Arabic menu translation may sound like a simple process, however when you start dealing with properties across many countries and cultures it requires special attention to achieve your translation goals.
In this blog, I will explain some issues that could arise when executing Arabic menu translation including cultural considerations, language concerns, and layout and design elements. I will then provide you with tips to ensure your menus are translated correctly and are culturally appropriate. These tips will vary depending on your target audience, but for this blog, I will focus on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
For menu translation requests in the MENA region, there are several factors that must be immediately checked. A main priority is to check to see if there are any alcoholic beverages listed on the menu. Alcoholic beverages are forbidden by Sharia Law and could lead to imprisonment if you buy or sell alcohol in some MENA countries.
Each section of the menu needs to be examined for its content, colors, and images. You cannot assume that just because a piece of content works for one market it will work for another, even within the same region.
Another area to be aware of is what the communication cycle is. For example, the ordering cycle might look like: the guest > the person taking the order (waiter) > the chef or kitchen staff. If this isn’t addressed, miscommunications can easily occur.
In order to avoid miscommunications, a translation team should consider each person who will play a role in the menu cycle. One way to address this is to leave the name of the item on the menu in the source language and transliterating it (writing its pronunciation in Arabic letters) so the two languages are side by side and include a description in the target language. By doing this, the person ordering the item on the menu will be able to understand the description of the dish and pronounce its name to the waiter, who will then be able to communicate the order accurately to the kitchen.
Layout and Design Elements
When we receive a request to translate a menu and the menu contains items without an equivalent in the target language, we suggest completing a special formatting to menus by adding the original name side by side with the translation. The target language transliteration may require changing the font size or using another user-friendly font to support the language. Following this, the item description appears in the target language only. The localization partner plays an important role, as they can advise not only menu content, but also the final format.
Top Tips for Arabic Menu Translation
- If the menu contains alcoholic beverages. You need to confirm if this is against the law in your target locale. If it is not, you will need to determine if it is required to be translated or left in the source language.
- Numbers and prices. Do the numbers on your menu need to be translated? Make sure the prices listed are in the currency of the local market.
- If the source menu contains items including pork, the client should be informed this may be not acceptable in a Muslim country. The property should remove the item from the menu or find a substitute ingredient.
- Decide the final format of the item name. Will it appear bilingual or in the target language only?
In conclusion, Arabic menu translation may seem straightforward, but there are many factors to consider before beginning. Cultural sensitivities like whether it is legal to list alcoholic beverages or appropriate to use pork must be determined to protect your brand’s reputation and avoid legal action. If your source language uses a different alphabet than Arabic, like English, you must decide if you will leave any part of your menu items in the source language and which parts you are required to translate into Arabic. Lastly, Arabic translation will likely result in design and layout issues that will need to be addressed.