You may have noticed people on the social media from the middle east and Arabic speaking countries use words with English letters and numbers in their chat and communication. This is known as the Arabic chat alphabet or the Franco-Arabic language and it is the use of a combination of English letters and numbers to form words To form words with the same pronunciation of Arabic words.
History of Franco-Arabic writing
In the late 1990s cellular phones and internet became a way of communication between people in the Arabic speaking countries. Most devices at that time didn’t support Arabic keyboard which made it hard to communicate using SMS and internet chat. Around the year 2000 Arabs started to extensively use SMS, chatting computer programs like ICQ and MSN messenger. Due to lack of Arabic keyboard configuration for most devices at that time people used Latin alphabet to communicate in Arabic. It was hard to find alternatives to some Arabic letters so users was able to use numbers in the words to implement the pronunciation of this letters. This formed the modern Arabic chat alphabet known later with the name Franco-Arabic language.
Arabic words written using English alphabet
Franco-Arabic has unspecified rules, you must be very familiar with both Arabic, English and the local Arabic accent of the person writing Franco-Arabic to be able to read it. The way people write Arabic words using English letters and numbers in Franco-Arabic may vary from one person to another, but native Arabic speakers can understand each other using this technique perfectly. Numbers may be used with dashes to implement a different Arabic letter like 3 and 3′ can be used for two different Arabic letters.
Decline of Franco-Arabic usage
Despite the widespread use of Franco-Arabic, it was strongly criticized by many people in the Arab world especially Arabic language professors. They have doubts that the widespread use of this language will blur the original Arabic language. After 2010 most devices now supports Arabic keyboard and internet users all over the Arabic speaking countries are increasing every year from all ages which made the use of Franco-Arabic decline. Most people who use Franco-Arabic in their chat and communication are Arabs who used the internet years ago before the advent of social media or used by younger users who learned Franco-Arabic from their older brothers and sisters.