Upcoming Hollywood film “Arrival” centers on language… But gets its Arabic wrong

Published August 17th, 2016 - 01:25 GMT
The above scene from "Arrival" features broken, jibberish Arabic. (Youtube)
The above scene from "Arrival" features broken, jibberish Arabic. (Youtube)

The upcoming film “Arrival” is about a brilliant linguist deciphering an alien language, but the film makes some rookie mistakes in a scene featuring Arabic.

In the first trailer for the film starring Amy Adams and Forrest Whitaker, alien ships appear on planet earth in multiple locations. News broadcasts accompany some of the extraterrestrial encounters, including a spaceship making landfall in an unspecified Arab locale. The only problem is that the Arabic text appears unconnected and backwards.

Arabic is a cursive language that is read right to left, but when placed in some editing programs it can be incorrectly formatted and appear backwards and broken - and the error goes unlooked for want of an Arabic speaker.

Reading the text backwards, one can tell it was supposed to read “Live broadcast” (البث المباشر) and “Breaking news” (اخبار عاجلة). However, the actual text came out as almost-unreadable jibberish.
Not knowing Arabic has often caused issues for those who seek to use it. Last October, graffiti artists entered the set of the TV show Homeland and wrote messages criticizing the series - nobody noticed until the episode aired. There is also the oft-maligned craze for Arabic tattoos - a topic Albawaba has dealt with extensively in the past. 
Let’s hope the error is corrected before Arrival hits theaters on November 11.

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