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Digital translanguaging and Arabic-English transliteration (Arabizi): Insights from Syria and Lebanon



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Rasman, Hajir Basma 
McInerney, William W.  ORCID logo


In a globalised and technologically advancing world, an increasing number of people practice digital translanguaging. However, monoglossic ideological resistance to such practices remains, some of which can be conceptualised through the lens of moral panic. This research navigates one example of digital translanguaging, Arabic English Transliteration (AET), sometimes referred to as Arabizi. AET is the act of using English characters to write Arabic words. The current study employs a small-scale qualitative survey involving 26 Syrian and Lebanese youth with tertiary education experience. It addresses gaps in the AET literature by exploring attitudes and perceptions of AET use and examining the reasons that underlie its adoption. Analysis reveals a difference in the attitudes of Lebanese and Syrians, suggesting a need to move away from an exclusive focus on digital texts towards examining the socially-situated nature of their production and interpretation. An in-depth interview was then conducted with one participant who reported changes in her practice, from shunning AET to ample use of it, which corresponded with a study abroad learning experience. This interview provides nuanced evidence of the need to account for the educational, social and cultural contexts in the study of digital translanguaging. The article concludes with a discussion of the findings and the potential connections between AET use and socio-cultural factors as well as a series of questions and directions for future research including the potential implications for English as a medium of instruction in education contexts.



Arabic-English transliteration, Arabizi, English as a medium of instruction, moral panic, translanguaging

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CERJ, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

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