One of the fastest-growing languages in the United States is Arabic, which ranks fifth most spoken in the world. However, it is consistently ranked as one of the most challenging languages to learn and localize. Whether you are looking for an Arabic to English translation services or vice versa, it is essential to comprehend and account for the nuances of this pairing to ensure the best professional translation possible.

Why is it difficult to translate Arabic to English? What are the cultural difficulties in English to Arabic Translation service?

Without further ado, here are four of the most prominent challenges in translating between English and Arabic especially when it comes to arabic legal translation practices.

Two completely distinct language families

For a Semitic language, Arabic has more than 12 million lexical items. It is simple to see why translators require a large vocabulary when you consider that English has just roughly 1 million words. 

Since there are 28 letters in the Arabic script, a translator from English into Arabic must know more than ten times as many words as if they were working with the English alphabet. Some Arabic letters have no exact English equivalents, so when translating from Arabic to English, it may be necessary to use phonetic spellings to get a close approximation of the original words’ sounds.

Significant grammatical differences between English and Arabic

To be deemed correct in English, a sentence must be verbal. That is, it needs to consist of a subject, verb, and object (e.g., “the boy ate the apple”) and structured in the appropriate order. However, the order of the verbal form in Arabic is different, as it consists of a verb, subject, and object, in that order. The nominal form is used without a verb.

One common pitfall in Arabic to English translation is mixing Arabic and English words in the same sentence without realizing it. Instead, translators need to think creatively to find ways to communicate the text between these two languages while preserving the correct grammatical structure. And this certainly required a high level of mastery in both grammatical systems and the relationship between them.

The cultural factor

This can be best explained with an interesting example. In Arabic, especially in the levant region, there is a very popular word which is “adeel / عديل.” To put it simply, the word “adeel” refers to the relationship when two men are married to two sisters. So, when a man is married to another man’s wife’s sister, they become “adayel / عدائل” (the plural form of “adeel”). Now, the word “adeel” basically has no known equivalent in the English language.

As such, when translating between English and Arabic, the cultural factor poses a big challenge. In fact, one can confidently say that translating culture-specific terms and concepts from one language into another is an art of its own. It requires a deep understanding of both cultures and a good grasp of both languages, as well as great explanation skills. 

difficulty of english to arabic translation

Scarcity in professional translators

Professional, capable Arabic-English translators are in very high demand but short in supply. This is especially the case when we talk about specialized fields such as medical, legal, or dialectical translation. This gap between supply and demand is making it difficult to create content that would resonate with your intended audience of Arabic speakers. 

For this reason, many organizations find it useful to team up with global translation and localization agencies who are comprised of certified and highly experienced professionals.

What to look for in a professional Arabic-English translator?

Translating between English and Arabic presents sophisticated challenges on multiple fronts, including linguistic, cultural, and technical ones. Accurately conveying the idioms, metaphors, and slang of your target market requires the special prowess of translators who are highly fluent, even native-like, in both languages and cultures.

So, if the professional Arabic translator you are about to work with is not a native translator, he or she must at least have lived in an Arabic-speaking country long enough that they have obtained a good grasp of the cultural aspects of things. The best Arabic translators can tap into a group of domain specialists to help them become familiar with the jargon used in your field.

Does this process seem like too much of a headache for you? Well, in this case, your best choice would be to team up with a trusted translation services provider with a global reputation. This way, you can rest assured your English-Arabic translation projects are handled by the most proficient translators in the market.