Arabic print translation and what is involved

Do produce a translation for print, it must be organised in such a way as to enable easy implementation into the document. This speeds up the process, cuts costs and reduces the chances of errors in the typesetting process. There are two main ways of organising this.

  1. Copy and paste: This is not the quickest method but it is still used in many print translation projects, especially smaller one-off jobs. To streamline the process, it is best to create a Word document with a two-column table showing source text on the left-hand side and translation on the right-hand side. The example below is from a French fashion brochure that was translated into English and Chinese for typesetting.
    copy paste
  2. IDML files: While this is a quicker process, it is not the silver bullet of print translation because it does have its problems. This is what happens when using the IDML process:
  • When using InDesign export the document as an IDML file, but before doing so the document must be flipped right-to-left and the text set to right align.
  • If styles have been used in the InDesign, then we reset all of the styles to a font that works with Arabic.
  • After the IDML file has been exported it will need to be tidied up by an experienced project manager to make sure there are no breaks or errors in the background coding.
  • The IDML file is then sent to the translator, who uses special software to open the IDML file which hides all the coding of fonts, paragraph styles and formatting so they cannot be broken in the translation process.
  • The translated IDML file is returned to the typesetter who opens it in InDesign.

In theory, all the Arabic text should then be in the correct place, correctly formatted using all the paragraph styles, showing bolding of text and any font colours used. In practice, it still needs quite a bit of work, the font sizes might need adjusting throughout the document, any English left in the document might need realigning and if the company name or product names remain in English then these might need to be reverted to their original fonts.

Below is a screenshot of what an IDML file looks like in the checking process, with all the coloured areas showing the hidden coding that the translator does not see.


Flipping the document from right to left

Arabic typesetting requires flipping the document so it reads right-to-left, also so it can be read with the correct pagination in place. This can be quite time-consuming if the English original has not been designed with this specifically in mind. The World Ready Composer plugin has a “reverse document” option but it isn’t perfect and every page has to be checked for consistency.

What are Arabic numbers?

We often get asked to use Arabic numbers in a document when we typeset, but the term “Arabic numbers” most commonly refers to the numerals we use in Europe and the Americas. e.g. 123456789. In situations like this, what the client is usually referring to is actually “Arabic-Indic” numbers. Please see the examples below.

arabic numbers

The Arabic Language

The modern written language (Modern Standard Arabic) is derived from Classical Arabic. Arabic can be spelt without vowels (common spelling) أحب القراءة كثيرا‎ or with vowels أُحِبُّ ٱلْقِرَاءَةَ كَثِيرًا. Modern Standard Arabic is the standardised variety of Arabic used in everyday publications whereas Classic Arabic is used in the Quran as well as in numerous literary texts.

Adelphi is an Arabic Desktop publishing and translation agency that aims to provide a full DTP localisation service to our customers.

Your quote

No artists selected
Get Quote
Close player