Localizing for Right-To-Left Languages: Everything You Want to Know

by | Apr 2, 2021

English is a language with a left-to-right orientation. Apart from English, there are many other languages, such as Spanish, Russian, and Hindi, with the same orientation. However, several languages, such as Arabic, Hebrew, Urdu, and Persian, have the opposite orientation – right-to-left. This is why localizing for right-to-left languages is something you need to understand if you want to expand into these countries.

localizing for right-to-left languages

If your business wants to cater to non-English speakers in a country where the native language is written right to left, you need to localize your website to appeal to your target audience. In this post, we’ll discuss what you need to know when localizing for right-to-left languages. 

The Languages to Target

As mentioned previously, there are several right-to-left oriented languages around the world. Therefore, before you get down to localizing for right-to-left languages, you need to figure out which audiences you will be targeting. After all, there’s no point in targeting audiences who read a particular right-to-left language if they have no interest in what you’re selling.

The easiest way to target right-to-left language-writing audiences is to assess the number of speakers of a particular language. Here are some languages to consider:

Arabic: This is one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world. Arabic speakers are spread out across the continents of Asia and North Africa. In Asia, most speakers of Arabic reside in the Middle East in the countries of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, and more.

In North Africa, speakers of Arabic are predominantly found in the countries of Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, and Tunisia. 

The Arabic language has approximately 1.7 billion speakers, so it makes a lot of sense to localize your website for this widely spoken language.

Persian: The Persian language, known as Farsi, is the official language of Iran and is also widely spoken in other nations, e.g., Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

More than 110 million people speak Farsi, making it the second biggest right-to-left oriented language in the world.

Urdu: If your business is targeting the Pakistani market, then you must consider Urdu, Pakistan’s most widely-spoken language. There are also thousands of Urdu speakers residing in the northern reaches of India, which shares its borders with Pakistan.

With over 100 million speakers worldwide, Urdu is the third most widely written right-to-left oriented language.

Other Right-to-Left Languages: Aramaic, Azeri (Azerbaijani), Dhivehi/Maldivian, Hebrew, Kurdish (Sorani)

Localizing for Right-To-Left Languages: The Issues to Consider

Localizing content for right-to-left oriented languages can be tricky, and you need to consider the following formatting issues:

  • The space on a screen or page occupied by the right-to-left oriented language compared to that occupied by the original left-to-right oriented language.
  • Page formatting and text alignment. The text needs to be readable. 
  • Margins. They may have to be fine-tuned according to the space occupied by the text.
  • Font options. You want a font that ensures optimum readability. 
  • The placement of menus and various media. This needs to make sense to the target audience.
  • The size of images. They may have to be altered depending on how much space is occupied by the right-to-left language.
  • The proximity of images to the text that applies to the images.

Why Use Localize?

At Localize, we are catering to the translation and localization requirements of more than 500 companies. We constantly keep ourselves updated with changes and innovations in language translation. So, if you have complex translation management requirements, including localizing for right-to-left languages, look no further than us.