Tarek Dachraoui, Loq-Man Translations

By Anna Schlegel

NCTA Corporate Member Loq-Man Translations was founded in 1995 by Tarek Dachraoui and his colleague Natalie Mann. The agency provides expertise in all languages, with a special emphasis on Arabic, French, and English, offering translation, interpretation, localization, technical editing, copywriting, page design, production support, ongoing quality control, and consulting. A native of Tunisia, Tarek holds a B.A. in English Literature, a B.A. in Linguistics and an M.A. in Translation and interpreting from the Institut Bourguiba in Tunis, Tunisia.

Where did you grow up?
TAREK DACHRAOUI: I was born and raised in and around Tunis, in a multilingual and multicultural environment in which Arabic, French, and Italian were “de rigueur.” After high school I spent a year as an exchange student in the U.S. in a small, remote, and snowy town in upstate New York. A career in linguistics and languages seemed most natural to me, and once back in Tunisia I pursued my language studies. After a quick stop at the Ecole Superieure d’Interpretes et de Traducteurs in Paris, I headed to Moscow for a year to learn Russian, with the incredible thought that I might one day be able to read Dostoyevsky in the original (of course, that never worked). I then lived in Rome for four years, where I worked at a European Economic Commission agency coordinating different programs between the Italian government, the FAO, and different regional organizations.

How did you start your business?
I hate cubicles and ties. Starting my own business seemed the most logical thing to do when I moved to the Bay Area!

Have you seen an increase of work due to the political developments of these past couple of years?
We have definitely seen an increase in demand for our services based on recent political developments. As one might guess, there is currently a very high demand for quality translations from Arabic into English and vice versa. We have been working with federal agencies and local governments as well as the private sector.

Where is your work, and your translator pool, based?
Our office is based in Richmond, and we try as much as possible to employ local translators. However, our network extends beyond the state and the country. We regularly get job orders from outside the U.S., and so we work with translators and interpreters in Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, as well. Of course, the jobs are assigned in connection with the project and the destination of the finished product. For the last four to five years, we have been providing our services in France, the UK, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Finland, among others. We just finished a large job that is going to Spain.

Describe the translator that you love to work with.
Quality and time are of the essence for every competitive business, and translation is no different when it comes to these considerations. We want to work with translators who can deliver what they promise; who don’t get in over their heads with high volumes of work or subject content that they aren’t comfortable with.

We want our translators and interpreters to be naturally inquisitive; who keep up-to-date about current events, and who read the news and specialized magazines and reviews. Not people who feel they “know it all,” and who are never wrong. We believe that translation is an art – it is a professional art, and as such, it is demands constant learning.

We are always very responsive to our translators’needs. We help them extensively; we provide glossaries when we have them, and set reasonable deadlines. We want our translators to feel comfortable while working with us and in doing their work.

What are the challenges of the Arabic language in the US market?
We spend lots of time and energy educating our clients about translation in general, and the Arabic language in particular. Many people are not aware that Arabs do not speak the same language they use to read or write. Arabs speak “colloquial Arabic,” which is not written and differs from one country to another. They use Modern Standard Arabic to write and read. However, it is a language taught in school and, of course, the higher your education is, the better you master the language.

There are also other technical aspects. Arabic is a bidirectional language. In bidirectional scripts, the text is written from right to left, while embedded numbers or segments of text in western scripts (Latin-based ones such as English or French) are written from left to right. Furthermore, languages that use the Arabic script have special ligature and shaping features which add a level of complexity in their display and printing that do not apply to other European and Asian languages. Because of these factors, most clients do not have a good understanding of how to support bidirectional languages. We spend lots of time explaining these special features to our clients and helping them set their operating systems and applications.