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What Is the Greatest Difficulty That Faces a Translator from English into Arabic?

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Translation (II): Unit (one)

SAQ (1.1) P. (10)

What is the greatest difficulty that faces a translator from English into Arabic?

Generally speaking, difficulty arises from differences between SL and TL. There are two kinds of differences:

  1. Linguistic differences which are attributed to the fact that the two languages descended from different origins, and thus there are differences in nature, vocab. and structure of SL and TL. This, in turn, led to linguistic difficulty.
  2. Cultural differences which are attributed to the following factors:
  1. the two communities don't belong to each other ethnically,
  2. the two communities were isolated from each other for centuries
  3. and there is a real-gap in sophistication (gap in present change and development in sciences and technology) between the two communities.

Since the term culture includes various aspects of a certain linguistic community, this led to differences in cultural aspects. Accordingly,  the cultural difficulty is considered the greatest one.

What are the circumstances that facilitated the work of Arab translator?

The two cultures were not totally isolated all the time. They have been in contact in two crucial eras:

  1. during the Middle Ages when Islam influenced the Western World
  2. at present time (There is an intercultural communication among all cultures in the world due to recent technological developments in communication system, and thus the world now is like a small village.)

As a result,  the two communities have a lot in common, and thus many linguistic terms are shared between them. Some are translated and others are borrowed.


What does the term culture mean according to anthropologists?

Culture refers to the whole way of life of a certain linguistic community. This includes, not only material aspects, but also conceptual, philosophical, political, religious and customary in addition to beliefs and traditions.

Language is an integral part of culture. Comment.

The term culture refers to the whole way of life of a certain community and this includes all aspects of life such as material, social religious, etc. we can see these aspects through language. In other words, language is the window through which we can communicate with any language. It seems as an index of the whole culture.

What are the techniques\procedures that an Arab translator can use to translate from TL into SL?

  1. Translating the English term into Arabic term
  1. Using culture-free counterpart (with\without description\explanation), e.g., grapes عنب, prairie /'preɪrɪ/ مرج, نجد أجرد
  2. Literal translation (with\without description\explanation), e.g., swordfish أبوسيف))

devilfish شيطان البحر (حيوان بحري من نوع الراي) and sandpiper زمار الرمل, الطيطوي (طائر)

  1. Borrowing the English term(transference)

Borrowing without naturalization(with\without description\explanation), e.g., villa فيلا\ Pentagon بنتاجون (وزارة الدفاع الأمريكية)

Borrowing with naturalization(with\without description\explanation), e.g., kangaroo كنغر   Avocado الافوكاته, شجرة المحامي (نبات استوائي أمريكي ذو ثمر يشبه الاجاص)

What does the term naturalization mean?

It means the phonological and morphological modification of the original term in TL to fit into the linguistic system of SL, e.g., savanna سفناء radicalism راديكالية

Which is advantageous translating a term or borrowing it?

Surely, translating terms it is an advantage, and borrowing them is a problem because it encourages being dominated by western culture.  

Which is more preferable as a criterion when we translate acceptability or correctness?

This question is not easy to answer because a particular translation can be judged as correct or incorrect (e.g., scientific texts), and another can be judged as acceptable or unacceptable(e.g., literary texts). On another hand, certain translations such as that of Holy Quran require both criteria(correct and acceptable). In other words, a particular text require a certain method of translation, for example, scientific texts require word-for-word translation, but literary texts require semantic\communicative translation

In addition, what is considered acceptable for a particular reader could be not for another. For example, the culture-free translation of the term prairie /'preɪrɪ/ is not acceptable for specialized reader who is familiar with the topic. At this case, the foreign word should be added in parentheses after the Arabic word, e.g.,[ prairie] مرج .On the contrary the culture-free term مرج could be sufficient for ordinary reader who is not interested in the topic.

To conclude, the matter of acceptability depends on the type of text and readership(audience).


Give examples of some so-called universal words that are not really universal.

First, the term universal refers to the linguistic term (word\phrase\idiom\expression) that is common and shared among several cultures, and which has a recognized counterpart(equivalent) in SL when we translate from TL into SL, e.g., sky and water.  

However, some terms seem to be universal while they are not because there are few differences in their meaning among cultures, for example:

  1. The word tea though seems to be very common among cultures, and it has a recognized equivalent in Arabic(شاي) and other languages, it does not refer to the same thing. That is because there are different types of tea (green\black)along with different times to drink it, different cups to use and different things to eat with it.
  2. The same thing applies to dessert since there are different kinds, and locations of desserts.
  3. Also, the word bread, though seems common, refers  to different shapes, of bread and different ingredients.

These three examples and many similar others (e.g., breakfast, cheese, sweets, …etc.) only share the general meaning.



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