Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How to Speak Arabic like a Facebooking Teenager, and Other Important Lessons


Teens in Oman and other parts of the Arab world have a special way of writing the Arabic language in the Latin alphabet. Commonly called ‘3rabizi,’ this is how my classmates (and I) communicate via the internet. Keyboards here all are both English and Arabic, and because people here speak English and Arabic together often, they stick to one keyboard setting. 3rabizi incorporates both letters and numbers, because some Latin letters (like c and x) have no place in the Arabic alphabet, and some Arabic letters (like ص and ع) are not in English. 

Here’s how to read it:

2: This takes the place of hamza, which is a half-letter, really just a glottal stop. It is seen in ان شاء الله, which in 3rabizi is 'insh2allah,' meaning 'God Willing.' Hamza in Arabic looks like ء.

7: This takes the place of Haa, which is a very breathy h-sound. It is seen in الحمد لله, which in 3rabizi is 'al7amdullah,' meaning 'Thanks God." Haa in Arabic looks like ح.

5: This takes the place of kha. It is seen in the word خال, or '5al,' and means 'maternal uncle.' In Arabic, it is خ.

9: This takes the place of Saad, which is pronounced as a deeper s. It is seen in the word صفّ, or '9aff,' meaning 'class.' In Arabic, it is ص.

9': This takes the place of Daad, which is a deeper d sound. It is seen in the word مريضة, or mari9'a, which means 'sick.' In Arabic, it is ض. 

6: This takes the place of Taa, which is a deeper t sound. It is seen in the word طاولة, or '6awila,' which means 'table/desk.' In Arabic, it is ط. 

6': Probably the least common letter, this is Dha. It is seen in the word ظافر, or '6'afr,'
 which means 'winner.'  In Arabic, the letter looks like ظ.

3: This letter, 'ayn, is very difficult for me to say but is essentially a forced sound 
made in the back of the throat. It is seen in the word عين, or '3yn,' which means 'eye.' 
It looks like ع.

3': The letter 'ghayn is like the French r. It is seen in the word غبي, or '3'abii,' which 
means 'stupid/ moron.' It is written in Arabic script as غ.

8: This is the letter qaaf, which is most similar to a hard q. It is seen in the word قط, or 
'8a6a,' which means 'cat.' It is ق in Arabic script. 



I would also like to point out an important note in Arabic script: each letter has a beginning, middle, ending, and isolated position, and for some letters it looks very different depending on on their position. Take, for example, ع.
ععع is that same letter written three times in beginning, middle, and ending position. 
Or take ه, my personal favorite. (it sounds like an h)
ههه, which clearly look nothing alike. 

Then, to write vowels, one must first distinguish between long and short. The long vowels, ا (a), ي (ii),and و(oo), are written in Arabic script. However, there are short vowels as well, which are there but typically are not written because they are merely dashes or circles over or under the letters. 

To write hahaha in Arabic, one must write هَهَهَ. In comparison, هِهِهِ is hehehe. However, they would usually just be written as ههه. This may not make a huge difference here, but 7ub, 7ib, and 7ab are three entirely different words spelled the same way (they mean love, seed, and something else that I'm unfortunately forgetting right now).

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