Localizing for the Arabic Market: Things to Know

by | May 3, 2018

With over 180 million Arabic speaking web users, representing 4.8% of the global internet
population, it isn’t a surprise that you want to localize your product for the Arabic market. The
advantages of localization are many, with one of them being that your product will have greater
rates of adoption. Arabic is the fourth most spoken language in this world, which is a strong
indicator of its popularity.

However, localizing for the Arabic market is not a simple task, as there are a lot of challenges to
overcome. Although there are more than 315 million Arabic speakers in the world, there are
major differences in the language spoken in different areas. According to this study, there are at
least 30 different dialects. As you can imagine, it requires extensive research for correct

To ensure that your product gets released with the highest localization quality, here are four
things to keep in mind:

Avoid machine translation as much as possible

Machine translation is the common technique used by several businesses as it saves a lot of time and effort in localization. However, you should avoid using machine translation as much as possible when it comes to Arabic. The reason is that there are many concepts, phrases, and
terminologies that don’t have an exact translation.

Also, Arabic is quite expressive as a language, which uses poetic words, indirect
characterizations, and idioms to describe ideas and situations. As machines are unable to
overcome these obstacles, your translations will come off as poor. It may not make sense to the locals, which will have a negative impact on your product.

Be cautious when using images

Images are one of the strongest pieces of content for your product as they have a huge impact on your target audience. When you are using images on your product, make sure that they get a
positive reaction from the target audience. The locals are quite sensitive to topics such as gender, politics, religion, and sexuality. Given the diversity of the Arabic community, some images may be accepted by certain regions while the more conservative ones such as Saudi Arabian locals get offended. Always consult the native speakers of Arabic before using any image.

Pay attention to the layout

Getting the layout right is challenging, due to the nature of presentation of images and text in
Arabic. Even though Arabic is written and read from right to left, it tends to be bi-directional
when there are untranslatable phrases or words. In this scenario, the untranslatable words have to be written from left to right.

However, not every software has this capability to change the direction of the text when it
encounters such phrases or words. Even the elements of your product must get reversed, along
with the text, for proper localization. You also have to reverse the columns of any table, to avoid confusion among the locals. Make sure that you get the Arabic translators to proofread before
making a final copy of your product.

Understand the target audience

As it was mentioned in the earlier portions of the article, there are many dialects of Arabic. Due
to this reason, your localization depends on the region you are releasing your product. Given the
variation in vocabulary, if you use Algerian Saharan Arabic when your product is available in
Saudi Arabia, they may not understand the text at all. Also, specific themes or ideas may seem
okay in Western countries, but that doesn’t mean you can use them in the Arabic market.

By keeping these things in mind, the process of localization for the Arabic market becomes
simpler than ever!