Challenges of Games Localization into Arabic

games localization into Arabic

Among many activities, Arabic translation might be the easiest part of learning games localization project. This is due to the unique nature of Arabic letters or Arabic words, which is reflected in almost all localization activities, from the resource selection, through the preparation/familiarization, translation, and adaptation (cultural adaptation and script adaptation/diacritization), voice over to the final QA.

In this blog, you will read: 

1- Resource Selection 
2- Preparation and Familiarization 
3- Translation and Culture Adaption 
4- Script Preparation 
5- Voice over 

Resource Selection

You should use linguists who are native Arabic language speakers with very high proficiency in the source language. Consulting an SME (who is a gamer in this case) might also be a good idea.

Preparation and Familiarization

Don’t think your translation team can simply receive the prepped files for translation and start translating the game script. Give them some time to play; they have to play the game themselves to get acquainted with the environment. You need to consider this in your schedule unless you are so lucky to have linguists who are already fans of the game and the Arabic words games 

Translation and Cultural Adaptation

Translators should then be able to produce a translation that looks as if it was originally written in Arabic. Idioms should be indeed “localized” and never be translated word by word.

Context is critical here, and it is better to spend some more time before starting translation than spending much more time in correcting content that has been already recorded and maybe also subtitled!

The more in-context details you get from the game developer for every single line, like who says this to whom, how, where and when, the easier your translators will find their way through the maze. Listing the actual duration of each line would be of great help, too. Don’t get surprised then if you see your translators reading out their translation, trying to count the duration of the Arabic VO for each line!

Cultural adaptation, or what we usually call censorship, is another critical thing to think about. Your team has to spend some time going through the game script and its multimedia content and make sure they culturally fit. If you are not so lucky and they do not, you have to let your game developer/client know that a censorship effort might be required. Censorship effort ranges from very simple one, like replacing some words, phrases or idioms with appropriate ones that are suitable for an Arabic user, to the most complex ones, like having a character that does not fit in the game all the way from the cultural perspective of an Arabic user.

Script Preparation

Tashkil, or adding pronunciation marks, is an important step of the script preparation phase. This is mandatory for Arabic words so that you can make sure voice actors will correctly pronounce the script text, taking into consideration that Arabic words that have the same spelling but different meanings and pronunciations. That’s why adding diacritics saves much time and ensures higher quality voiceover.

Below is an example of how diacritics can completely change the meaning of a word. The following word has 6 meanings, and although the meaning might be elicited from the context, but this cannot be left to the VO talent judgment:

 how diacritics can completely change the meaning of a word

Voice over 

The voice over or the voice acting part also has its own challenges by the voice artist. First of all, translators have to always pay great attention to the length of the Arabic script lines compared to the source. Some parts of the script have tolerance with regards to length, and some others, like the “cut scenes”, have a zero tolerance. During the recording of the VO, the team might still need to make the translations even shorter, which might require having a linguist on site attending the recording sessions.

For example, saying “Hi!” will not take more than a second in the English audio, while the equivalent word in Arabic “مرحبًا! - pronounced as marhaban” does take triple that time or even longer! The VO team has to be creative enough to be able to deal with such challenges; they have to be very quick, too.

Although you might take all these challenges into consideration throughout the project phases, it is normal to find out, during your final QA, that you will still have to re-take a few lines. You might notice that one of your actors is not consistent in their tone for a specific character, or maybe they should have used a slightly different tone for a certain line. You might also realize that one of the lines is not fitting into the context of the game (although it is linguistically correct).

Bearing these challenges in mind, localization team members should all work with a perspective of having the Arabic user at the end feels that the game was really meant for them! 


Games localization could achieve essentials needs for your game, it will help you expand your market globally. also if you are targeting new regions like Arab counties and the Middle East you will need games localization for your game, because English is not always the most favorable language in those countries. also to satisfy your player demands you should do it with his/her own language, this extra service will cut the risk of losing the player or the consumer and increasing your sales. 

If you wanna read more about games localization in the middle east read this blog: Games Localization in the Middle East: the great opportunity you are missing 


Arabic Marketing translation
A Look at Two Rare Languages: Hassaniya and Yiddish 
6 Facts about The Arabic Language
Translating from English to Arabic
Most common false positive issues in Arabic Translation QA checks