Identifying Target Audiences for Arabic Translation

October 19, 2016

Arabic is the seventh most important language online, with 166 million speakers accessing the internet. Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is the language used in all written work, such as printed material and customer and corporate communications across Arabic-speaking regions. It is taught in schools and is generally understood by most Arabic speakers, regardless of their home dialect.


Yet, Arabic is a rich language in term of dialects, accents and styles. The spoken form varies across the 27 countries where the language is widely spoken. It can be so diverse that a native of Morocco may struggle to understand a native of Yemen.


Swedish Arabic language teacher Anders B. Uhlin of MyEasyarabic lists the following Arabic dialects and their geographies:


gpi-arabic locale-blurb

  • North African Arabic: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya
  • Hassaniya Arabic: Mauritania
  • Egyptian Arabic: Egypt
  • Levantine Arabic: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine
  • Iraqi Arabic: Iraq
  • Gulf Arabic: Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman
  • Hejazi Arabic: Western Saudi Arabia
  • Najdi Arabic: Central Saudi Arabia
  • Yemeni Arabic: Yemen & Southwestern Saudi Arabia


In Rethinking Arabic for Global Brands, Benjamin B. Sargent, Senior Analyst at Commonsense Advisory Research, writes that the languages used in conversation, social networks, messaging and content marketing reflect influences from both colonial and local languages and are culture-specific.


He suggests brands who want to access these markets adopt a different regional strategy if they want to truly speak to potential customers in their own Arabic dialect.


Tips for entering a localized Arabic market (Source: Benjamin B Sargent for


gpi-arabic locale-home

  1. Start with a national language from your biggest Arabic speaking market.
  2. MSA works well for business-to-business brands and customer and corporate communications.
  3. Luxury and other B2B brands focused on the lucrative markets in the Gulf States should use the Saudi variants.
  4. Brands with an entertainment, modern, techy or media-savvy focus can use Egyptian Arabic, but this variant won't work well in countries 'shielded from popular culture'.
  5. Big brands should develop localization efforts by adopting a conservative language tone in the Persian Gulf region, and a more open tone in the Mediterranean Arabic-speaking regions.
  6. Not all content needs to be localized. For instance, product-supporting material such as instruction manuals can be in MSA, while advertisements and marketing material can be in the local dialect.


To complicate localization even more, regional dialects don't always have an explicit written set of grammar rules, says Omar F Zaidan and Chris Callison-Burch, authors of Arabic Dialect Identification published in MIT Press Journals and an excellent resource for those who want to delve deeper into Arabic dialects.


When starting to localize content for a specific Arabic dialect, translators who are native speakers and have in-country experience is the only way to ensure your message resonates with the new target audience.


For further information, please see: What are the differences between Arabic languages?

Further Resources on Arabic Culture, Language and Translation


Globalization Partners International (GPI) has extensive experience localizing marketing materials, technical documents, and large, scalable websites into the Arabic language. We have previously posted a number of useful guides for best practices in this area. Feel free to review our blogs that are particularly relevant:



Please feel free to contact GPI at with any questions about our language and technology services. Also let us know if you have any interesting blog topics you would like us to cover in our future blogs.  You may request a complimentary Translation Quote for your projects.

Language Translation Facts
Arabic translation, Arabic website translation, Arabic localization, translating arabic websites

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  • dew89On Oct 20, dew89 said:
    very nice article .But, to be honset , as a translator i find it very hard to find a position within the arab world .
  • Ted ChangOn Oct 25, Ted Chang said:
    True story. I've never been so interested in any language as I have with Arabic due to its diverse nature. My friend and I went to Riyadh two years ago and we were both surprised people could not immediately pick up what he was trying to say.
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Ahmed is a native Arabic speaker from Egypt, Cairo. He has over 12 years’ experience in the translation and localization field working as a Hebrew – Arabic translator and editor. He has also held positions for language Testing Engineer and Localization Project Manager. Ahmed has extensive experience in handling large volume translation projects for software and document localization. He has worked for a range of translation and localization groups and companies including Microsoft, Babylon, Saudisoft, as well as several governmental authorities. He holds a B.A. degree in Translation and Interpreting from Faculty of Alsun Ain Shams University and additionally is a certified Hebrew - Arabic translator with a High Translation professional diploma from the same faculty. He is a published author translating news articles and writing political analysis with contributions to an array of research centers and newspapers including AL Aharam, Beirut Political Centre, Aldiplomasy Magazine, and Lindro Italian News, to name a few. In his free time Ahmed likes swimming, shooting and reading about new ideas.