How to text in Arabic

Arabic alphabet
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.

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4 Responses to “How to text in Arabic”

  1. Nicole Says:

    Will someone please translate this text message from Arabic to English?

    A yoha lmesre la3en edhab anta wa omok ila jahim

    thank you!

    • Nijma Says:

      You might try one of the Arabic speaking blogs or forums. Majoob.com has a forum with both Arabic and English speakers or you could google Planet Jordan (or their successors) for an up to date listing of bloggers. I’m not Arab, but just offhand the “anta wa omok” part looks like “you and your mother”. If I’m not mistaken, the “ila jahim” part looks like “to hell”, but you need a native speaker to tell you for sure. I don’t recognize anything from my very limited vocabulary of swear words, but if it’s something negative, they may not want to tell you.

  2. anonymous Says:

    not completely sure, but i think it says,

    you cursed egyptian go to hell, you and your mum


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