“When the wind’s from the east and the sun’s from the west.” Aladdin is the most popular story when it comes to portraying the Middle East in charm and mystery! Known through decades, it is the most retold and known fairy tale of all time. Spoken by more than 422 million people in the world, any brand localization in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will require a good hardy translate to Arabic.
There is a saying in Arabic that goes, “ومن يتهيب صعود الجبال يعش أبد الدهر بين الحفر”. It means that whoever is afraid of climbing the mountains lives forever between pits. The world is your oyster! Despite the unrest residing in some parts of the Middle East, it is nevertheless a land of riches and opportunity. Much known for the industries of oil, gas, petrochemicals and Islamic finance. Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a popular globalization choice favored for being a tax-free haven. One that opens its wide arms to the world, welcoming the incorporation of foreign companies and investment.
Arabic can be a tough language to master. It uses a system far differing from the English language. Do you have a need to translate to Arabic? Finding accurate and trustworthy translators can be tough especially when you don’t know the tongue. This article will cover everything you need to know from outsourcing and the common pitfalls in Arabic translation.
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This post was updated on March 2021
Arabic Language Origin
The language of holy writings in the Qur’an studied by Muslims throughout the globe, Arabic has been around for more than a millennium. It first emerged between the first and fourth centuries. The word “Arabic” literally translates to “nomadic”. This is because it first originated from the nomadic tribes in the Arabian Peninsula. Today, it recognizes its roots from Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Arabic is categorized as a Semitic language spread widely through religion. Other Semitic languages today include Aramaic, Maltese, and Hebrew. As time passed, Arabization extended its reach through religious regimes, territorial conquests global trade, cultural art, and interracial marriages. Today, through the migration of refugees and asylum seekers, Arabic is spoken outside of the MENA region in some parts of Europe, the Americas, and Asia.
Languages naturally evolve as a result of local influences. As such, it has given rise to the different dialects of today. Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is a pluricentric standard taught and understood throughout the formal education of the Arab world.
The Population of Arabic Speakers
Out of the 422 million who speak the language, approximately 300 million are native speakers. English is the most spoken language in the world and Arabic is only the fifth. Furthermore, Arabic is also one of the six official languages in the UN. Governing the world today, there are 25 countries that recognize it as it’s an official or co-official language. All but Chad are members of the Arab League.
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
Egypt holds the most number of MSA speakers in the world followed by Algeria and Sudan. Global business hubs such as Dubai and Qatar are a melting pot of language and culture. With only a population of only 15% natives, one can easily get by without being able to speak Arabic. But loyal brand integration still calls for a good old translate to Arabic. That is, in order to reach the hearts of other residing Arabic speakers.
Outside of the MENA region, Arabic speakers scatter through Europe and the numbers are growing. 4% of Belgium and 2.5% of France speaks Arabic as a mother tongue. Millions speak Arabic in Brazil. Likewise, you can also find speakers in Asia and the Americas today.
Translate to Arabic Dialects
There are approximately 30 Arabic dialects that exist today. MSA is one of them. It is the safest variation if you are looking to reach a wide region of different dialect speakers. The need for translation to various dialects comes into play for specific localization of countries. It helps your consumers feel more connected with your brand and helps to build brand trust more effectively.
Not all but most dialects are written in the standardized register of Arabic, or MSA. Below, we cover the major 5 dialects that rule over the Arabic world.
Influenced by other languages such as Italian, Spanish, French and Turkish, Maghrebi is spoken by about 70 million internationally. This category of dialect further varies into Moroccan Arabic, Algerian Arabic, Libyan Arabic, Tunisian Arabic, Hassaniya Arabic, and Saharan Arabic.
There are over 17 million native speakers of this dialect, mostly dispersed over Sudan and Eritrea. Sudanese Arabic is further broken down into Juba Arabic and Chadian Arabic. The category of dialects is similar to Egyptian Arabic but with a few touches of Nubian influences.
Also known as Masri or Masry, the variation of dialect is spoken by 55 million people mostly in Egypt. Most similar to the universal MSA, it is influenced by French, Italian, English, Greek and Turkish languages. Sub variations include Cairene Arabic that can also be found in Europe, Asia, Australia, and America.
Sometimes referred to as Iraqi Arabic, there are 15 million speakers of this dialect. The category comprises of dialect varieties from the region of Arabia to the Mesopotamian basin. Countries include Iraq, Iran, Southeast Turkey and some parts of Syria.
With 21 million speakers, the dialect can only be identified through speech as the written form follows MSA. It is spoken in Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Palestine, and Jordan. It emerged during the language shift of Aramaic to Arabic.
Arabic Translation – Human Vs Machines
There are two ways to carry out a “translate to Arabic” project. Each method results in different accuracy and cost. If you’re confused about which method to employ, the pros and cons might help you with the selection process.
Whether you translate English to Arabic or back-translate Arabic to English, online translators are usually the quick go-to method. They include machines like Google, Lexicool, and DeepL. Whichever language your original content is in, online translators often translate it to English first. Then again from English to Arabic. Despite the lack of human error, online translators come with their own set of limitations.
- Often cost-free.
- Conveniently accessible with an internet connection.
- Easy input of content including word detection through audio and images.
- Instantaneous results.
- Sometimes results in gibberish results due to literal translation.
- Lack of human creativity and intuition.
- Different language structures might result in awkward translations.
- It does not allow for revisions or proof-reading.
- Poems, slogans, rhymes, and idioms are usually butchered.
- Internal or personal communication.
- A translation that calls for general meaning only but does not require utmost accuracy.
- Used for quick bulk translation where a native speaker usually proofreads the results later.
- Back-translation to determine accuracy.
A professional translate to Arabic calls for an individual with superior linguistic skills. As a result, professionally translated have the ability to better preserve the tone, cultural nuances and authenticity of a message. Where required, human translators possess the intuition to substitute words and phrases with new ones when required. Sarcasm, rhetoric, and nuances can be detected and appropriately transcribed in the conversion of languages. Bunny Studio is 100% reliable in ensuring timely handover and high-quality accurate translations. We use native speakers and offer an affordable rate.
- Maintains the tone of the message.
- Able to use human instincts to inject a clearer perspective and creativity in expression and culture.
- It can be affordable and quick.
- Revisions can be done in most cases with given feedback.
- Accurate detection of and nuances of cultural references.
- Subject to human error.
- Requires a longer turnover time than online translators.
- Sometimes difficult to find a good translator if you don’t know where to look.
- Price is widely variable in the market.
- Product packaging.
- For brand localization purposes.
- Business documents, clinical trials, surveys, and questionnaires.
- Marketing material for mass distribution including brochures, websites, print ads, and media content.
- Books and software.
- Technical guides and instructional books.
Pitfalls of Arabic Translation
As a Semitic language, Arabic holds a huge difference from languages spoken in the western world. Therefore, in comparison with online translators, professional translators possess more tact and linguistic fluidity to navigate between languages. Here are some of the common problems when doing a translation to Arabic.
Each language uses a different way to write dates. The Arabic system translates numerical figures as well. For example, “29 February” is written “التاسع والعشرون من فبراي”. It literally translates to February twenty-ninth. Another example of a cultural issue is the typical greeting “الخير صباح” in Arabic. It has the same meaning as “good morning” in English. The literal translation of “good morning”, “جيد صباح” is however not socially or culturally accepted.
Lexical Semantic Problems
Lexical Semantic is the study of word meanings. A word can mean two different things. During translation, it is the responsibility of the human translator to identify which meaning is the right one. This is where an online translator might fall short. A wrong translation of the meaning can lead to a sentence that doesn’t make sense. Translating a synonym and autonym of the word can be a solution but can also change the meaning of the sentence. In addition, sometimes, an alternative word does not exist in the translated language.
Plurality & Gender Differences
English does not have any grammatical genders whereas Arabic has a masculine (معلم) and feminine (معلمة) form. In addition, English only categorizes numbers with singularity and plurality. Whereas the Arabic language has three types. They are singular (example: معلم/a teacher), dual (معلمان/two teachers), and plural (معلمون/teachers).
Hiring an Arabic Translator
Finding a good translator can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Many times, you get bitten by bad outsourcing experiences and end up losing the investment of both time and money. To avoid such circumstances, here are several factors to consider when you hire a professional translator.
Positive Client Reviews
The problem with the industry is that sometimes price does not guarantee the quality of work. Hiring cheap translators of a freelancer platform may sometimes seem like an attractive lure. But the quality of work is difficult to vouch for.
Find a native speaker with more than one great client review. Platforms like Bunny Studio are a great choice for translation because of their high-quality standards and positive client experience. Such ensure all aspects of the translator is satisfactory. This includes meeting with deadlines, the quality of work and accuracy of the translation.
A Bilingual Translator
Whilst Arabic should be your professional translator’s first language, the original content language should be his or her second. This means that if you are translating something from German to Arabic, German should be your translator’s second language. It is important that the professional translator can easily switch between languages with flexibility and fluidity. This will also help to ease communication between you and the translator. Clarifications can easily be made to avoid any ambiguity misinterpretations or misunderstandings. Furthermore, it preserves your brand’s authenticity.
As far as the internet is concerned, prices vary from the sky to the ground. You can find professional translators offering rates of $5 all the way to $25 for a hundred words. So how do you know what the reasonable amount to pay is? The average rate in the market for a well-seasoned translator lies between $15 to $20. However, affordable and reliable platforms like this one start from just $12.
There are over 12 million unique words in the 28-lettered Arabic language. All while English only harbors 600,000 unique words and 26 letters. No wonder it’s one of the most difficult languages to translate! The Arabic saying “الأفعال أبلغ من الأقوال” translates to “action speaks louder than words. Good professional translators are hard to come by. A great translate to Arabic is definitely worth a rehire. If you’re new to the game, remember that Bunny Studio offers the cream of the crop!