Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, London came under fire just before the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games due to mis-translation of an Arabic banner.

The shopping centre displayed huge banners welcoming visitors to London in a number of different languages, all of which went down very well….apart from the Arabic!

The Arabic words, which have since been changed, were written back to front and weren’t joined up, meaning that the text was incoherent.

This costly and embarrassing error is said to be due to the software used rather than a translation mistake, but the posters should have been checked by a native speaker.

Westfield shopping centre isn’t the only place where mistakes in Arabic text have been made, First Capital Connect train service displayed Olympic security posters in various languages, but the Arabic was completely unreadable.

Although the message was translated by a professional translator, the font was later changed which left the message meaningless.

On both occasions the messages were written in good faith, but the errors reflect badly on Britain and can appear ignorant. It’s a very easy mistake to make, but one which can have costly consequences.

These rather embarrassing mishaps emphasise the importance of using multilingual desktop publishing experts. Arabic desktop publishing requires different software to languages with Roman script, and using the wrong software can throw the whole text off completely!

At Lingua Translations we only use native Arabic speakers to ensure that your message is displayed in exactly the way you intended.

For more information please see the Arabic language services and Desktop Publishing pages of the website.