Sabba Sabba - 10 months ago 103
Python Question

Fast transliteration for Arabic Text with Python

I always work on Arabic text files and to avoid problems with encoding I transliterate Arabic characters into English according to Buckwalter's scheme (

Here is my code to do so but it's very SLOW even with small files like 400 kb. Ideas to make it faster?


def transliterate(file):
data = open(file).read()
buckArab = {"'":"ء", "|":"آ", "?":"أ", "&":"ؤ", "<":"إ", "}":"ئ", "A":"ا", "b":"ب", "p":"ة", "t":"ت", "v":"ث", "g":"ج", "H":"ح", "x":"خ", "d":"د", "*":"ذ", "r":"ر", "z":"ز", "s":"س", "$":"ش", "S":"ص", "D":"ض", "T":"ط", "Z":"ظ", "E":"ع", "G":"غ", "_":"ـ", "f":"ف", "q":"ق", "k":"ك", "l":"ل", "m":"م", "n":"ن", "h":"ه", "w":"و", "Y":"ى", "y":"ي", "F":"ً", "N":"ٌ", "K":"ٍ", "~":"ّ", "o":"ْ", "u":"ُ", "a":"َ", "i":"ِ"}
for char in data:
for k, v in arabBuck.iteritems():
data = data.replace(k,v)
return data

Answer Source

Incidentally, someone already wrote a script that does this, so you might want to check that out before spending too much time on your own:

It probably does more than what you need, but you don't have to use all of it: I copied just the two dictionaries and the transliterateString function (with a few tweaks, I think), and use that on my site.

Edit: The script above is what I have been using, but I'm just discovered that it is much slower than using replace, especially for a large corpus. This is the code I finally ended up with, that seems to be simpler and faster (this references a dictionary buck2uni):

def transString(string, reverse=0):
    '''Given a Unicode string, transliterate into Buckwalter. To go from
    Buckwalter back to Unicode, set reverse=1'''

    for k, v in buck2uni.items():
        if not reverse:
            string = string.replace(v, k)
            string = string.replace(k, v)

    return string