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New Insights into Arabic Translation and Interpreting

New Insights into Arabic Translation and Interpreting

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New Insights into Arabic Translation and Interpreting

4.5/5 (2 évaluations)
358 pages
3 heures
Apr 14, 2016


This book addresses translation and interpreting with Arabic either as a source or target language. It focuses on new fields of study and professional practice, such as community translation and interpreting, and offers fresh insights into the relationship between culture, translation and interpreting. Chapters discuss issues relating specifically to Arabic and the Arab cultural context and contribute views, research findings and applications that come from a language combination and a cultural background quite different from traditional Eurocentric theoretical and professional positions. This volume is a significant addition to resources on Arabic translation and interpreting and contributes fresh perspectives to translation studies in general. It is of interest to students, researchers and professionals working in public service, community, legal, administrative and healthcare translation and interpreting, as well as intercultural communication and translator education.

Apr 14, 2016

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New Insights into Arabic Translation and Interpreting - Multilingual Matters



Stuart Campbell

In London in the early 1970s I had the privilege of being taught by Safa Khulusi (1917–1995), the noted Iraqi scholar and author of the 1956 book Fannu at-Tarjama (فن الترجمة) [The Art of Translation]. Dr Khulusi’s Wikipedia entry notes his expertise as ‘linguist, writer, poet, journalist, translator, lexicographer, historian’. My recollection is of an erudite and courtly man, devoted to bridging the cultures of the Arab and Anglophone worlds; I was especially intrigued by his theory of Shakespeare’s possible Arab ancestry and his love of the Lake District.

I mention Safa Khulusi in the introduction to this book for two reasons. First, in the intervening 40 years, academic specialisation – including in translation studies – has sharpened to the point where few scholars can claim such a broad range of expertise. Second, the exploration of the relationship between the cultures of East and West – especially since Said’s Orientalism (1978) – has become an academic specialisation in its own right, and one that is highly germane to translation studies.

Consider the Arab World 40 years on: communities of Arabic speakers are now part of the demographic profile of European cities such as Stockholm and Paris; respect for human rights in the Arab World is becoming an expectation rather than a forlorn hope; the Arab Spring may or may not turn out to be the final excruciating unravelling of the Arabs’ colonial experience; Arab women show extraordinary courage in demanding equality; Lebanese pop music engages millions; social media tools are totally Arabized; Arabic literacy is now widespread in the Arab World and English is becoming a prerequisite for advancement among the Arab professional classes; and large numbers of Arabs are studying in Western universities before returning home to form the elite strata of their societies. As all of these changes reshape the ecology of the Arabic language, they impact who uses Arabic, how they use it, and why they use it. In turn, the changing ecology of Arabic throws up new contexts or variations on old contexts in which Arabic is translated – whether they be graphic arts studios, refugee camps, boardrooms, or military interrogation cells.

Despite the surge of scholarship on translation since the 1970s, European and North American voices have dominated the field and largely shaped it. With a few notable exceptions such as Mona Baker and Basil Hatim, it is only since 2005 that Arab scholars have begun to add their voices in substantial numbers; on the whole, Arab scholarship has consumed rather than produced new ideas in translation research. As a result, teachers and students in the Arab World have largely had to depend on references that were developed for language combinations and sociocultural contexts other than their own. This lack of a modern native Arab translation studies movement merely reinforces a relationship of intellectual dependence on the ‘producer’ cultures.

This book attempts to redress this imbalance by offering Arab practitioners and translation schools a collection of articles by established as well as young researchers from different parts of the world, including Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Australia and Spain. It addresses translation and interpreting in the Arab World, translating from and into Arabic, and teaching translation from and into Arabic, with a special focus on new fields of study and professional practice, new lines of research, and innovative teaching approaches and resources. Written by Arab scholars and non-Arab authors with expertise in the Arab culture and translation from and into Arabic, this volume will be a significant local addition to translation resources in Arab institutions and a contribution of fresh ideas and perspectives to translation studies in general. The common thread running through the chapters in this collection is that they attempt to examine Arabic translation from the inside and not from the outside.

This collection demonstrates two propositions. One is that research into Arabic translation is becoming an established specialisation within the broader field of translation studies. The other is that scholarship on Arabic translation is inextricably tied up with how the cultures of the Arab World and the West confront each other, accommodate each other, and shape each other.

The chapters by Faiq and Taibi are, in contrast to the later chapters, broad in scope. Both engage with the relationship between Arabic and ‘dominant’ languages and cultures, but in quite different ways. Faiq’s chapter takes us to the heart of the relationship between the cultures of East and West by examining the special case of Arabic and the role of the ‘master discourse of translation’ through which the Arab World is so negatively portrayed and understood. I shall not steal Faiq’s thunder here, but I shall remark on his observation about the one-sidedness of the flow of cultural information between Arab and Western cultures. His statistics on the tiny number of Arabic books translated into English are depressing, just as they were 10 years ago. The inequality is further emphasised by the smooth adaptation in the Arab World of Western media and entertainment formats such as talent shows and music videos. It is hard to think of any Arab literary or artistic form that has survived importation into Western culture without undergoing stereotyping and manipulation as it is filtered through the master discourse. Faiq concludes with what I interpret as an appeal for an ethical stance for translation that works towards cultural understanding.

Taibi’s chapter on community interpreting and translation education in the Arab World is essentially a call to action to ensure service provision to speakers of languages other than Arabic. The author sets out from the premise that for quality language services to be available, three conditions must be applied: recognition and policymaking, appropriate training, and quality assurance. He then focuses on training, argues that Arab universities need to address social needs in interpreting and translation, and describes a new initiative by a Saudi university intended to cater to social groups not previously utilised as reference points (pilgrims to Mecca and migrant workers in the Gulf region generally).

Community interpreting and translation is a relatively recent phenomenon that arose in the West as a response to the needs of immigrants, and as an authentic form of human rights in action. In Australia, which is cited in Taibi’s chapter as a pioneer in this field, it is worth noting that community interpreting and translation was the main driver for establishing professional interpreter and translation education in that country, as well as for the development of a system of training and accreditation that was quite unlike anything in Europe. The starting point for Australian community interpreting and translation was the power imbalance between authority and client; its aim, inter alia, was to recover that balance, whether between doctor and patient, magistrate and accused, or finance provider and applicant. The success of the community interpreting and translation enterprise depended on government largesse, which in turn was driven by proactive multicultural policy – essentially an agreement between taxpayer and government that the powerful and powerless had an equal right to access essential services. Taibi’s chapter shows how the Western community interpreting and translation model can be adapted in the Arab World to cater to three client groups: speakers of minority languages, migrants, and pilgrims. In some respects, for example the case of Tamazigh speakers in Morocco, the model is reminiscent of interpreting for indigenous citizens in remote Australia; Taibi’s call is for the reality of everyday practice to match the guarantee of an interpreter in the Moroccan Code of Criminal Procedure. The Western model takes on an original twist in its application to pilgrims in Saudi Arabia, where no inherent power imbalance is involved.

The following chapters are characterised in one way or another by their specialisation and their location at the interface of Arab culture and the West – even in the case of language services for the Hajj, which are under pressure to improve at least in part because of the need to adopt international business practices. Moreover, four of the chapters share two other phenomena: they are the outcome of the work of teacher-researchers and exhibit methodologically rigorous use of data.

In highlighting the teacher-researcher role, I might be accused of stating the obvious, but it is worth considering the place of translation studies in the broader context of the contemporary comprehensive university, especially in an era of international competition for research talent and an education sector in thrall to international rankings. Put bluntly, one wonders whether there is a future for the teacher-researcher in translation studies, or whether we shall see a specialisation of roles. In Australia, the concept of teaching-only positions is becoming more common in universities, where research academics are expected to meet set performance targets in publications and grant income. At the same time, translation programmes are relatively small and unable to achieve the economies of scale of disciplines such as business or health studies that permit research concentration. The question I pose is whether the model that has served us for the past few decades needs to evolve. I leave this question unanswered, but note that the importance of collaboration and partnerships – both local and international – will become more important in maintaining the strength of the discipline. This collection is evidence that the emerging subdiscipline of Arabic translation studies is taking collaboration seriously.

Taibi and Qadi break completely new ground with their chapter on translating for pilgrims during the Hajj each year. With well over a million foreign pilgrims annually visiting Mecca, it is remarkable that their language needs have been unresearched until recently. Umm Al-Qura University does have a special mission to research the Hajj, but it is interesting to speculate on the broader motivations for the work reported here. One is undoubtedly the adaptation of the community translation model developed in Europe and Australia as a response to the needs of immigrants. Another might be the adoption of risk management and customer service principles from the globalised world of business; indeed, the translations collected for the dataset of this chapter fall well down the scale of acceptability in terms of managing risk or serving the ‘customers’ of the Hajj. Indeed, some are just unacceptable. The detail of this chapter is fascinating in its own right: We discover a genre that blends the mundane language of public notices with references to the Quran. Among the examples cited, the Makkah Transportation Company’s promotional material must be one of the most rhetorically unusual texts one might encounter; the challenges of producing a universally acceptable translation seem to be almost insurmountable. The chapter concludes with a set of stern recommendations to the relevant authorities, backed up by a rigorous error analysis of public notices and online material.

The chapter by Taibi and El-Madkouri Maataoui on sex taboos in community interpreting is firmly located in the zone of Arab–Western cultural mediation, specifically in public service interpreting in Spain, and underlines how translation studies has adapted to the contemporary landscape. The authors note how our discipline has gradually elevated cultural transfer to a position alongside language transfer; in retrospect, it is difficult to imagine why scholars of the 1970s expended so much energy on defining equivalence. Perhaps the raw material was the problem; in parallel with the incorporation into translation studies of cultural perspectives, we have seen the adoption of empirical research methods (research based upon data rather than convenient examples plucked from thin air). As Taibi and El-Madkouri Maataoui’s chapter demonstrates, the raw material is uncomfortable and difficult; in real life people do have to talk about sex in medical and legal situations, and translators (more often, ­community interpreters) have to deal with the cultural fallout.

Two findings stand out in this chapter: One is that religion is not the prime determinant in constraining discourse practices that relate to sex in the Spanish–Arabic community interpreting setting; instead, the broader Arab culture drives these practices. The other is that community interpreters are not at all unanimous about how to deal with sex taboos; indeed, the diversity of contexts and of interpreters (e.g. endogroup and exogroup interpreters) defies clear-cut solutions.

Specialisation is a hallmark of contemporary translation studies, and the chapter by Ilhami and Way underscores this hallmark in its treatment of the teaching of Arabic terminology. The authors contextualise their study by describing terminology creation in Arabic, the constraints on the Arabicisation movement and the history of terminology as a component of translation and interpreting programmes in Spain. They then address the extent to which the Terminology module is adequate for the specific needs of students whose B language is Arabic. Like so many of the advances in translation studies since the mid-1970s, the work reported in this chapter is driven by the need to improve the teaching of translation; as I have noted, our discipline is characterised by a strong connection between teaching and research, with teacher-researchers developing underpinning theory and teaching strategies in tandem. In this tradition, Ilhami and Way round off their chapter with a critique of terminology training at their own university and a ­proposal for improvements to support students translating between Spanish and Arabic.

Mediouni’s special expertise is in Arabic–English legal translation, a field that is developing momentum through a number of doctoral theses. The theoretical insights he presents have been gained through his work as a teacher-researcher. Whereas Mediouni catalogues in great detail his methodology for teaching legal translation, the core of his argument is the efficacy of multilingual corpora in providing ‘terminological and phraseological equivalents’. The conventionalism of legal texts, Mediouni maintains, means that parallel or comparable texts in English and Arabic will do ‘as much as 80–90% of the task’. His example of auditors’ reports illustrates the point at the level of terminology, while his case study of a bilateral agreement between Morocco and Senegal extends the point to syntax with, for example, a conventional equivalence found between English participle forms and Arabic clauses opening with the particle ‘إذ’ (‘i ’).

Chatti’s chapter rounds off the collection with an accomplished account of the translation of colour metaphors. The chapter draws on a number of theoretical perspectives in order to develop a cognitive model that includes the notion of a ‘blending space’ in which different cultural perceptions of colours can be resolved. On a practical level, this chapter offers guidance on getting colour translation between English and Arabic optimally right; given the ubiquity of colour metaphors, this is one area of cross-cultural transfer where translators cannot afford to be making mistakes.

In conclusion, I wonder what Safa Khulusi might have made of this ­collection. I think the author of Fannu at-Tarjama would have been pleased to see the revival of a native Arabic translation discipline, and I suspect that the plentiful use of data in the various chapters would have appealed to his exacting attention to detail in textual analysis. He would, I am sure, have agreed that this collection is to be commended as an example of how the longstanding power imbalance in translation studies can be corrected.

1Through the Master Discourse of Translation

Said Faiq

Translation does not exist; it becomes. This becoming is realized through a complex process that should be explored in a cross-cultural site of interaction. Currently, globalization is the term used to refer to this site where intercultural communication through translation-becoming takes place. Here, information is communicated as translation that forms or further consolidates an existing body of knowledge of the translating culture about the translated one.

Cronin, 2013

1. Introduction

Axiomatically, globalisation invokes the existence of something else that is not so globalised – something local. It is a truism to say that different cultures have historically represented each other in ways that have reflected the type of existing power relationships between them. Nonetheless, since the 1990s postcolonial and translation studies in particular have contributed a great deal to illuminating issues of the formation of cultural identities and/or representation of foreign cultures; in 1999, (the late) André Lefevere named this process ‘composing the other’. The conceptualization of translation involves a binarism based on conflict, as Salama-Carr puts it:

From within the discipline itself, the traditional issue of mediation linked with the increased visibility of the translator and the interpreter as agents, a shift of perspective promoted in great part by the so-called ‘cultural turn’ in translation and interpreting studies, followed and complemented by a ‘sociological’ engagement has paved the way for the growing interest in the role and responsibilities of translators and interpreters in relating and formulating conflict, and in issues of trust and testimony that often arise in that context of shifting power differentials. (2013: 32)

Negative representations of ‘weak’ cultures by ‘powerful’ ones – the latter mostly assumed to be Western – have been part of the scheme of history (the terms ‘West’ and ‘Western’ are used here to refer to intellectual framings rather than to geographical places). However, no culture has been misrepresented and deformed by the West like the Arab/Islamic one. Between these two antagonistic worlds, translation remains a prime medium of communication/interaction. Translation usually refers to the handling of written texts and spoken discourse is left to the realm of interpreting (i.e. oral translation). In addition, translation normally refers to both the process of translating and to the product, the target text. As such, the term covers a broad range of concepts and both denotes and connotes different meanings.

Within this context, the purpose of this chapter is to examine the constraints and pressures of the discourse through which translation is carried out. Particularly from perceived weaker cultures, translations are received by audiences at whose disposal is a master discourse that animates issues of identity, similarity and difference across cultures. Drawing on textual import from Arabic, the chapter shows how a culturally defined master discourse affects the act of translating at all levels.

2. The Master Discourse of Translation

Across the different approaches/models of translation, whether named or not, the primary objective is to achieve the same informational and emotive effects in the target translations that are contained in and by the source texts. Opposition and conflict between various approaches/models has been the norm in translation studies. According to Salama-Carr,

Much of the academic discourse on translation and interpreting has been articulated more or less explicitly in terms of conflict. Whilst some authors have focused on the tensions that are inherent in the process of translation (source texts versus target text, adequacy versus acceptability, literal translation versus free translation, semantic translation versus communicative translation, and formal correspondence versus dynamic equivalence, to name but a few dichotomies and constructed oppositions that underpin discussions of translation and classification of approaches and strategies), others have represented translation as an aggressive act. (2013: 31)

The given that is at the heart of the dichotomies listed above, the main theoretical basis has centred on the concept of equivalence. Therefore, actual equivalence in and through translation has been sought at both the content level and the expressive (form) level. This search has often led theorists and translators alike to focus on aspects of either form or content. But such polarization of what translation involves ignores two simple facts: any text produced through a given language is the product of a unique union between form and content (manner and matter), and the production and reception of a text are embedded in a specific cultural context. Seeing translation as an equivalence-seeking endeavor has further ignored that languages and their associated cultures are different and that complete equivalence, at one or multiple levels, is impossible. In the main and except for specific samples, texts cannot be accurately, faithfully, and neatly translated into other languages and still be the same as their originals. Linguistic difficulties (vocabulary, idioms, grammar, collocations, etc.) and cultural difficulties (perceptions, experiences, values, religions, histories, etc.) persist.

Since the 1980s, translation studies has been extended to consider various and challenging issues. In particular, the view of culture-modeling through translation has ushered in questions that cannot be adequately answered by the conventionalised notions of equivalence, accuracy, fidelity, or ‘sourceer vs. targeteer’ approaches to translation and translating. The focus has shifted from (un)translatability to the cultural, political, and economic ramifications of translation; away from concerns with translated texts towards treating translation as a combination of social, cultural, and political acts that occur within and are attached to global and local relations of power and dominance. Marinetti comments:

[C]ulturally-inflected studies have looked at translation as cultural interaction and have developed the question of translation ethics in the context of political censorship, endorsement of or resistance to colonial power and gender politics, generating a substantial body of literature that has developed these ideas into legitimate sub-areas. (2013: 29)

It follows then that translating involves the transporting (carrying-over) of languages and their associated cultures to specific target constituencies, and the recuperation of the former by the latter. Such constituencies have at their disposal established systems of representation which include norms and conventions for the production and consumption of meanings vis-à-vis people, objects, and events. These systems ultimately yield a master discourse through

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  • (4/5)
    the title is interested, but we dont know if the book will add something to the field.