Arabic Keyboard as a source of trouble for translators

Keyboard Fails Translators

One most common axiom of translation is that translating into a native language is easier than doing so in the other direction.  But, I can raise at least one point questioning the validity of that supposition.  I find it easier and faster to translate from Arabic into English for many reasons including my full understanding of the original text.  However, I am here to point out to some problems related to keyboard settings, given the fact that almost all translators tend to translate directly through their computers.  The age of pencil and paper is almost part of history now.

Suggestions to overcome the problem:

  1. Surrender and quit translation for good (not a goog suggestion given the inflating prices in this part of the world.  You need at the end to bring some milk to your baby, you know!)
  2. Improve your keyboard skills.  Type slowly.  No need to rush.
  3. Once you finish up with a paragraph, review it immediately for proofreading before going on with the rest of the document.

Sources of Problem:

  1. Alphabets on Keyboard:

Typing in Arabic is slower than typing in English.  Every Arabic letter has three shapes depending on whether the letter exists in a word at the beginning, in the middle or the last positions.  Though the keyboard is made to automatically adjust itself with such shapes, letter position is still an issue when it comes to correction of words or spellings.

In addition, the number of letters in Arabic are more than that of English.  They also require extensive use of the shift-key to place the “hamza” and the “haraca” (Case marker).  The result is a slow typing.

  1. 2.       Spelling issues:

If you misspell a letter in a given English word, the word processer can easily recognize it.  This is not the case with Arabic because if you misspell an Arabic word, it is often the case that the newly generated word is correct in Arabic, though it would have a totally different meaning.  It is a disaster because you have to check the document or ask another person to review it for you.

Given the fact that a reader reads the word from memory, it is very frustrating that your documents will still retain those disastrous undesired words.  Here is a list of examples that I suffered from:

Original word in English Should-be translation in Arabic Misspelled word Meaning of the misspelled word
Students Tullab


كلابDogs*Students (Another plural form is available in Arabic)Talabah






المقرفةThe disgusting**IndividualAlfardiyah


القرديةThe monkey-relatedIndividualAlfardiyah


البقريةThe cow-relatedLearningTa’alum




الداشرةA woman who refuses to abide by customs and traditions especially when it comes to relations with men.  This word does not usually describe a woman who is morally corrupt.PublishingNashir




الموجدThe Creator  (In Islam, this is one name or attribute of God).The offerAl’ard


الغرضThe purposeExistenceWujood



It can also be read as: “and worms”.Search, researchBahith



* Indeed, once I was working on a big project with my friend.  I phoned him to ask about progress of work, and he answered: “I finished, but need to review the document to change all “dogs” into “students””.  That was a funny answer that made me laugh but also concerned for such problems in translation.

** In a given document, I really suffered from that.  I typed the word three times until it was spelled correctly!

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