The Arabic language is the fifth most widely spoken language, with over 420 million people speaking it around the world. However, for English speakers, it is also one of the most challenging languages to learn, and translate.
Mastering the Arabic language requires a whole new script and alphabet to be learnt, including overcoming the struggle of reading from right-to-left. Numbers are also represented by different symbols, so these must also be understood.
However, if all this seems too difficult, don’t despair!
The tips below will help you to overcome the initial challenges of translating from English to Arabic, and ensure you get the most from your linguistic skills, and translations.
1. Understand your Translation’s Objectives
Before you undertake any translation, it is worth considering why it is necessary, and what its purpose is.
If the translation is a personal endeavour such as, a letter or email to an Arabic friend, then the overall quality of the translation doesn’t necessarily need to be spot on. You should be able to manage with your basic knowledge, and a little help from a quality translation dictionary.
However, if it is for business purposes it is likely that it needs to be accurate and concise. If this is the case, it is probably a good idea to get someone to check your translation for grammatical errors, misinterpretations, and so on. Any mistakes made might be costly, so using a professional English to Arabic translation provider is usually a wise decision.
2. Written and Spoken Arabic
Virtually all Arabic-speaking countries use a standard for of written Arabic known as, Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) as their official written language.
This is used by newspapers, government, magazines, and so on, and is derived from the classical Arabic used in the Quran.
MSA is the formal language used nowadays, but is simpler than classical Arabic.
Conversely, spoken forms of Arabic can differ from one region to another, and there are at least 30 official modern varieties of spoken Arabic.
Of course, this can cause an issue when translating from English to Arabic, so it is vital that your translation is appropriate for the intended audience.
If your translation is intended to be read (as opposed to spoken), using MSA will mean that it can be universally understood by an Arabic audience, irrelevant of their location.
3. Regional Dialects
As with most languages, there are regional differences in the Arabic language.
For instance, in Egypt you might find that people native to Cairo (who speak Cairene Arabic) have a different dialect from those who are native to southern Egypt. While they can understand each other, there are slight variations in lexical choice, tone, and meaning.
Differences in Arabic dialects become even more apparent when moving from one country to another such as, Dubai to Egypt, or Saudi Arabia to Algeria. Before translating any text, it is vital you consider the audience that will receive the translation, as this will help you tailor your translation for a best fit.
Consider points such as, regional dialects, if your translation is to be written or spoken, and the purpose of your translation, before commencing translation.
Many translation companies can help with localization (the process of tailoring a translation to fit a local audience), so it is worth using this service if you feel that you are either, not skilled enough to translate in this instance, or, your translation requires a high degree of accuracy.
4. Cultural Awareness
Professional translators are not only talented wordsmiths, but are also skilled in the arts of cultural awareness.
They understand the differences in humour, idioms, tone and terminology that exists between different regions, languages and cultures.
This understanding is vital in a translation that is to be used for business purposes, as without it your translation risks causing offence, being misunderstood, or simply, being overlooked. To avoid these pitfalls it may be necessary to retain the services of a professional translation team, or to undertake cultural training yourself, if you are highly proficient with the language.
Be aware of hazards such as, differences in image appropriateness, differing calendar dates and numbers, and currencies.