Sunday, December 23, 2012

Arabic in Latin Alphabet?

From Ahmet in Tunisia:  

"Asad, this guy is trying to convince us, thinking this is 2004, that the actually declining trend of writing Arabic with Latin letters ("Arabizi" ) is still going strong in the Levant ( he basically covers it only in Lebanon and a word on Jordan) where in fact if he bothered to check that Arabic (one would presume sound Arabic) is the fastest growing language in both twitter and Facebook in the region, and companies are adapting to that. You know, a nauseating opening passage in the article tells me the tone of it is all is related to a typical Lebanese cultural schlock you often notes in writing: an ever "abiding craze", not a new one, of peppering the Arabic with English or french as a sign of uber-civilization :

"Hi, kifak, ca va?" If you have heard this phrase before it's either because you've been to Lebanon or you've seen someone foolish enough to buy the t-shirt (sorry Mom). Yet while the population of Lebanon and other areas of the Levant region are said to have been multilingual for centuries, a new craze has come to the forefront of society over the last decade, mostly thanks to the spread of mobile phones.
Arabizi, as its known, is the Arabic language alphabet written with Latin letters. Dr. David Wilmsen, a professor of Arabic at the American University of Beirut who has written extensively on linguistics says he believes Arabizi came about due to more widespread use of mobile phones.
"The first telephones that came out were very expensive so only those who could afford it would own one," he said, adding that due to the lack of demand in the Middle East most phones’ keyboards came in English. This wasn't a big problem because those who could afford a phone were educated and spoke English. From here "terminology and concepts were just adopted," Dr. Wilmsen said.
"I don't hear people use risala, they use message," he said.
With the increased use of the Internet and short text messages, some Arabic speakers decided to utilize the simpleness of the English keyboard on their phone. The result was Arabizi"""