The Art of “Arabizing”

Dubai is a metropolitan city, occupied by people of more than 50 different nationalities and a wide variety of religious and cultural backgrounds. The official language is Arabic, and advertising concepts and campaigns are always published and launched in two languages.

Translating ideas into the Arabic language is not easy, particularly because the advertising business in Dubai is led by non-Arabs. In the process of “Arabizing,” conceptual, cultural, and grammatical mistakes are often made. Examples of those mistakes are seen every day, everywhere around the city – in press ads, brand names, and even on the menus of small food outlets (and sometimes in the bigger food outlets, too). 

Brand names, trademarks, product names, idioms and expressions often turn up as strange or funny words when translated – they may even sound crass or objectionable. With that in mind, Arabizers should have the flexibility to adapt materials to suit the Arabic logic and heritage. 

For people who are involved in the branding business, social occasions, famous figures and idols, and numerical digits are all things that might create confusion or even leave a negative impression when Arabized. Advertisers should be cautious of what they release during the month of Ramadan; some products or offers might not suit the nature of the holy month. Characters such as the tooth fairy do not exist in the Arab culture. Zero in English looks like the number five in Arabic, the number seven in Arabic looks like a “V” in English, and – perhaps surprisingly – many people do not know that Arabic text flows from right to left! 

There’s an old saying in Arabic: Give the bread to the baker even if he eats half of it. In other words, give the job to a person who knows how to perform it best even if it costs you much. I long to witness a day when the Arabic advertising industry reaches the global level it deserves.

This article was originally written for (Brash Brands) blog.

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