allows students to view these clips in all of their positions. I also burned the site to CD for offline use in the classroom.

Challenges and Changes:

Filming and editing took much longer than expected, even with the help of advanced tools such as Media Cleaner Pro.

Halfway into the filming, I decided that students would benefit from not only seeing the letters written but also in seeing the letter written in a word. We had to start shooting all over again.


Students have remarked that this tool makes learning the alphabet much easier. Instructors remark that students writing is more accurate and easier to read.


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