The Early Days
I started my career out as a consultant in a multinational organization. Back then, the bulk of my work involved paperwork. At any one point, I was drawing up papers; contracts, reports, agreements. A majority of these documents were in English, and working in Jordan meant that we had to hire a third party contractor to handle translations to Arabic. This presented with it a new set of challenges. Now if you’ve ever worked in consulting, you understand its fast-paced nature. So the introduction of translation into our workflow created a bottle-neck to our progress.
In 2008, translation wasn’t as advanced as it is now. Now, you’d only have to log into Arabic MT (Tarjama’s proprietary translation portal) and in a matter of seconds, you’d have your document accurately translated. But back then, it would take a considerable amount of time to get just one document translated, considering the complexity of the subject matter, the intricate nature of Arabic, and the length of our submissions. With limited options, we had to contend regularly with low-quality output and delays. Exasperated with the linguistic market, I decided to take a (calculated) leap of faith and address the inadequacy myself.
So I set out to build a company that would provide professional translation services to businesses in Jordan and the greater MENA region. Not only would we be the best, we would also lead the region’s revolution towards the adoption of new technologies that would improve our value addition to our clients.
I set up shop in my home office and started taking on clients immediately. With only a handful of female employees, it didn’t take a while for us to start receiving offers; the translation gap in Jordan was that gaping at the time. Although we were a small team, we were dedicated and passionate about our work, and soon we were handling multiple high-level clients.
The gap in the Arabic translation market wasn’t a fluke, it was by design. Arabic is one of the most complex languages around today, with over 420 million speakers in 22 countries. Given its wide usage, there are so many local dialects that in one country alone, several localizations may be required to communicate to audiences effectively. That’s why a lot of language companies were keeping away from it. So by venturing into Arabic translation, we were taking on a behemoth of a challenge.
From the get-go, assembling an expert language team was crucial to our breakthrough into the market — we had to find those with across-the-board expertise. But assembling a team took a lot of effort. In our recruitment, we noticed a niche in the market for expert translators and built Ureed.com, a freelance market that brings together 55K+ experts across 125 industries under one roof. Through this platform, we're able to recruit on-demand language talent that we employ in Tarjama.
After a few years of running on our own, we decided to bring on investors. Like any other start-up owner can attest, it is not the easiest thing pitching to investors. At the time, we were still a small team (mostly made up of women) scattered all over the globe, with a dream to create something that other larger companies had tried and failed. It was difficult for most investors to believe that we were capable of delivering, few as we were, on something as grand as we were claiming. But our remarkable results, with the limited resources we had starting out, convinced a lot of our early investors that what we had was more than a pipe dream.
Since then we have clinched several rounds of investments that have seen us grow our language base, develop new products, and enter more markets in MENA. As much as we keep making headway in the linguistic space, I don’t take it for granted that there are people who invested their time and money into the growth of Tarjama.
Now, almost 15 years later, Tarjama has grown into a successful enterprise. We have a team of skilled translators and interpreters who work with clients in a wide range of industries, from technology and manufacturing to healthcare and finance. We’ve built our reputation on providing high-quality services that exceed our clients’ expectations. It’s been an exciting journey, and I’m proud to have built a thriving business that is making a difference.
Through the unwavering support of our clients and our uncompromising devotion to quality, Tarjama has scaled to the top of the leaderboard of Language Service Providers in the region. Most recently, we acquired Screens, the largest dubbing and subtitling company in MENA, heralding our entrance into the entertainment industry.
What makes Tarjama Unique?
As Tarjama grew to accommodate even larger clients, with demanding timelines and large volumes of texts, we conceived the idea to build our own machine translation engine. The most popular offering at the time, a public translation engine, was lackluster in both quality and usability.
Building Arabic MT was a daunting task for our linguists and developers, again due to Arabic’s complexity. The language has over 12 million unique words compared to English’s 600K, and the two have a wide array of linguistic dissimilarities, making translation from one language to the other rather cumbersome. But using the latest neural machine translation technologies, our engineers built an engine that gives remarkable translation quality.
Over 5 years, we have been using the engine in-house to augment our translators’ output, while testing it and fine tuning it to ensure it meets the highest quality standards. It is only recently after we were sure that our clients would be able to employ it in their workflows independently, that we released it for public use. The engine is built for businesses looking to capture Arabic audiences. Since its release, Arabic MT has consistently outperformed other engines in Arabic translation for businesses, and last year, we were featured in a Gartner market guide for advanced AI-enabled translation services alongside Google.