English-to-Arabic Website Translation - 10 Steps for Getting it Right

Very few English websites have Arabic translations, less than 5%, yet there are more than 420 million people in the world who are Arabic speakers. This is a huge opportunity for targeting Arabic speakers and growing your business. 

Arabic consumers are also tech-savvy, using mobile devices to search for and purchase products and services. They also use social media platforms to review and stay in touch with brands, companies, and news.

Additionally, discretionary income is rising and the demand for goods and services is increasing. We see this trend happening through the types of requests we’ve recently received for Arabic website translations – like one of our plastic surgery clients in Dubai. 

Getting Arabic Translations Right

English-to-Arabic translations have special considerations because of the unique layout and script of the Arabic language. You know this, yet here are additional points to consider in making sure your English-to-Arabic translation is done accurately. 

Step 1 – Set Goals and Create a Plan

Does translation support your company’s strategy and goals? If your company is exploring an opportunity in Saudi Arabia, for instance, then Arabic translation is necessary.

Do you need any specific technology to get the translation done right?

Think through your process – who is responsible for procuring translations and how will it work?

What quality does the translation need to be? Do I need just a gist? Or does it need to be higher quality, localized, culturally appropriate, etc.?

Asking these questions helps set the parameters of your translation project. 

To read more about translation planning read our blog - Translation Management Plan -

Step 2 – Research your Target Audience

Who will be reading the translation – what is their education or reading level, where are they located, what are their preferences or biases, will they be looking for local references? By knowing your audience and their preferences you can write in an appropriate tone, register (reading level) and in the most meaningful way for your reader.

Step 3 – Provide Clearly Written Copy

If the original copy is poorly written, the meaning may be unclear. If it’s not clear to an English reader, it’s especially hard to capture the meaning in another language. Write in short sentences, use clear subjects, avoid tricky language and complex grammar, and always avoid slang and humor. 

For more writing tips, read our two-part blog, Writing Tips for Translation parts 1 and 2.


Step 4 – Reuse Good Copy

Now that you’ve taken the time to write good copy – reuse it! Product descriptions or company summaries displayed on the website can be used in other places like brochures, catalogs or proposals. Consistency of copy across all materials reinforces your message and saves costs for writing and translation. Make content accessible to all departments so everyone can reuse it.

Step 5 – Wait for Finalized Copy to Submit for Translation

Let’s repeat that – wait for the final copy to submit for translation! When edits come in after the translation begins, especially when you’re translating something into multiple languages, version control can become a real issue. Waiting for the final copy before starting translation may mean it takes longer to get to the translator, but in the end the project will be completed faster because the translator can work straight through rather than having to go back to make edits. 

Sometimes things change, and it can’t be helped. When edits are made after the original is done, best practice is to track the changes on the original document and submit that to your translator. This shows them where the edits are and they can make all the changes at once. This saves you the cost of having the whole document reviewed.

Step 6 – Critical Content Needs Higher Quality Translation

For content that can impact your bottom line – use a professional translation agency. Professional translators have received education on how to translate and have the experience to make sure your translation is accurate. There are Master’s and PhD programs in translation and interpretation. Students learn how to handle situations like:

  •  words that don’t have a translation in the target language
  • grammar considerations
  • capturing meaning rather than word for word translations
  • when to turn down a project
  • when to ask questions for clarity
  • how to research to provide the best translation
  • cultural considerations
  •  industry considerations

When we receive a translation to edit that has been done by internal staff or Google Translate, we find it often completely misses the meaning. Editing a sloppy translation can be harder than starting from scratch! Choose a professional to do your translation if quality counts. 

Step 7 – Localize or Globalize?

A globalized translation works across all audiences that speaks the same language. For example, US English and UK English sound and are often spelled different, yet English speakers can understand the content when written in either form. Globalization is fine for things like technical products or business to business services. 

If you sell consumer products or services, you have to capture your readers’ attention quickly – you’ll want to localize and use references that pull the reader in. Things like pictures, sports references, and currency all need to be local to make the reader feel at home.

Step 8 – Leave Room for Expansion 

When translating from one language to another, often the length of the text increases, remember this when at layout. In an English-to-Arabic translation the text can expand 20-30%. If you don’t have plenty of white space, or if the text is too small, the document becomes hard to read or additional pages need to be added. It’s a good practice to leave extra “white space” for this expansion.

Step 9 – Make Sure Your Content is Culturally Appropriate

When you visit a website, you get a first impression and you know if you feel at home. When the pictures draw you in and the language speaks to you, you spend more time on the site. If the content is poorly written or a terrible translation, you’re much more likely to leave and find something better. 

This is particularly important for an Arabic audience. In the Arabic culture things like gender, religion, sexuality, politics and food have significance. It’s important to know your audience and that you get the words, images, logos and colors right.

Read more tips for culturally appropriate translations - Culturally Appropriate Marketing Translation.

Step 10 – Finally, Layout

Arabic adds another layer of difficulty to layout since the text reads right-to-left.

Many CMS programs such as HubSpot, WordPress and Drupal are able to handle this fine. Multilingual websites require more planning to make sure there are no conflicts when switching the direction of the text. 

Also, think about the graphics, some you can flip and they will be fine, but in other cases flipping a picture or graphic could lead to strange or inappropriate images. 

Make sure your site is mobile ready because almost half of consumers in the Middle East regularly use smartphones and tablets. 

Finally, you may have to try different fonts. Your Arabic site should match the look and feel of your English site, so you’ll want fonts that look similar or are complementary. There are fewer fonts in Arabic – remember this at the start and choose one that exists in both languages to save time in layout.

Arabic Website

Arabic Website 2

Arabic Website Translation Done Right

When you need an Arabic translation that is culturally appropriate and high quality, contact a professional translation agency. Professional agencies, like Rapport International (, will provide experienced human translators who deliver a translation that is culturally appropriate with a clear and accurate message. This ensures that your Arabic speaking customers receive the same exceptional experience as your English customers.

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