More than 200 million people worldwide speak Arabic as their native tongue and millions more speak it as a second language. Arabic speakers are also one of the fastest-growing groups of Internet users. And within the last year, the organization that oversees Internet domain names has begun issuing web addresses in Arabic characters – Egypt and Saudi Arabia were the first to apply for non-Latin character domains.
In this context of increased internationalization of the Internet, Texas A&M University at Qatar is at work to make its digital assets more accessible to Arabic speakers by translating its TDL Institutional Repository into Arabic.
A member of the Texas Digital Library, Texas A&M Qatar operates a DSpace repository that contains a diverse range of institutional, faculty, and student materials, including news releases, honors theses, and faculty research. Texas A&M Qatar is a branch campus of Texas A&M University that was established in 2003.
News stories in particular, which are released by the university in both Arabic and English, presented an interesting case to Texas A&M Qatar library director Carole Thompson. She and a bilingual staff member tested the repository software to see if metadata entered in Arabic characters for these documents could be searched for in Arabic, and discovered it was possible. As a result, Thompson and her staff are entering metadata for such dual-language items.
Thompson then decided to take the next step, exploring the possibility of translating the entire repository interface into Arabic. By doing so, users will have the choice to navigate the repository in either English or Arabic.
To accomplish this, Thompson enlisted James Creel, a software developer at Texas A&M University, as well as one of her own staff Wael Al-Rihawi, an engineering student at Texas A&M Qatar. Al-Rihawi served as chief translator on the project, converting the English text to modern standard Arabic. Among the technical and translation challenges faced by the team are ensuring that the Arabic text is right-justified onscreen, as Arabic is read from right to left, and finding suitable Arabic words for some technical terms like “e-mail” that don’t have direct translations.
Thompson sees the project as essential to the school’s mission. “It’s very common in this part of the world to have Web sites in two languages,” she says. “I’m hoping this project will let us do more outreach and also that it will be a tool for preserving our school’s history.”
“I’m happy to think that in addition to being able to display the TAMU Qatar repository in Arabic, we’ll be making a contribution to the larger world.”
For more information, visit the http://repository.qatar.tamu.edu/ or read about TDL Institutional Repositories.