The Arabic language is one of the most widely-used languages. It’s the fifth most-spoken language with roughly 274 million speakers of standard Arabic. Add in the Egyptian-Arabic and other dialects, this number jumps past 350 million.
Arabic is also one of the hardest to learn let alone translate into. And there are many reasons contributing to this difficulty. Writing from right to left is just one of them.
But because of its wide use, along with the prominence of some Arab countries and their exports and bilateral trade agreements, there’s a great need for Arabic translation.
And while you may choose to work with a freelance translator from time to time, some projects require more than a translator – or even a team of freelance Arabic translators.
Such projects are those that include many sub-requirements, such as website translation, contracts, legal translation, large business projects, not to mention translating online courses.
That’s when you have to expand your search and look for translation agencies, specifically Arabic translation companies.
In this article, we’re going to help you understand why Arabic is a hard language to translate into and how to choose an Arabic translation agency.
The problem(s) with Arabic translation
First, let’s explore why we’re making such a big deal about Arabic.
1. Text direction
We’ve already touched up briefly on this. Arabic is written from right to left.
If you’ve never seen Arabic in writing before, you’re probably thinking: Ouch!
The problem with this isn’t the text direction but rather how this affects certain projects like website translation. In this case, developers, designers, and anyone contributing to the project needs to be aware of the way Arabic is written.
Not to mention, often when you have a document, whether for educational purposes or otherwise, that includes both English and Arabic, you’ll find the Arabic jumbling up the sentences and most of the page.
2. Lots of grammar rules
Has anyone ever told you how many grammar rules there are in Arabic? I won’t tell you because they’re almost uncountable. And we’re talking about standard – that is written – Arabic.
Arabic grammar rules pose a problem for many experienced writers and translators. It’s because of this that many freelancers choose to work with an experienced Arabic reviewer for printed or official texts.
And it’s for this reason that you should have an experienced Arabic reviewer on board if you’re translating your website into Arabic.
3. Word arrangement is different
Arabic word arrangement isn’t what you’d expect, especially if you’re an English-language speaker or a speaker of a European language.
Let’s take ‘good morning’ as an example. In Arabic, it becomes صباح الخير. While you’re probably thinking, it’s just two words too, let me tell you that if we render this word-for-word it would be ‘morning good.’
That’s why it’s important that whenever you’re translating content or documents into Arabic work with a native speaker.
4. Many dialects
Now, let’s talk about the really hard part – and consider all the above as just icing on the cake.
In writing, there are two types of Arabic, classical Arabic, used in very formal texts like religious or legalese texts, and modern standard Arabic, which is an easier-to-understand and more commonly-used Arabic for writing.
Then there’s spoken Arabic. Dialects are part of spoken Arabic and are often used in movies, videos, social media content, TV ads, and commercials.
Globally, there are over 25 Arabic dialects! This makes the Arabic translation a bit complicated.
Multilingual websites not only encompass various elements but also need to be targeted to a specific audience. E-commerce giant Jumia is an example of a multilingual website that features a localized website for each Arabic-speaking country they serve.
5. Literal translation results in catastrophes
While the word-for-word or literal translation is frowned upon in all areas of translation, in some languages you can still get the gist of the text before you. But with Arabic, there’s a disaster in the works.
I mentioned that how you arrange words in Arabic differs from other languages. This makes it harder to interpret literal translation.
Translation agency vs freelancer
By now you have an idea of the main problem areas when it comes to translating content into Arabic.
With larger projects, working with freelance translators might not cut it. It may also result in a larger workload for you.
That’s where a translation agency comes in. Most translation agencies have a team of full-time native translators along with a number of freelance native translators in other languages.
If you’re looking to translate a documentary, a TV or social media commercial, or a video, among other options, you’ll need to work with a translator, a video editor, a dubbing or subtitling company, and possibly a graphic designer. Which is exactly what it sounds like: A headache.
An alternative would be to give all this headache – and workload – to an agency and coordinate with them what you need.
Doing so means they’re responsible for delivering a final product and you can focus on other things.
How to choose an Arabic translation agency
Now let’s look at some tips to help you find a translation agency that’s suitable for you. This list also includes important questions you need to ask your translation service provider.
You should ask these questions before you begin your collaboration with the translation company.
1. Ask for referrals
The first piece of advice is to ask for referrals. If anyone in your field or any of your business partners or family members has worked with an agency and had a good experience, they’ll recommend them.
The worst case is some people will tell you to avoid X agency because they didn’t enjoy their experience with them. So it will be like an exclusion exercise.
2. Look up their reviews
In addition to asking for referrals, you should look at the agency’s testimonials and reviews.
If possible, ask former clients (those mentioned in testimonials) about their experience with that agency.
3. Make sure they offer localization
Arabic translation involves dialects and local terminology that maybe essential to your project. To translate a dialect, an agency needs to use localization.
An advanced form of translation, localization takes cultural and speech aspects into account during the translation process.
Projects such as websites, video content, video game localization, and courses are among the top areas that require localization and to an extent transcreation.
An agency that employs translation, localization, and transcreation is one that ensures you get the absolute best.
4. Make sure they have a process
An essential element of translating large projects is having a process. Be sure to ask the agencies you’re considering what their work process is like.
5. Ask about their reviewing process
Another important element is the reviewing process. We’ve mentioned that Arabic translation is a tough procedure, which means it requires rigorous and careful reviewing.
Ask your translation agency about its review process for the content they’ll be doing for you.
6. Compatibility is important
Part of any business transaction is compatibility. I doubt you’ve hired anyone you felt you weren’t compatible with or who gave out bad vibes during an interview.
The same applies to working with an Arabic translation agency.
Unless you’re working on a really short project, working with a translation agency needs a bit of compatibility.
While you won’t be working in the same space, compatibility helps ease the business relationship, which may turn out to be a long-term one.
While you may or may not pick up on compatibility from your initial contact, you will likely get professional or unprofessional business vibes from them at the early stages of negotiation.
If you don’t feel comfortable with an agency, it’s best to see where this feeling is coming from and if it’s justified.
Being compatible when working with a translation agency will help you get the results you’re looking for in a much smoother manner.
7. Needs to be familiar with SEO translation
Last but certainly not least, an agency you work with – especially if it’s for translating online content – needs to be familiar with SEO translation.
Online content may include translating websites, blogs, videos, and movies, among others. Search engine optimization (SEO) is what you use to get Google’s eyes on you. It’s how websites and blogs appear in search results.
In translation, the process is known as SEO translation. It involves doing keyword research in the target language.If you’re localizing an entire website, you’ll need an advanced level known as international SEO.
Working with an Arabic translation agency like TranslationPartner
Now that you know the difficulties of Arabic translation and why working with an agency – when it comes to large projects – is a good option, here are some benefits of working with TranslationPartner, as an Arabic language translation agency.
Before they begin a project, TranslationPartner presents you with a translation brief. The purpose of this brief is to indicate all requirements needed early on and divide the project into stages (if needed).
The TranslationPartner team comprises several full-time native Arabic-speaking translators and several freelance native translators in the other 32 languages they work with.
We’ve mentioned that it’s important to ensure that your agency has a reviewing process, TranslationPartner has both a reviewing process and an overall internal process for managing and delivering translation projects.
Wrapping it up
You should now have an idea about what’s at stake when it comes to translating content into Arabic and working with an Arabic-focused translation agency.
Before you begin a project, you should always review a few translation quotes. However, it’s important to note that quotes and fees differ based on language and where the translation company is located.
A translation company based in Europe will charge a lot more than a translation agency based in the Middle East. After all, their utility charges alone are significantly different.
With large projects, it’s important to understand that price is not the only determining factor. How many companies have opted for cheaper translation services only to get exactly that: a cheap translation that they had to repeat?
If you’re looking for an expert translation, localization, and transcreation services, get in touch with the team at TranslationPartner.