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chat girl

27med, 9ala7, 5alid – How to read and write Arabic in arabizi

Many Arabs don’t use the Arabic alphabet for Whatsapp. Instead, they prefer using their English keyboard. Some hate it, others love it. A quick overview.

Last updated: May 2, 2021

In my articles about Egyptian Arabic, I occasionally used the Arabic chat language and not the international transliteration. I did this because it is reality. I quickly want to give an overview about the numbers used in Arabic chats for letters.

The Arabic chat-alphabet is also called Arabizi (عربيزي). It uses numbers. The numbers represent Arabic characters which are not found in English.

Since there are different dialects of the Arabic language, the Arabizi writing system is not standardized. But if you use the following numbers and signs, most Arabs will be able to read your text.

ء = 2

This is rare. Often the Hamza is not pronounced in Arabic dialects. Nevertheless, you may see the number 2 when someone needs to type ؤ or ئ or any kind of Hamza.


ع = 3

The number 3 is like a mirrored ع.


غ =’ 3

The apostrophe represents the dot on the غ.


خ = 5

In order to be consistent, some people prefer to use the number 7 with an apostrophe resulting in: 7′


ط = 6

Some people also use the capital letter T. What is the reason for the 6? Well, it has almost the same shape.


ظ =’ 6

The apostrophe represents the dot on the letter ظ.


ح = 7

The letter ح has some similarities to the number 7.


ق = 8

If the two dots of the ق closed the gap, we would get an eight lying on its side.


ص = 9

Some people also use the capital letter S. Why the number 9? If you flip the 9 so that it lies on the side, the number resembles the letter ص.


ض =’ 9

The apostrophe represents the dot on the letter ض.


A tool for decoding and writing: yamli

Yamli was one of the very first tools which helped people to write in Arabic – and it is still very handy! You can simply use the English alphabet and Yamli will convert it for you into Arabic. Let’s do a test and type 27med into the search field of Yamli:

yamli
screenshot:yamli.com

You see from the results that it works very well. 27med means Ahmed (أحمد).

What about the other words we used in the headline?

9ala7 = صلاح

5alid = خالد

3 comments
  1. Using Latin script in Tunisia is still popular for social media users. I would hypothesise that this for these reasons:

    – People got used to it back when phones did not have an Arabic keyboard available, so now you would have to learn a new keyboard layout when you already have this one learned
    – Typing shakl on smartphones is difficult, whereas you can easily include vowels in Latin script
    – Tunisian dialect often uses borrowed words from French. These can be weird to type in Arabic script.
    – The Arabic keyboard on most smartphones includes the eastern numerals ١٢٣ rather than the ones used in Tunisia 123
    – Font sizes for Arabic script both on smartphones and on larger screens are too small in my opinion. It can be difficult to read a crucial dot or a crucial shakl.
    – Some people just don’t know how to configure their device to easily switch between keyboard layouts
    – On laptops and desktops, some people do not attempt to type in Arabic script if Arabic script letters aren’t physically printed on the keyboard, which they aren’t always
    – There are multiple Arabic keyboard layouts, which different from operating system to operating system, and from desktop to smartphone, and from country to country, and the Tunisian keyboard layout isn’t always on the list of supported keyboard layouts.

    I would also like to note that autocorrect on smartphones is *extremely* annoying when typing in dialect, as it does not accept dialect words, only MSA words. (Of course, this also applies to writing dialect in Latin script.)

    I know people who regularly use Yamli and have never bothered to learn how to write in Arabic script directly.

    Here in Tunisia, we use this alphabet, which is different from the one in this article:

    2 ء
    3 ع
    5 خ
    7 ح
    9 ق
    ch ش
    gh غ
    h ه
    th ث / ذ
    a = fatha vowel
    i = kasra vowel
    ou = damma vowel

    I thought I would share!

  2. Thank you for this brief overview.

    10 – 12 years ago this way of writing Egyptian dialect was threatening to take over the use of Arabic script in writing colloquial Egyptian on messaging and social media platforms.

    Now its use has become rare on social media and I speculate whether it will soon become extinct and be considered an anachronism of early social media days. I’m sure I’ve seen it recently but now I can’t seem to find any posts written in it.

    I think it is, or rather was, a fun script that really highlights the fluidicity, liveliness and richness of languages.

Any thoughts or ideas about this? Leave a reply!

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