LOL was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2011.
Even so, some of us struggle to understand text speak in our own language. The British Prime Minister David Cameron somehow believed LOL meant “lots of love”.
Being fluent in a language is all about fitting in. And that includes when you’re chatting on Facebook or texting your friends. Depending on how you use the language, learning txt spk may be even more relevant than learning to write formally!
So what do you do when you’re learning a new language and your language buddies start to text you?
Needless to say, it can be complicated.
English expressions are popular in some countries – and even lol will be understood in some places. But most of the time, each language has developed its own text abbreviations.
So, team FI3M and myself have put together a guide to help you dip your toe in the world of international texting. It’s in no way comprehensive. But it will help you see how creative people can be with language. It also provides a starting point for learning more about texting in your target language.
If you want to know how to text in Spanish, French, Arabic, Thai – or even Japanese – you’re in the right place!
How to Text in Spanish: Handy in a Hurry
Spaniards are known for speaking quickly, so you can imagine they do the same when texting! When typing to your amigo in Spanish, why write out the entire words when you could text?
Here’s how to text in Spanish:
- pq “porque” – because/why
- x “por” – for
- salu2 “saludos” – greetings/farewell
- kn “quien” – who
- ja+ “jamás” – never
- d= “da igual” – It doesn’t matter / makes no difference
- tb “también” – Also/(me) too
- Qs3! “qué estrés” – What stress!
- tqm “te quiero mucho” – I love you a lot
You can even write XD…, which may look like a smiley of a character from South Park laughing, but also works as “por dios…” (for the love of god…).
If you really want to drive your Spanish teacher crazy, then start using the following spellings with ks and ws, which are genuinely used by Spaniards, but you won’t find them in any dictionary:
- kiero “quiero” – I want
- aki “aquí” – here
- weno “bueno” – good
- wapo “guapo” – handsome, and wapa “guapa” – pretty
As well as fun text shortening, there is an aspect of SMSing in Spanish that I find incredibly practical. You can avoid implying a particular gender by replacing the a & o with a character that looks like both: @
So tod@s or amig@s is a nice gender-neutral way of saying everyone or friends!
How to Text in German: Abbreviate Those Long Words!
While German may be notorious for its long words, your Deutsche friends will love to abbreviate when texting. A few fun examples include:
- RUMIAN “Ruf mich an” – call me
- STIMST “Stehe im Stau” – blocked in traffic
- 8tung “Achtung” – watch out
- BBB “Bis bald Baby” – bye bye baby
- BS “Bis später” – CU
And of course, there lots of affectionate ways to spice up your texts!
- DAD “Denk an dich,” – short for “Ich denke an Dich” – thinking about you
- DD “drück dich” – hug
- HDL “Hab Dich lieb” – short for “Ich habe Dich lieb”, which is “I love you” used more often for family members
- HDGDL “Hab Dich ganz doll lieb” – I really love you!
- ILD “Ich liebe Dich” – I <3 U
- TABU “Tausend Bussis” – A thousand kisses
How to Text in French: Be Playful With Numbers
I love using numbers in my text words, like L8R, 2DAY, B4, G2G and GR8, so I was very pleased to see that in French you can do the same, such as:
- D100 “Descends” – Get down
- 12C4 “un de ces quatre” – One of these days
- 2ri1 “de rien” – You’re welcome
- 6né “Ciné” – Cinema
- @2m1 “À demain” – CU2moro (See you tomorrow)
- b1sur “Bien sûr” – Of course
- C1Blag “C’est une blague” It’s a joke/Just kidding
- Koi29 “Quoi de neuf ?” What’s up?
- p2k “Pas de quoi” – You’re welcome
Don’t Get Your 555 Mixed Up
In my homeland, Ireland, you dial triple nine (999) in an emergency. This is the equivalent of 911 in the US.
Over in Asia, triple five isn’t an emergency number, but it is an expression of emotion – albeit different depending on where you live.
In Thai, 555+ means “Hahaha” (In Thai: ‘5’ is pronounced as ‘ha’).
In Mandarin, 555 is an expression for crying (pronounced Wǔwǔwǔ – sort of like “boo-hoo” or “wah” in English)
How to Text in Mandarin: Use Numbers to Replace Letters
In Mandarin people use numbers a lot, as the pronunciation for numbers sometimes sounds similar to the pronunciation for various characters, and in many cases you can write the number quicker.
For instance, we have
- 88 = bābā which sounds similar to “bye bye”
- 881 is also “bye bye” but sounds even more like the original, with pronunciation bābāī
- 56 “wúliáo” = 无聊 – boring. Interestingly the tones and even pronunciation are off on this, since 无聊 is actually pronounced wǔliù, but it shows the power of txt spk. If you’re close enough, people understand you!
- 1314 = 一生一世 (forever/a lifetime. This is a very romantic phrase)
- 1314921 = 一生一世就愛你 (Love you for a lifetime)
- 3Q = San Q (Thank you)
- 8客气 = 不要客气 (You’re welcome)
- 520 = 我爱你 (I love you)
How to Text in Arabic (Or: What to Do When Txt Spk Is the Only Way to Communicate)
The Arabic alphabet isn’t always available on mobile phone keypads, and even if more people are adopting smartphones, there is a huge issue in that Modern Standard Arabic is used formally, but people actually speak completely different “dialects”.
This means that when you are learning a language like Egyptian Arabic, sometimes the best way to express it is to use the “Arabic chat alphabet” (using
Latin letters). This is used in emails between young people, and in notes for giving speeches, as well as for text messages. It tends to express all sounds of the dialect in a way that Arabic script (which is perfect for Modern Standard Arabic) actually misses in some cases.
To give you a taste of how it looks, you would translate the start of the Declaration of Human rights as follows:
El e3lan el 3alami le 72u2 el ensan, el band el awalani el bani2admin kollohom mawlodin 7orrin we metsawyin fel karama wel 7o2u2. Twahablohom el 3a2l wel damir, wel mafrud ye3amlo ba3dihom be ro7 el akhaweya.
I even used the Arabic Chat Alphabet as my code-system in my Anki decks when studying Egyptian Arabic vocabulary.
Note: In Russian they also often use Latin letters to represent Cyrillic when texting.
How to Text in Irish (Even Smaller Languages Do It)
Even my own country’s language, Irish, has its own fun text message terms worth knowing! A few include:
- An8 “anocht” – 2nite
- grma “Go raibh maith agat” – thx
- Cá will 2? “Cá bhfuil tú?” – Where are you?
- NASAA “Níl ach saol amháin agat” – YOLO
- OMD “Ó Mo Dhia” – OMG
How to LOL in Mongolian (and 12 other languages)
- kk is common in Mongolian…
- …as well across the world in Brazilian Portuguese! This is presumably the cackling sound you’d make when you laugh. The first time someone texted me “kkk” in Brazil you can imagine my confusion… You can also say rsrsrsrsrs (repeating rs as many times as you like – “rs” is from risos for “laughs”). And since they don’t have enough already, it’s also common to see huehuehue in Portuguese.
- French: MDR mort de rire (dead [dying] of laughter) and EDR Écroulé de rire (Collapsed with laughter). if you notice the progression, this is like LOL vs ROFL.
- Spanish: jajaja (since the j is aspirated in Spanish, this is like typing hahaha in English). Alternatively you can also use jijiji or jejeje.
- Thai: 555+
- Japanese: wwwww (short for “warai”, which means “laughing”. The more w’s, the louder and longer the laugh)
- Swedish: asg (short for asgarv – which means “roars of laughter”)
- German: gg – grinsen (to grin)
- Jamaican: DWL (dead wid laugh)
- Greek: χαχαχα, Arabic: ههههههههههههه and Hebrew: חחחחחחחחחחחחחח Each of which are sounded out “hahaha”.
- Irish: GOA (gáire ós árd)
Why Not Start Texting In Your Target Language?
Don’t be afraid to use the text shortcuts you’ve learned in this article when typing to your language exchange partners and friends. It’s how natives themselves write.
I’d even go so far as to say you should learn these fun terms before you learn many other words. Texting, and quick chats in Facebook, Whatsapp and other social media is the future, and it’s fun to LOL once in a while in your target language.
Give it a whirl, and let me know your favourite txt spk in the comments!
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.