Someone asked me what a bunch of letters, I think in the Russian alphabet, would look like to me synaesthetically. My answer was that at first they would look like the colors of the letters that most resembled them in English (although some of them, I noticed that even if the Russian letter was, say, similar to a standard English numeral, I often interpreted it as a rotated and/or flipped letter instead of a numeral. No idea why). And then, if I ever learned the actual pronunciations, it’s a good bet that they would, if analogous to pronunciation I knew in my usual alphabet, grow to resemble the colors of those letters, and even the ones that were not the usual, would gain pronunciations of their own.
And, I know I have a lot of people’s mail to answer, but I’ve been among other things pretty absorbed in documenting how I now see Arabic letters. I took Arabic for a year in college, and while I remember almost none of the words (I remember some long strings of words, but reciting the Quran is not exactly conversational), I retained the alphabet just fine. So this is a foreign language whose alphabet I’ve already learned, which has correlations to the colors of letters in English now, as well as some of its own colors for sounds that can’t be easily approximated by English sounds.
So I’m going to warn you that what’s up ahead in this post is very long, very graphic-intensive, and not necessarily all that blind-accessible (I try to do descriptions, but don’t always succeed well). Also, please note that I was wearing tinted glasses and using as dark a monitor setting as possible when I made my last letters, so I just remade them again and they’ll look a bit different than before. (I still have copies of the old ones but they look all wrong.)
I’m now going to try to post this and hope it came out right.
Edited to add: You can hear the sounds of the Arabic alphabet here:
(corrected because I’d accidentally posted one of them twice)
Or, if you like it musical, here:
Or, if you like it musical with cute little kids singing it:
Anyway, on to the synaesthetic stuff.
Here are the English letters:
Then the Arabic letters:
The letter alif is blue. It works a lot like A in English.
The letter baa is orange. Like B in English.
The letter taa is brown. Like T in English.
The letter thaa is brown. Like a hard TH (as in baTH) in English.
The letter jiim is light blue. Like J in English.
The letter ?aa is orange. It doesn’t have an English equivalent. It’s usually transliterated as ?. It’s similar to an H sound, but not the same as usual in English.
The letter khaa is brown. It doesn’t (except in certain accents) have an English equivalent, it’s sort of like the ‘ch’ in ‘loch’ in Scottish.
The letter daal is brown. Like D in English.
The letter dhaal is brown. Like a soft TH in English (as in ‘cloTHing’).
The letter raa is purple. Like an R in Spanish.
The letter zaa is brown. Like a Z in English.
The letter siin is red. Like S in English.
The letter shiin is red. Like SH in English.
The letter Saad (also ?aad, represented usually as ?) is red. It has no English equivalent. It’s similar to an S, but not the same thing.
The letter Daad (also ?aad, represented usually as ?) is red-brown. It has no English equivalent. It’s similar to a D, but not the same thing.
The letter Taa (also ?aa, represented usually as ?) is brown. It has no English equivalent. It’s similar to a T, but not the same thing.
The letter Dhaa (also ?aa, represented usually as ?) is brown. It has no English equivalent, and not even a whole lot of easy analogies in English sounds. It’s like a cross between a soft TH and a V, sort of.
The letter ?ayn is light blue. It’s usually represented as ?. It’s a glottal stop, and while we make those noises in English, they’re not written down. (They’re sort of the noise you’d make if you said “bottom” but didn’t pronounce the “tt” part, the part where the “tt” would be is the noise this letter makes.)
The letter ghayn is light purple. It makes the same sound as a French R.
The letter faa is dark yellow. Like F in English.
The letter qaaf is red. I think the sound would normally be represented by K, but it’s not the same sound as a usual K.
The letter kaaf is blue. Like K in English.
The letter laam is transparent. Like L in English.
The letter meem is red. Like M in English.
The letter noon is orange. Like N in English.
The letter waw is pink. Like W in English (also makes an “oo” sound as a vowel).
The letter haa is orange. Like H in English.
The letter y is yellow. Like y in English (also makes an “ee” sound as a vowel).
And… now that I’ve got all that out of the way, here are the letters as grouped by color.
The letters in various shades of red are C, M, Q, S, W, thaa, khaa, siin, sheen, ?aad, ?aad, qaaf, meem, and waw.
The letters in various shades of orange (including red-orange and orange-yellow) are B, D, H, N, T, Z, baa, taa, daal, dhaal, zaa, ?aa, noon, ?aa, ?aa, and haa.
The letters in yellow are F, U, Y, faa, and yaa.
The letters in green are E and P.
The letters in blue are A, J, K, alif, jiim, `ayn, and kaaf.
The letters in purple are G, R, V, X, ghayn, and raa.
The letters without a color are I, L, O, and laam. L and laam are also transparent.
If you’ve read this far, congratulations. :-P