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Arabic Localization

Despite being the fifth most spoken language in the world, Arabic remains to be one of the most underserved languages there is, meaning that there is relatively little in the way of localized content in the public domain. With over 400 million speakers of Arabic, this presents huge opportunities for companies looking to penetrate the Arabic speaking market – especially when you consider that over 70 percent of consumers spend most of their time on sites in their native language, and over 50 percent of people only make purchases on websites in their own language.

However, Arabic localization can throw up all kinds of obstacles for the inexperienced and in the localization industry is generally considered to be one of the hardest languages to get right, second only to Japanese. Not only does Arabic flow from right to left, complex ligatures and diacritics can also present problems – therefore desktop publishing and multimedia engineering should therefore be performed by native Arabic DTP and multimedia operators, as many software applications do not fully support right to left languages.

Because the language has distinct written and spoken forms, the choice of vocabulary and grammar used when translating into Arabic must be appropriate for both the subject matter and the target audience. This is especially true for advertising and marketing materials. It is therefore imperative that you work with professional translators with the appropriate level of domain experience and maturity. Adding to the complexity; page layout, color, preference of image, illustration and graphics are all very different to the Non-Arabic speaking world and all need to be carefully considered.

Arabic can also present issues when it comes time to record voiceover if not properly addressed with client stakeholders, as it is vital that the voice artist speaks in the dialect of the target audience. So customers and language vendors need to be prepared, cooperate fully and know exactly who they are targeting. If your target is general Arabic speakers, the Arabic voice artist should be able to speak Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) with minimum regional accent.

This is just a snap-shot of some of the challenges that Arabic localization can present. Selecting the right localization partner with demonstrated Arabic experience and a good understanding of the many pitfalls of Arabic localization is crucial.


  • Editing
  • Proofreading
  • Machine Translation engine building
  • Machine Translation post-editing
  • Desktop publishing
  • Voiceover & dubbing
  • Subtitling & closed captions
  • Flash & multimedia localization
  • Linguistic testing
  • Functional testing
  • Interpretation


  • Documentation
  • Technical manuals
  • Marketing materials
  • Brochures & flyers
  • Packaging & labeling
  • Magazines & newsletters
  • Websites
  • Mobile applications
  • Software applications
  • Training & eLearning
  • Voiceover & multimedia
  • Video content

About Arabic

The Arabic language is a member of the Semitic group of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Within the Semitic group, Arabic has by far the largest number of speakers – more than 200 million. Other significant members of the Semitic group include Amharic and Tigrinya (both spoken in Ethiopia), and Hebrew.

Arabic, in both its literary form and many colloquial forms, is a descendant of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century CE. The literary language used throughout the Middle East and North Africa is known as Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). It is the official language of all Arab countries, one of the six official languages of the United Nations, and is the only form of the language taught in schools.

Colloquial Arabic is a collection of numerous national and regional dialects, many of which are mutually unintelligible. The local dialect is the native language of area’s population, while MSA is subsequently learned in school. The differences in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation between the local dialect and MSA result in both diglossia, the normal use of two varieties of the same language, as well as code-switching, changing between dialect and MSA even within the same sentence.+

Arabic is written from right to left in a cursive style. The writing system is an abjad alphabet, where each letter represents a consonant with the associated vowel being inferred by the reader. Although Arabic does have diacritical marks to indicate short vowels, these are rarely used in general writing. As long vowels normally are written, the Arabic alphabet is not a “pure” abjad. This type of writing system is well-suited to Arabic, in which roots typically comprise three consonants and the particular set of vowels used in conjunction with those consonants supplies the specific meaning. For example, the words for book, books, writer, writing, copy, correspond, dictate, etc. are all based on the tri-consonantal root “k-t-b”.

The Arabic alphabet has 28 basic letters, although adaptations of the Arabic script used for other languages, such as Farsi, Urdu, Malay, etc., have additional letters. Because Arabic is written in a cursive style, each letter may have as many as 4 forms – isolated, initial, medial, and final – depending upon its position within a word and the letters (if any) that precede and/or follow it.

  • With regard to DTP, many software programs do not properly support right-to-left languages. In addition, support for ligatures and the correct positioning of short vowels and other diacritical marks may be problematic. For these reasons, DTP is best performed by a native operator.


  • Because the language has distinct written and spoken forms, the choice of vocabulary and grammar used when translating into Arabic must be appropriate for both the subject matter and the target audience. This is especially true for advertising and marketing materials.


  • With regard to voice-over recording, it is imperative that the voice talent speak the regional or local dialect of the target audience. If the recording is meant for an Arabic-speaking audience in general, the voice talent should be able to speak MSA with a minimum regional accent.

Arabic Translation & Localization Challenges


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For more information on how EQHO can assist you with your Arabic translation & localization requirements, please don’t hesitate to contact us through our website.

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