Welcome to the Arabic Language Discussion Forum

Being a retired professor of Arabic and Linguistics, I have elected to publish an archive on how the Arabic language is used in America and across cultures.

I hope to establish a dialogue with people interested in the language, the teaching of the language, the learning of the language, and the interaction of Arabic and English while learning the language.

I am also interested in having a discussion as to the use of Arabic within the contexts of globalization.

Arabic is very much a language that binds a culture and defines a people. This blog is dedicated to understanding how American use, learn, and teach the Arabic language, and how Arabic, in Arab countries has been impacted crossculturally.

Apr 26, 2011


Copyright © 2010 Aleya Rouchdy, All Rights Reserved

In an article published in The National (http://www. thenational.ac) Muhamad Ayish wrote “cyberspace will open new frontier for the future of Arabic. This is in spite of the media consistent warning “ the use of Arabic is dwindling and is thus threatening national identity in Arab countries.” (12/26/2010)

The debate on the decline of Arabic in the Arab world has and is always brought up in Arab media. Some prominent writers fear that the new generation is losing its national identity due to its nonchalance or carelessness toward the language.

Articles are regularly published and talk shows are discussing the over increasing usage of text message transliteration and its effect on Arabic. Hady Hamdan in The Jordan Times (9/14/2010) wrote, “Arab linguists were united in their view that transliteration poses a serious threat to the Arabic language.”

This rising concern about the future of Arabic in the Arab world is somewhat related to the recent surge in the number of chatters, twitters and face book users in communicating in what is referred to as Arabizi, a transliterated colloquial.

I was in Egypt during the Revolution of January 25th, 2011 and noticed how popular transliterated Arabic became. The young were exchanging the latest in Arabizi. Even those whose knowledge of English is minimal were still using the transliterated form to communicate in short messages. Even some older people were also using this form to exchange messages via cell phones or face book. When I asked some of my friends why are they using Arabizi their responses were that “it was easier than typing Arabic.” It is indeed becoming very popular as a fast mean to send short messages.

In an article in Arab News, (4/19/2011) ‘Arabizi is destroying the Arabic language’, Renad Ghanem wrote “a non-English speakers does not need to speak the language to communicate with others in Arabizi. Numbers are also mixed in Arabizi to represent some letter in Arabic, such as 2,5,6, 7 and 9,” to replace emphatics and pharyngeal sounds.

In the same article Ghanem quotes some students who expressed either their support or rejection of using Arabizi. Those who supported this innovation in communicating stated that “it is easier when typing on the Internet and sending text messages.” Another said “ she tried many times to write in Arabic or English, but she found it very difficult because she had become dependent on Arabizi.” A third person stated he “does not think there is a problem using Arabizi…. that Arabizi is a valid mode of communication…”and does not see any evidence that it weakens Arabic.

On the other hand those who rejected the use of this method of communication stated that Arabizi does indeed weaken the Arabic language. Some teachers see that it is affecting students’ command of the language and one teacher quoted by Ghanem as saying “The student started creating words from Arabizi and using it in their daily conversation and this is negatively affecting their Arabic language.”

Most of the comments on the article were critical of Arabizi as it will weakens the Arabic language, but there were also comments whereby a commentator stated that the most important thing is” mutual understanding”…If it takes Arabizi, so be it.” He /she ends the comment with “Assalamu Aylaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakat, and Alhamdulillah which I learned through Arabizi.”

Opinions hence differ when it comes to the use of Arabizi, as a written form, to communicate via the Internet. However, this form will never replace the use of Arabic alphabet in writing. I cannot envisage an article written in Arabizi anytime in the near future. The survival of standard Arabic should not be of concern to educators or Arabic linguaphile. What should be of concern is twofold: the increasing tendency to use colloquial in some publications, and the lack of appropriate methods in teaching standard Arabic in both public and private schools.


  1. I think writing Arabizi is because lack of the Arabic keyboard in most of the computer and mobile phone for exambe (arabic keboard in my Iphone)In ي I can not see ي without نقط so if I want to write (ON علي) I can not find الألف الممدودة so It has to be written علا and this is wrong so the easy way is to write in Arabizi . Using this methods among Arab is Ok because we can understand the meaning but using this methods among the learner of Arabic as a foreign language is very danger because they do not understand that one letter can change the meaning of the whole sentence . Furthermore teaching Arabic by using transiliteration it can only leads to not knowing the language at all.
    احمد الشريف

  2. Thank you for your comment. However, I would like to add that "teaching Arabic by using transliteration"is sometimes useful, that is, under certain conditions. But, it should not be the only method of teaching the language.It should go hand in hand with a traditional method.

  3. I could not help commenting on this entry since it deals with a topic of particular personal interest.

    Arabizi or 'Franko-Arab' as it is commonly called in Egypt has certainly increased in popularity and acceptability over the past decade. Egypt is of course not alone is this - this is a trend which has been document throughout the Arabic-speaking world, and it is also commonly used by Arabs in the diaspora. (two good blogs to follow with relation to Arabizi are: http://arabizi.wordpress.com/ and http://earaby.blogspot.com/)

    What I perceive to be quite striking in the case of Egypt is that this form of communication is no longer restricted to computer mediated communication (including mobile phones). It is making a steady transition to offline mediums. That is to say, it can no longer be justified by ease of typing. Arabizi (with its distinctive use of numerals) is now becoming a common sight in grafitti, advertizing billboards, and even in printed magazines in Egypt.

    When you say that you do not envisage seeing an article written in Arabizi in the near future, this may be true, but we are not lightyears away.

    In 2009, I conducted interviews with 4 Egyptian printed, editted magazines which use Arabizi frequently. Interestingly, all these magazines identified themselves as "English" magazines or at least primarily English. For 2 of the magazines, the use of Arabizi was integral to the publication's market identity, and in one particular magazine, it was not uncommon to see half an article written in this way.

    There is much to suggest that it is not only the young or technologically savvy in Egypt who use this mode of communication, and at least concrete evidence that they are not they only ones who comprehend it.

    This area remains, by and large, pretty under-researched. Many people clearly mesh the cocepts of written and spoken code-mixing and use the label 'Arabizi' to denote both interchangeably. From a linguistic perspective, I like to separate between the written and spoken mode. Although we live in an age where the line between the two is being blurred, it is still the case that the kind of knowledge and skills necessary for each type of switching are different. One aspect of written code-switching (and the use of Arabizi) is a necessary knowledge of Latin script. The Arabic speaker would then need to negotiate the two scripts in their mind as they convert their knowledge from one script to the other. Add to this a further complication: that the variety you find in Arabizi is, more often than not, the vernacular rather than the standard. Users in many instances have to come up with a respresentation for a spoken segment that they have no "standard" equivalent for in written form. It really is quite fascinating.

    There are two things that you mention towards the end which I completely agree with: yes, Egyptian Arabic is certainly gaining ground in the publishing world, and yes, all this must be studied in the context of low literacy in Egypt in general and poor literacy in Classical (Standard) Arabic in particular. Education is definitely a key component in this formula.

  4. Thank you very much for a very interesting comment. It is an addition to the post.
    I agree with you,it is indeed an "under-researched" area that we should all observe and study.