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HANDS-ON: ARABIC > FIRST THOUGHTS

FIRST THOUGHTS

Arabic belongs to the Semitic family of languages, which also includes Hebrew and Amharic (primarily spoken in Egypt). Arabic, the language of the Qur’an, is widely used throughout the Muslim world. Like Chinese, Arabic has many dialects. An Arabic speaker in Morocco might not be able to understand an Arabic speaker in Iran, although they share a common written language. Arabic uses considerably fewer characters than Chinese or Japanese, yet that does not make it any less challenging for web localization. $34011In fact, Arabic poses some of the greatest web localization challenges because of poor software support and an acute shortage of Arabic translators. The American Translators Association lists only 65 English-to-Arabic translators in its online directory (www.atanet.org), compared with more than 1,200 English-to-Spanish translators. Not coincidentally, Arabic is also one of the more expensive languages to translate. Despite the costs and the challenges, more and more companies are developing Arabic web pages, but not without running into a number of obstacles, including:

  • Which character set? Once again, you have a choice of character sets. And once again, they conflict with one another.

  • How to manage bi-directional text. Arabic text reads from right to left and occasionally left to right. You’ll learn how to manage bi-directional text in HTML and learn how browsers display it.

  • The final gateway. Last, but not least, you have one more graphic to add to the global gateway (see Figure 2). Unfortunately, Photoshop doesn’t handle Arabic script, so you’ll need to learn a workaround solution.

    Figure 2. The gateway for the Tower of Babel page, with just one more language to go ….


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