Last Updated: September 27th, 2010

Update: As several commenters have pointed out, Android does support some right-to-left languages like Arabic out of the box, it just doesn't do so correctly. The method described below does.

Surprising as it may be that Android, which is now a major player in the mobile operating system game, does not ship with support for any right-to-left languages such as Arabic, Persian, or Urdu, there's no denying it; languages were never one of Android's strengths.

Well, at long last, it appears our beloved operating system is getting support for at least one of those three languages (Arabic), but, surprisingly enough, Google was not involved. Instead, Arabic-speaking users can thank Ayman Al-Sanad for his hard work on this project.

Before getting your lab coat ready and your mad scientist glasses on, there are a few things you should know:

  • it only works with FroYo
  • right-to-left alignment is only supported on the following devices, at least for now:
    • the Google/HTC Nexus One
    • the HTC Desire
    • the HTC Magic / G1
    • the HTC EVO 4G
    • the HTC Droid Incredible
  • if your device is running FroYo but is not one of the above devices (e.g. Motorola Droid 2, Droid X), there is also a universal version that does not include right-to-left text alignment
  • your phone needs to be rooted for this to work

Once you're ready to begin, here's what to do:

  1. Download the zip file that's right for you device from here. It should contain all the necessary libraries.
  2. Plug your phone into your computer and mount it as a USB drive.
  3. Move the file you just downloaded to the root of your microSD card (that's the main folder).
  4. Reboot into bootloader mode.
  5. Press volume down to hover over "recovery," then press the power button to confirm.
  6. Once you have booted into recovery mode, keep pressing volume down until "install zip from sdcard" is selected. Then press the power button to confirm.
  7. Now press volume down to select "choose zip from sdcard." Press the power button, then keep pressing volume down until "froyo_name of your device_libs_arabic_android_plus_signed.zip" is selected. Press the power button to confirm.
  8. Finally, repeatedly press volume down until "-Yes - Install "froyo_name of your device_libs_arabic_android_plus_signed.zip" is selected. Press the power button to confirm.
  9. After it finishes flashing, select "reboot system now."
  10. After rebooting, all text on your device should be written in Arabic!

You can also install the Arabic Android app for this, although from what I can see, it will have the exact same results, the only difference being that the method described above is free, while the app is paid.

Source: Arabic Android via xda-developers

Jaroslav Stekl
Jaroslav Stekl is a tech enthusiast whose favorite gadgets almost always happen to be the latest Android devices. When he's not writing for Android Police, he's probably hiking, camping, or canoeing. He is also an aspiring coffee aficionado and an avid moviegoer.

  • David

    I don't know what are your sources, but Hebrew is one of these rtl languages as well. And I think it's nicely supported (with some bugs)

    • Jaroslav Stekl

      I could be missing something, but I'm not seeing it as an option in the Language & Keyboard section of the settings menu. Then again, corrrect me if I'm wrong, which I could well be.

      • Leonid

        In FroYo, both Hebrew and Arabic are supported, at least at the level of the fonts for the browser. Try to browse, for instance, to ynet.co.il or aljazeera.net.
        I think the article speaks about localization -- menus, messages, etc.

  • S

    I wrote that XDA post. Wanted to let you know that Persian is mostly supported through this modification, though there are some issues with displaying some ligatures. The second picture I posted was of BBC Persian. Pashto and Urdu are also technically supported though there are several problems with displaying both. It's better than nothing, though.

  • S

    Also, Leonid is both right and wrong. Arabic on Froyo is natively supported insofar as the letters are displayed on the browser. However, it is completely unreadable. The letters are backwards and not connected.

    This modification fixes those problems and makes Arabic actually work with Android devices.

    • Jaroslav Stekl

      Thanks for the corrections guys, updated the post.

    • Omer

      Hey Guys.. Will it do the trick of fixing the backwards letters for hebrew too?


      • S

        You should try it out. I don't read Hebrew, so I'm not sure. Let us know what happens.

  • IDtheTarget

    This is, sadly, one area where the iPhone still kicks Android's butt. I don't understand how a company as global as Google purports to be can NOT support such common languages!

  • Malik

    "#10. After rebooting, all text on your device should be written in Arabic!" Does this mean my phone will only display arabic text and not my current language? What if I only want my phone to have the benefit of displaying the arabic correctly when viewing arabic sources as my native use of phone is english.

  • Mohamed Gamal

    @Malik : Did you get an answer for your question ?

    • Malik Rahim

      Sorry for the long delay for posting reply. New to forums and forget where I posted this. Yes and No to answer your reply. I read that it changes all text to arabic. Is this true? I tried to install, but my phone froze at htc screen so I reloaded backup file. Kind of afraid of retrying and not being able to read my own phone, lol. Trying to learn arabic.

      • Fa3elKhair

        Flashed the zip and had the same problem. Using KaosFroyo Rom on HTC Droid Eris. Had to restore to my last Nand Backup.

        Anyone found a solution?

    • Malik Rahim

      I rooted with unrevolked with stock rom. Maybe this is my problem.

  • Omer

    Guys, Sorry for not writing earlier.
    The installation went perfect, my N1 display Hebrew right to left everywhere. the UI has not changed to Arabic, it just added the support for RTL. So Malik, you are safe :-)

    thank you People

  • SEEF

    i tried to install Arabic language in my nexus one running froyo 2.2.1 ... but i got this message

    E: failed to open /sdcard/update.zip (no such file or directory)
    E:signature verification failed
    Installation aborted.

    can any body help

  • http://blog.mutu.org aviv
  • gro

    Does nt work with archos 101

    • TiQo

      Hello gro,
      You have tried it on the Archos 101? I have the Archos 70 and was wondering if it will work or not?
      Anybody knows a way to add Arabic language support to the Archos 101/70?