JEDDAH: Arabizi, a term that describes a system of writing Arabic in English, is now more popular than ever, especially online.
Parents and teachers are becoming more concerned over the popularity of this new trend. Some see it as a threat to the Arabic language.
A non-English speaker does not need to speak the language to communicate with others in Arabizi. Numbers are also mixed in Arabizi to represent some letters in Arabic, such as 2, 5, 6, 7 and 9.
Most Arab Internet users find this way easier than typing in Arabic. Teachers fear that this will weaken their Arabic language ability or even replace the language in the future. Arabic professional professors from the Arab world consider it a war against the Arabic language to make it disappear in the long run.
Miral Dibawy, a 21-year-old university graduate, is using Arabizi because she finds it easier when typing on the Internet and sending text messages. She also admitted that it has weakened her Arabic language ability when it comes to writing.
“I was so addicted to this language when chatting and sending texts to my friends. When it came to my research paper, I was finding it hard to write in Arabic. I had to write it in Arabizi first and then translated it into Arabic,” said Miral.
She confirmed that she tried many times to write in Arabic or English, but she found it was very difficult because she had become dependent on Arabizi.
“When I start writing in Arabic, I found myself committing many mistakes and typos and sometimes had difficulty finding the words I wanted to express my thoughts.” She said that some writers used Arabizi when writing books and Internet blogs.
Dina Jamal, university student, agreed that Arabizi weakens the Arabic language and said she only uses Arabic or English when communicating online.
“I do not care if Arabizi is modern or elegant, all I care about is protecting my mother language,” she said.
She added that it is sad that people ignore Arabic, the best language to express feelings, and use Arabizi instead. She said that it is better to use it sparingly and only online and not make it a language that in the future could replace Arabic.
Ali Nasser is a private company employee who does not think there is a problem using Arabizi. He said that Arabizi is a valid mode of communication inside the company and used when emailing other co-workers.
“For me, it is difficult to express myself in Arabic. I cannot write slang in Arabic because it is difficult, while in Arabizi I can. I do not see any evidence that Arabizi weakens my Arabic. The same could be said about weakening the English language but it is not true. I think people are oversensitive about this issue.”
Taiba Al-Amoudi, a private middle school Arabic teacher, claimed that Arabizi was negatively affecting her students’ command of the language.
“The student started creating words from Arabizi and using it in their daily conversation and this is negatively affect their Arabic language knowledge,” said Al-Amoudi
Hossam Gouda, an Arabic language teacher at a private school in Jeddah, believes that Arabic speakers must use Arabic only, the same rule applying to other languages.
Gouda said that there had been a noticeable decline in the performance of students when it comes to Arabic.
“Using Arabizi has a negative effect on the Arabic language,” he said.
He confirmed that Arabic speakers must protect the language and make it stronger.
“What’s happening is that Arabic speakers are weakening the language by using Arabizi, and destroying it in the process,” he said.
Gouda added that it’s better to use Arabic online for as long as possible to prevent it from disappearing in the long run.
Research Associate in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures
2008-2011 Research Associate at Durham University,School of Modern Languages and Cultures. Main project: the impacts of globalization on Arabic language in general and Arabic dialects in particular. I am particularly interested in IT related words, collocations and phrases (at both literal and metaphorical) levels.