|ا ب ت ث ج ح|
|خ د ذ ر ز س|
|ش ص ض ط ظ ع|
|غ ف ق ك ل|
|م ن ه و ي|
Anyone who has tried to write Arabic speech in symbols that a speaker of English can read will come away frustrated. Sure, there are a couple of transliteration schemes, as well as tables of international symbols, but no one ever uses them when they are learning the language. Instead, the Americans I have studied Arabic with made up their own phonetic systems based on other foreign languages they had studied. When you add in the problem of Modern Standard Arabic, a language constructed for political reasons–and no one in the universe actually speaks it–Arabic starts to get really annoying.
Until the computer. Now east has met west and young Arabs are all texting each other on machines that are limited to English letters and symbols. The result is a sort of L33t speak that uses western numbers to represent the Arabic letters that don’t exist in English.
The letters are pretty intuitive, aleph is “a” and ba is “b”, and so on. Some of the numbers are intuitive as well. 3 looks like ع, h looks like 7 (for ح, the stronger of the two Arabic h’s ), hamza ٴ looks like a small 2. That leaves number 9 as ص — the broad “s”, and number 6 as ط–th in English. With a little imagination you can see a resemblance. You only have to add ‘ to the above numbers to represent the dotted letters. So 3′ is ﻍ or gh (“r-ein?”), 7′ is ﺥ or kh, 9′ is ﺽ or D and 6′ is ﻅ or z/th (as in perennial Green Party candidate Ralph Nather). Its not quite that easy, as the language is informal and there are some variations. Here is the Wikipedia chart.
Finally. Something in Arabic that makes sense. Now, if only I could use it.