Arabic is the world’s fifth language in terms of number of speakers. It is the first language to more than 250 million people and about 280 million people use Arabic as their second language. Arabic is mostly spoken in the Middle East and North Africa. It is the primary language in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. It is also one of the official languages in the Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea and Israel.

With a total population of 340 million people according to Wikipedia, the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) represents a huge market. Despite (and because of) the political turmoil in the Middle East region, exports to non-Arabic countries are soaring. Many international companies are now well established or expanding in the Arab world in the software, digital, electronics, home appliances and automotive industries.

There is a political need for mutual understanding between the Arab world and the Western world. Arabic is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. The United States have clearly voiced the need to establish better relationships with the Arab Muslim world and reform foreign policies.

Localizing in Arabic is strategic, yet the region’s instability and the technical challenges of the language bring up many questions, which we will try to address in this white paper: first we will look at the economic weight of the zone as well as the internet usage of its population, then at the political situation of the member countries as is stands in 2015; finally we will delve into the specifics of the Arabic language (bi-directionality, poor technical terminology and shortage of expert translators) and how we handle its localization.