When chatting online Arabs often use the Latin letters to write in Arabic instead of the Arabic alphabet. And, because certain sounds in the Arabic alphabet don’t have a counterpart in Western languages, there are a number of symbols used to represent these special sounds.
So don’t be surprised to see numerals such as 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 being used online – these numbers represent distinct sounds in the Arabic language. For instance تحكي عربي؟, or “do you speak Arabic?” becomes “ta7ki 3arabi?”.
Below is a table that summarizes how the numbers are used to replace certain Arabic sounds. I also suggest some mnemonics for how to remember which number corresponds with which letter.
|ح||7||the letter Haa’ looks quite similar to a 7|
|خ||5, 7’||the apostrophe represents the dot on the letter khaa’; alternatively the numeral <5> is used|
|ص||9||imagine a <9> lying on the side, in which case the numeral looks very similar to the letter Saad|
|ض||9, 9’||the apostrophe represents the dot on the letter Daad|
|ط||6||the shape of the numeral <6> is not too different from the shape of the letter Taa’|
|ظ||6, 6’||the apostrophe represents the dot of the letter Zaa’|
|ع||3||the letter ‘ayn looks like a mirrored <3>|
|غ||3’||the apostrophe represents the dot on the letter ghayn|
|ق||8||imagine that the two dots of the letter qaaf closed the top, which would result in an eight lying on its side|
Update: See my new article on the Arabic chat alphabet where I dissect two sample sentences and translate them into normal Arabic script.