Translation and Design Tips for an Arabic Audience

Arabic is the sixth most spoken language in the world with over 420 million speakers globally and it is the native language for 25 countries or independent states, so it isn’t surprising to find that more and more businesses are realising the benefits of translating their websites for an Arabic audience.

However, with an audience that covers countries as diverse as Egypt and Palestine, or the United Arab Emirates and Tunisia, translating and designing for an Arabic audience can be difficult to get right, especially without the help of professional translation service providers who offer localization packages based upon specific regions.

So, being experts in both translation and design for an Arabic audience, we thought we’d share some of our top tips with you.


1. Language Variations

The Arabic language is read from right-to-left (RTL) so it is very different from a website designed for the English-language.

There can be complications when trying to ‘flip’ the page due to issues such as, text expansion and reversed images, so if planning an Arabic version of your site make sure this is taken into account in the design phase where possible.


2. Arabic Numerals, Fonts and Typography

While the reading direction may be RTL for an Arabic audience, this does not mean that everything is read ‘back to front’.

For instance, phone numbers will be read in the same direction as they are elsewhere in the world, so they should be displayed the same way (area code, then phone number).

Another point to consider when dealing with numbers in Arabic, is that some regions prefer to use Eastern Arabic numerals, while others predominantly use Western Arabic numerals. This tends to vary depending upon region so check with your localization provider if you are unsure.

Preferred fonts for use on Arabic websites differ to English-language based websites and font size also changes. The typical Latin typography used in the West doesn’t fit with Arabic so it will require a change of font.

Ariel, Verdana and Tahoma are the most frequently used fonts, with Tahoma being the most common due to its easy readability.


3. Select the Best Platform

It is important that you select a platform that can cope with the Arabic language, and supports localization, without the need for alterations.

There are platforms available that allow for the switch from RTL or LTR so check before making your decision that it will retain shared content and manage the language direction changes.

If you are unsure, ask your translation service provider for advice in the early planning stages.


4. Localize Images for An Arabic Audience

We’ve briefly mentioned above the potential pitfalls of ‘flipping’ images but this isn’t the only consideration when choosing images for an Arabic audience.

There are many cultural differences between a Western audience and an Arabic one (religion, family and social structure, and law, to name but a few) so it is highly probable that you’ll need to modify, or completely change, some of the images on your website for your new audience.

Likewise, iconography, symbols and even Emojis can alter based upon culture so it is well worth doing your research before making assumptions about your target audience, and check with localization experts if you are unsure.


5. Select the Best Language Services Provider

The success of your website will depend upon the accomplishment of your Language Services Provider (LSP) so do your homework before selecting one to work with.

Ask to see examples of their work, in the language(s) you require, check for industry specialists, native-speaking translators, and then spend time discussing your requirements, brand and aims for your translation project so that they can understand how to help you.

Further advice and assistance, regarding Arabic translations, can be found here.

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