Mnawar Jamil Shourakaa is the founder of and chief copywriter at CopyArabia. With over ten years of experience in both, English and Arabic copywriting now, Shourakaa set up the agency in 2014 as a solution to his – and perhaps this region’s – biggest issue of “poor Arabic communications”. “This has been happening for a while now, but in the last couple of years, the problem has increased exponentially. It appeared on the surface with the economic crisis that hit the region two years ago,” he says, adding that the tough market conditions, which led to budget cuts, ended up affecting the quality of Arabic communication.
Social media feeds have been rife with some funny, some offensive, but mostly just plain wrong Arabic translations where it almost seems like someone used an online translator without any context. So, who’s the ‘someone’?
Shourakaa says it’s a cycle starting with clients and ending at agencies. When budget cuts affect agencies – advertising, PR, social media or digital – the issue arises “when these agencies try to save from the budget by terminating their senior talents and hire junior ones instead,” he says. And the complexities and nuance of the Arabic language and its various dialects is too complicated to be handled by junior resources, opines Shourakaa. The rise of freelancers and translation services isn’t helping either because agencies select the cheapest option, which much like any other language, compromises on the quality of work.
What’s the solution?
To highlight the issue, Shourakaa has created a social media campaign #ArabicComesFirst encouraging users to share examples of bad Arabic in ads (examples below). That’s just the first step: awareness.
In order to really make a change, Shourakaa believes “there should be a government-based media monitoring entity. Whenever an ‘assault’ occurs toward Arabic, this should be flagged out, and the client and agency behind it should be warned.”
He admits that this approach might seem like an overreaction, but, he questions, “What kind of a message are we sending to other nations when we don’t treat our primary language with respect in our marketing communications?”