Tarjama bridges language gap

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Medieval Arabic translations preserved the cultural heritage of ancient Greece and Rome. Today the same knowledge transfer continues and this has led to a range of translation services trying to bridge the gap between Arabic and the world.

UAE-based translation and linguistic services company Tarjama is one of these.

It’s trying to develop a smart translation memory tool, and recently entered a partnership with online education platform Coursera to provide Arabic subtitling so refugees could use the courses.

Tarjama will arabize educational content provided to refugees through Coursera. (Image via Coursera)

Tarjama CEO Nour Al Hassan said over the next six months the company would Arabize, or place in an Arabic cultural context, around 600,000 words of Coursera material, on areas such as entrepreneurship and academic English writing skills.  

COO Zaid Abul Fealat said Tarjama’s social responsibility agenda meant they’d be working with several Saudi women, who would receive Coursera translation certifications for their contribution.

Nour Al Hassan. (Image via Tarjama)

Education reformer and founder of Edraak, Nafez Dakkak, said there was a shortage of Arabic content online.

“Edraak showed us that this type of content, especially education-related content, is still young. However, there is big demand and need for it, as [most] available content does not fulfill the desired quality requirements. We, at Edraak, enroll about a thousand new learners every day, and we expect to be reaching one million users soon.”

Dakkak said the Tarjama partnership with Coursera may evolve to provide these courses for a wider range of Arab users. It may also represent a step into a future of further cooperation, in the hope that more partnerships are held not only to Arabize content but to create it as well.

Nafez Dakkak. (Image via Nafez Dakkak)

“Results showed a strong need for original Arabic content, and partners, such as Rwaq, are creating such content,” he said.

Abul Fealat said promoting Arabic content was one of Tarjama’s core responsibilities.

“We have already cooperated with
Crash Course with a view to translate about 4,000 videos, and worked on translating Christopher Schroeder’s book ‘Startup Rising’, among others.”  

Different beginnings

Before starting Tarjama in 2008 Al Hassan was a lawyer in Jordan, suffering from poor quality translations of documents she needed for work.

She saw that freelancers would be the easiest base for a translation business, so she made the company a ‘destination’ for translators, allowing them to benefit from full-time remote employment terms. This has been especially useful for finding women translators, who can work from home.

“The most talented translators are women,” she told Wamda.

Today Tarjama provide linguistic services ranging from translation, localization and editing.

Tarjama’s Dubai team - Zaid Abul Fealat, standing far right . (Image via Tarjama)
A need for expansion

“It took us three years to start achieving profits and witnessing significant improvements,” Al Hassan said. “It was difficult for people to pay a certain sum of money in exchange for a good Arabic content.”

In 2011, Tarjama moved from Jordan to Abu Dhabi, where they joined the Twofour54 incubator.

“During the first three months, we had only one client. Today, our clientele is made up of more than 300 clients, with offices scattered in each of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Amman. We are currently working on opening an office in Saudi Arabia,” she said.

Tarjama has more than 50 fulltime in-house and remote employees, as well as around 500 freelancers.

Finding and retaining talent was one of their biggest challenges, Al Hassan said.  

No investments? No problem

Tarjama has never been able to secure any investment because “no one invests in translation,” Al Hassan said.

Instead they’ve focused on developing a profitable business rather than preparing it to appeal to investors, managing costs incrementally rather than setting ambitious spending rates unmet by revenue streams.

Feature image via Tarjama.

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