The Internet and the introduction of modern communication technology in the 1990s changed the world as we know it. Texting, chat messages and emails gradually replaced the use of the telephone and this is not likely to change in the near future. The Middle East is not an exception from that trend. Much has been written on the effect that the popularity of communication technology, and social media in particular, had on civil society and life in the region. However, it also changed the Arabic language, introducing the relatively new notion of Arabizi.
The word itself is a combination of arabi and ingilizi (Arabic and English) and it refers to the peculiar mixture of the two languages, used by people when communicating online or via text messages. It is basically writing in Arabic but using English characters. It first came into use in the end of the twentieth century, when computers and mobile phones did not have Arabic as language option. However, it is still widely used today, as many find it easier to type using the Latin alphabet.
The problem is that English only has 26 letters, compared to 28 in Arabic. Moreover, the Semitic language has a number of specific sounds English has no letters for. To overcome these obstacles, creative ways around it had to be found. And that is exactly what happened. Although Arabizi is not set and its usage varies from country to country, below you can find some of the most popular tricks used by native speakers when texting or writing an email.
The number 3 is used to replace ain (an English E or A). Abeer (proper name) equals 3abeer.
8 is used to replace qa (close to the English q). Qalb (heart) equals 8alb
7 replaces the soft h in Abaric. Thus bahar (sea) becomes Ba7ar.
Symbols are also regularly used to depict a fuller picture of the Arabic language using the Latin alphabet.
So, a combination of ‘ and 7 stands for the Arabic sound Kh, with kharoof (sheep) being transliterated as ‘7aroof in Arabizi.
This made-up language is currently the subject of a heated debate in the Middle East. Some believe that it is a dangerous trend and see using MSA as much more suitable alternative. However, others see it merely as a convenient and easy way to type and are unwilling to give up using it. One thing is certain, though, regardless of what people’s opinion of the new jargon is, its use is spreading rapidly throughout the Middle East and it is becoming the most popular language of communication in the region. What is your opinion? Is Arabizi a7la Lu’3ah or a massacre of MSA? Let us know!