When hiring Arabic translation services, you will familiarise with right-to-left scripts
Some languages use right-to-left scripts. A right-to-left script is a writing system that reads from the right of the page. The most obvious languages that use right-to-left scripts are Arabic, Persian (Farsi), Dari, Hebrew, Urdu and Pashto.
Things to consider when hiring Arabic translation services: right-to-left typesetting (InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop)
Working with right-to-left scripts can be complicated. As an added complication, it's actually quite common for software not to be compatible with right-to-left scripts.
When translating into right-to-left languages like Arabic, it's important to note that the direction of the script doesn't only affect the text, it affects other elements in the document.
So what exactly changes when we translate from English into, say, Arabic?
1. Page order of flyers, booklets, books
If we are translating a flyer or a booklet into Arabic, we also need to reverse the order of the pages and mirror all the visual elements such as logos, headers/footers and images.
This is because an Arabic reader will open and read documents from back to front. Which means that the Arabic translation of a booklet will have the front and back covers reversed compared to the English.
2. Position of images
Basically, a person reading a document from right-to-left must find all the elements in the same order as someone reading the same document in a left-to-right script.
3. Images and graphics
Graphics and images, too, need careful consideration. Normally, when we translate into Arabic, Farsi or Dari (amongst others), we reverse all the graphics in a document: logos and imagery get flipped to the opposite side, and the alignment changes as well. Where there is text on an image it needs to be translated and reinserted, from right to left.
Faces, too, generally look into the page rather than out so a photo on the right looking left into the page, won’t be suitable for a right-to-left script as the person will be looking out of the page.
4. General order of the layout
Let's imagine that we are translating a 3 column document from English into Arabic. In the Arabic document, the first column starts at the top right of the page (as opposed to the usual top left start in English).
And if we think about a table, the first column is the one on the right.
So... is there anything that doesn't change?
Not all elements in the text are reversed, which is a very common problem when organisations who hire Arabic translation services encounter if they decide to take care of the graphic design themselves (using programs such as InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop).
Phone numbers (and numerals in general) are typically written using Arabic numerals (Arabic numerals are the ones we use in English: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,0), rather than Hindi numerals (these ones look different).
When using Arabic numerals, the order of the numbers remains like in English. So phone numbers, for instance, must read like in English (from left to right), even though the text around it reads from right to left.
Another peculiarity of Arabic scripts is that letters have different forms depending on whether they are isolated, at the start of a word, in the middle of a word or at the end. Similar to how in Latin scripts, letters look different when they are capitalised (and no, in Arabic there are no capital letters!).
What happens if I paste my Arabic translations (delivered in Word) into InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop?
If you try to copy Arabic text from Word to paste it in InDesign, it is very common for all the words to appear in their isolated form, and the order can quite likely be a mess.
As you can see, right-to-left scripts are not easy to handle. If you need to engage Arabic translation services... don't risk it and have your translation service provider typeset the translations for you. Or contact us 🙂
Do you want to learn more about what goes into a successful translation project? Perhaps you are considering having a Spanish-speaking friend of a friend do the translations for you. Check out our blog to learn more about translation!
Are you interested in NAATI-certified Chinese translation services? Read more about the complexities of translating into Chinese.
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