Deviant Arabic Transliterations of Foreign Shop Names in Saudi Arabia and Decoding Problems Among Shoppers

Foreign shop names, shop name transliteration, English-Arabic transliteration, decoding Arabic transliterations transliteration competence, variant transliterations, transliteration deviations


December 27, 2022


This study aimed to analyze a sample of Arabic transliterations of foreign shop names in Saudi Arabia; to identify the inaccuracies, and inconsistencies in the Arabic transliterations; the causes of the Arabic inconsistent and erroneous transliterations; whether shoppers (who do not know English) can decode and pronounce a sample Arabic transliterations of shop names; and the factors that should be taken into consideration in transliterating foreign shop names to Arabic. Results of the data analysis showed that 52% of the inaccurate transliterations are in the vowels and diphthongs; 36% are inaccurate and inconsistent transliterations of consonants. In 11.6% of the shop names, ch was reduced to sh; and /g/ was transliterated in 3 ways. 13% of the consonant transliteration deviations occurred in words containing a silent letter. In 6%, the Arabic vowel was double. In 8%, compound shop names were spelled together (blended) in the Arabic transliteration; In 7%, foreign names from French, Italian, Japanese, and Turkish were transliterated as they are pronounced in English, not in the original language. Findings also showed variant spellings of the same name shop names especially from French, Italian and Turkish (Parfois بارفواه بافويس; Spring سبرينق  سبرينج; Semit Sarai  سميت/سيميت; Chocolate شوكلت/شوكليت). Results of a decoding test given to a sample of college students and faculty who have a low proficiency level in English showed that the subjects could decode shop names such as ماكدونالدر، بيرغر كينج، هارديز، كوستا، ساربكس.. نسكافيه بيرجر كينج،  تويز ار اص، but had difficulty decoding , دولس قوستو, أدفنتورا, جارليشوز لاونج, أميريكان إيجل أوتفترز, أكسسوريز, بايليس,  باربكيوتونايت, لولو سلبريت, ذا تشيلدرنز بليس and other. The students and faculty had difficulty decoding Arabic transliterations because they are not familiar with the shop name in the foreign language, and because of the absence of short vowels in the transliteration, which makes it difficult to pronounce the transliterated names correctly. Deviant transliterations are attributed to transliterators who are non-native speakers of Arabic, English and other foreign languages. Recommendations for accurate Arabic transliterations of foreign shop names in Saudi Arabia are given.