Imagine seeing a welcome poster for London Olympics saying: NODNOL OT EMOCLEW. Imagine it written in cursive connecting the wrong words to each other. Now Imagine the text written in Norwegian but targeted towards the English speakers. That is how the Arabic speaker audience are treated in the posters published by London Olympics.

Arabic or “C I B A R A”?

Sometimes it is amazing to me how the producers of contents in different languages do not even bother checking their content with the speakers of those languages. There has been many occasions when I have seen Arabic posters, booklets, websites, and many other types of publications when the material in Arabic is ‘Gibberish’. This problem is caused by two assumptions: The first assumption is that all languages use scripts that are left-to-right, and the second assumption is that the letters in all scripts are separate.

The lastest of this type of mess could be seen in the work of people in charge of Olympics security poster. The security poster, of course is the one that has caught the attention of BBC but it seems the problem is not only in the security poster but in everything published for London Olympics. Look at this one-page ad in Guardian (Tuesday 17.07.12):

Gibberish Arabic in Olympics Welcome Ad

The text in Arabic script is gibberish to Arabic readers for multiple reasons:

  1. First of all it is in Persian, which is fine, but I doubt Iranians were the target audience of the poster. It could be nice to have the welcome message both in Persian and Arabic if the text was legible.
  2. The text reads backward. Everything is left-to-right.
  3. The letters are separate, so basically we do not have any word there but a bunch of letters that look like morse code to the Arab reader.

I see this type of Arabic gibberish all the time in movies when there is something Arabic in the background but one expects more from international organizations like Olympic committees(get offer).

Solution: Next time you want to create a publication in Arabic you might want to consider a simple solution: to Arabic/Persian publications check it with Alefba.

More on this subject:

London 2012: Westfield Arabic banners ‘incoherent’

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5 Responses to Arabic ‘Gibberish’ and London Olympics

  1. wayne says:

    that is appalling, and insulting. 🙁

  2. Not only the Arabic, but also the Hebrew, version is spelt backwards.  Hilarious!  🙂

  3. Meimac says:

    They can’t even get it right nearer to home. This happens all the time in Wales when we receive extremely poorly translated documents/posters and literature. It’s insulting and degrading and should you complain they belittle you. There is a large bilingual sign in South Wales, made in England that says, in English, “No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only”. Beneath it are the words “Nid wyf yn y swyddfa ar hyn o bryd. Anfonwch unrhyw waith i’w gyfieithu.” translated it means “I’m not in the office at the moment. Please forward any work for translation”.  Ignorance is not not knowing but not wanting to know.

  4. info says:

     The sad point about these examples is how easy it would be to check.

    Last year, I blogged warning monolingual designers that Arabic text could go “disastrously wrong” in this way. A simple search would have found Arabic typesetting: get it right (to left)! There are even sample images allowing those who do speak Arabic to see they have made an error.

    Why on earth people do not check with native speakers or multilingual typesetting experts I do not know. Surely a quick (and inexpensive) check is better than the public ridicule?

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