Arabic to English transliteration

So as part of my ongoing self education ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m attempting to learn the Arabic language, for good reason as Hanan my wife is half Syrian, half English and speaks fluent Arabic. I’m also going to be visiting both Saudi and Syria hopefully this year so I now have the kick up the back side I need to try and learn Arabic a little bit more formally.

An important part of learning Arabic and something I’ve avoided so far is learning the alphabet and writing system. I’m still in the early stages of this at the moment and any exposure to the alphabet helps.

As a little excercise i’ve decided to write a bit of PHP script that takes a string of arabic characters and transliterates them into the latin alphabet. Now what this basically equates to is a big ole switch statement checking the double byte value for each arabic character and then outputing the appropriate latin characters.

Sounds pretty easy ? Well it is really, but it has some drawbacks. It’s not really possible to get an end result that’s deadly accurate using standard internet typed Arabic. The reason for this is that the short vowels in Arabic are represented by using diacritics such as ยด above and below the characters these denote respectively whether there is to be an “a” sound or an “i” sound after the particular letter. (Oh and there are also 2 or 3 sounds that don’t exist in English but that’s another problem ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

This is all fine, but the problem is these diacritics are usually left out of typed Arabic except to distinguish between two ambiguous words. So if the information is not there to start with we can’t 100% accurately work out the sound. However we can do an approximation and for most of the time this is good enough ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s a little sample sentence before and after transliteration.

???? ?????? ??????? “??? ???????????? ???????” ???? ?? ??? ????? ????? ??? ???????? ?? ???? ?????? ????????? ???? ?????.

comes out as …

qalt mjmoAa alshrkat ‘dbi antrnashional kabital’ anha lm tAd mhtma bshraa HSa alaghlbia fi nadi lfrbol alanjlizi lkra alqdm.

you can even start to spot some familiar words in there ‘dbi antrnashional kabital’ = Dubai International Capital (there is no p sound in arabic so they come out as b’s )

I’ll have more of a play and see if i can improve it, but the output is good enough for Hanan to figure out the output without seeing the original (given a bit of head scratching admittedly). However its a good way for me to get a quick gist of how some arabic script should sound while i’m learning the alphabet.


  1. harish thakkar

    I have come into possession of a brass metal strip with Arabic inscription on it. I was produced for me from air by an Indian mystic. He told me it would protect me from fire, water, and accidental hazards and would earn me divine favors. I have a jpg file of it. If you are interested in deciphering it, send me an email address on which I can send the file.

    Regards and all the best,


  2. Rob (Post author)

    Harish sounds intriguing.. ๐Ÿ™‚ you haven’t left your email address or anyway to contact you though. I suspect that the metal strip will not be in Arabic though if you obtained it from an Indian Mystic, the alphabet is the same but the language is different.

  3. harish thakkar

    It is Arabic for sure. I know the alphabets of Urdu and Arabic are the same, but this is certainly Arabic. My email id is Please let me know if you are interested. I have also shot the video of how it materialized into my hand. Please let me know if you translate it.

    Harish Thakkar

  4. Kelli

    I have been trying to get my fiances name translated but seem to be getting several variations on ‘DAVE’. Most variations hav similarities but no two are the same. Why is this? I am wanting a tattoo in this beautiful script and dont want to get something of no meaning perminately painted onto my body, or worse still something terribly insulting should we ever return to Egypt ๐Ÿ˜‰ Are there variations to the script for different areas? We had them done while in Egypt but they are not like your site shows or any others i have looked on. Hope you can clarify for me.
    Regards Kelli

  5. Rajesh

    Is there any desktop application for this tool? If it is there, do you have free trial version?

  6. saud mohammad al zarea

    ??? ???? ?? ????? ????? ?????????? ???? ??????

  7. marwan

    Dear Rob.

    If you are interested in the transliteration of Arabic into English letters, please check where you will find an online arabic pad. You can write arabic using the english keyboard.

  8. Karthik

    Dear Rob,

    I have been asked to transliterate Hindi text to English. can you guide me in doing this? I am totally new to this transliteration concept & right now I am square one.

    Please reply…

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