The Arabic chat alphabet, also known as Arabizi (Arabic: عربيزي ‘Arabizi), Arabish, Araby, (Arabic: عربي ‘Araby), or Franco-Arab, or Franco or Roman Arabic or Romanised Arabic or Latin Arabic or Latinised Arabic, is an alphabet used to communicate in the Arabic language over the Internet or for sending messages via cellular phones when the actual Arabic alphabet is unavailable for technical reasons or otherwise more difficult to use. It is a character encoding of Arabic to the Latin script and the Arabic numerals. Users of this alphabet have developed some special notations to transliterate some of the letters that do not exist in the basic Latin script (ASCII).
During the last decades of the 20th century and especially since the 1990s, Western text communication technologies became increasingly prevalent in the Arab world, such as personal computers, the World Wide Web, email, bulletin board systems, IRC, instant messaging and mobile phone text messaging. Most of these technologies originally had the ability to communicate using Latin script only, and some of them still do not have the Arabic alphabet as an optional feature. As a result, Arabic speaking users communicated in these technologies by transliterating the Arabic text in to English using Latin script. To handle those Arabic letters that do not have an approximate phonetic equivalent in the Latin script, numerals and other characters were appropriated. For example, the numeral "3" is used to represent the Arabic letter 〈ع〉 (ʿayn ), note the usage of the mirroring technique to create a visual similarity between the Arabic letter and its numeral substitution. Many users of mobile phones and computers use Arabish even when their system supports the Arabic script because they do not always have Arabic keyboards, or because they are more familiar with the QWERTYkeyboard layout for typing.
It is most commonly used by youths in the Arab world in very informal settings, for example communicating with friends or other youths. The Arabic Chat Alphabet is never used in formal settings and is rarely, if ever, used for long communications. A single communication in ACA rarely exceeds more than a few sentences.
Arabish is used on many public advertisements by large multinationals. Because of its widespread use, large players in the online industry like Google and Microsoft have introduced tools that convert text written in Arabish to Arabic. Add-ons for Mozilla Firefox and Chrome exist to romanize Arabic webpages in the ArabEasy system. and Firefox also permits romanized Arabic text input.
Because of the informal nature of this system, there is no single "correct" way, so some character usage overlaps.
Most of the characters in the system make use of the roman character (as used in English and French) that best approximates phonetically the Arabic letter that one wants to express (for example, ب corresponds to b). This may sometimes vary due to regional variations in the pronunciation of the Arabic letter (e.g. ﺝ might be transliterated as j in the Levantine dialect, or as g in the Egyptian dialect).
Those letters that do not have a close phonetic approximate in the Latin script are often expressed using numerals or other characters, so that the numeral graphically approximate the Arabic letter that one wants to express (e.g. ع is represented using the numeral 3 because the latter looks like a horizontal reflection of the former).
Since many letters are distinguished from others solely by a dot above or below the main character, the conversions frequently used the same letter or number with an apostrophe added after or before (e.g. 3' is used to represent غ).
^2 In Iraq and sometimes Persian Gulf, it may be used to transcribe /t͡ʃ/, but most often transcribed as تش, while in Egypt it is used for transcribing /ʒ/ (which can be a reduction of /d͡ʒ/). ^3 Depending on the region, different letters may be used for the same phoneme.
^In Egypt, Sudan and sometimes other regions, the final form is always ى (without dots), representing both final /-iː/ and /-aː/.
^ى representing final /-a/ is less likely to occur. In this case, it is commonly known as, especially in Egypt, ألف لينة[ˈʔælef læjˈjenæ]. Also called ʾalif maqṣūra. In Egypt, it is always short [-æ, -ɑ] in Egyptian Arabic.