Arabic Localization, Going Backwards?!

Arabic Is Only Written in Cursive Form and Is a Bidirectional Language

Arabic localization

While on an Air France flight recently, I couldn’t help but notice a fancy new in-flight entertainment system on their Boeing 777 flights from Boston to Paris. I’ve been flying Air France for many years and this is the first time in coach class that I get my own entertainment system. Air France is a global company wanting to target the Arab world has instituted Arabic localization in its entertainment system.

While not in use, the system screen displayed a picture of a young woman sending bubbles into a blue sky. Each bubble had the word “Welcome” in a different languages– a nice international touch on an international flight!

It took a couple of loops of the animation before I realized that one of the intended languages was Arabic. And to my dismay, the Arabic rendering of the word welcome was badly mangled!

Arabic Is Only Written in Cursive Form!

The Arabic letters were not only written in non-cursive format, but also the Arabic letters were displayed from left to right! Note that Arabic can only be written in cursive/longhand from right to left, even in digital formats.

This is not a translation issue. It is a localization issue, or more precisely an Arabic localization issue. It is very hard to read Arabic in non-cursive (print) format, let alone from right to left. An Arabic speaking colleague, not privy to the English meaning, could not decipher what the Arabic rendering meant.

Incorrect rendering:

ahlan incorrect arabic

اً ل ه س و اً ل ه أ


Correct rendering:

Ahlan Correct Arabic

أهلاً وسهلاً

Arabic Is a Bidirectional Language

In 2008, our blog post Lack of Quality Assurance warned about the very same problem in Arabic localization found on the in-flight entertainment system offered on United flights. It pointed out how the word Arabia was mangled in the graphical user interface when displayed with the Arabic letters. But despite the awkward print format, they at least rendered the letters from right to left!

While the number of features within in-flight entertainment systems have improved in the past 5 years, unfortunately, in this case, the accuracy in Arabic localization has not!

Arabic Localization

Despite the many advances in localization, when it comes to Arabic translation and localization services, many translation agencies still lack the needed localization implementation and quality assurance skills! If Arabic is a strategic language for you, make sure you hire an experienced Arabic localization vendor!

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