Bookmark this checklist before translating your business website into Arabic

16 May 2021

Your website needs to be in Arabic. You might not do it today or tomorrow, but the future of global business demands products and services that are box-ready for the international market.

As recently as January 2020, statistics show 5.2% of all internet users use Arabic online, making it the fourth most commonly used language on the internet and a true power player in the world of online communication.  E-commerce sales are set to hit $4,891 trillion worldwide this year, and off-the-chart online sales are the reward for companies that speak to their audience in their language and touch the greatest number of customers with their global reach. 

Whatever business you’re in, targeting Arabic speakers should be at the top of your to-do list in 2021, and that’s why we’ve created this comprehensive checklist to help you on your way to developing a successful Arabic language version of your website. 

Which dialect of Arabic do your customers speak? 

Before you translate a single ‘marhaba’ on your website, you need to know what dialect of Arabic your customer speaks. There are 30 dialects of spoken Arabic, but the most commonly used Arabic for online and print use is Modern Standard Arabic, a formal, uniform version of Arabic that is understood across the MENA region.

After Modern Standard Arabic, the most commonly used and understood dialects of Arabic are: 

  • Egyptian Arabic - the accent of choice for many pop songs and movies! 
  • Levantine Arabic - spoken in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and some parts of Jordan
  • Gulf Arabic - common across the UAE, Saudi, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman 

Our Saudi and UAE based clients often request website and marketing material localization which reflects colloquial or slang Arabic preferences because that’s what their audiences like to read, and that’s why dialect is one of our first questions when we take on a new language project. 

Does your design support a right-to-left language?  

Designing a website is hard enough without having to consider the issues that come up when you need your website to switch from a left-to-right English format to a design format that works with a language that reads in the opposite direction. 

Flipping text is only one part of designing an Arabic-friendly website experience; you also need to consider images and videos. You can reverse some pictures with no problem, but it’s best to test because others look slightly odd when viewed backwards!

We recommend picking a design that’s easy on the eyes and not too busy. This makes switching your site into a multilingual user experience a much easier task. 

A common problem our clients stumble across is which CMS program to use to host their content. If you’re going to spend time on a website localization project, it’s essential to make sure that the backend of your website is set up to support you in multiple languages. This will save you a lot of stress (and money) down the road when you want to localize into even more languages. 

Is there enough space for all those Arabic words? 

Did you know that when you translate your content from English into Arabic, your content expands between 20-25%? In simple terms, that means more words on a page and up to 25% more space needed so you can express the exact message you’ve economically phrased in the original English. 

It’s not as scary as it sounds. Still, it does present another critical consideration for businesses that want to design a thoughtful website experience that’s easy to read on both desktop and mobile. 

We recommend taking a content-first approach to multilingual website design because it means your designer and developer have a clear idea of the box, section and button sizes they need to create or adapt for each version of your site. 

Is your original content translatable? 

Website content is vital to your customer’s experience of your brand, especially when you’re in e-commerce. Ensuring you hire a professional copywriter and a professional language service agency is vital to the localization process. Professional writers and translators will be able to handle challenges like: 

  • Cultural considerations - are any of your phrases or word choices offensive or culturally sensitive? Sometimes it’s best to steer clear of religion, politics and particular foods and drinks.
  • Grammar changes - sentence structures in English won’t necessarily be the same in Arabic.
  • Untranslatable words - figuring out alternatives for words that don’t have an easy/precise equivalent in Arabic.
  • Industry language - ensuring you use the correct terminology. 

A client challenge we often encounter is when a customer has used Google translate to create the website translation. The narrative and meaning of the content get lost in the bad translation, and we need to start over to ensure the website content is a high-quality end product that delivers what the customer needs. 

Poor translations can be costly, so it makes sense to approach a language specialist like us first! We have a trained, in-house team of subject matter experts who love website projects just like this and work on hundreds of websites every single year. 

Arabic website translation you can trust 

If you’re in the market for an Arabic version of your website and you’re ready to take the next step towards ticking this task off your 2021 checklist, reach out to us today and find out how we can help you create an Arabic website that speaks your customers’ language.