This is a guest post from Naila Missous, a writer and a translator of Arabic, French and English. Find her tweeting at @N_MissousKadry or hire her on Nabbesh
Translation is an art: yes, an art. In order to get from one language, to the other, and convey the same message, one must hold close the message yet seamlessly glide from the original language to the target language.
The modern day translator seems to have every tool at his or her fingertips. From online resources, dictionaries and dictation software, what could possibly go wrong?
The languages of Arabic and English belong to two different settings and different language families. Arabic is classified as a member of the Semitic family of languages, English as a member of the Indo-European language family. Arabic is defined here as the official language spoken in more than 15 countries in the Middle East. English is an Indo-European language and the official language of Britain, the United States, and most of the commonwealth countries. Syntactically, Arabic and English exhibit different word orders. Arabic is, for the most part, a synthetic language. Phonologically, Arabic and English have different phonemic inventories. And I could go on.
Translation is one of the most difficult and slippery areas within the realm of languages. It’s a mix of interpretation, as well as being concise in the delivery of the message. One of its difficulties lies in that understanding the linguistic units is not enough to translate successfully. Not everyone who is a native speaker of English can translate into English, and the same goes for Arabic. That is to say, the grammatical rules would be of no help and may be useless if the rules of use are not taken into consideration. It’s a lot more than translating from one word to another, but more a grounding in both languages.
The problem lies in that some native speakers think that having the language alone will make them a novice translator. Often many overlook the fact that translation is an act of communication which calls upon both language appropriate use and correct usage in order to reach an acceptable and agreeable translation. That means Google translate will never get it quite right!
Our job, as the “middle man” between Arabic and English is not by any means, to disregard the culture of either the source or the target text when translating since there is no clear cut delimitation between language and culture. This entails that pragmatics heavily influences the translation “validity” and, therefore, professional and even novice translators are required to take into consideration the pragmatic aspects in order to promote their performance. Words that don’t exist in one language, social ideas that can’t be expressed into the other language and so forth all have to be considered in order to produce a valid piece of translation.
On top of that, many clients looking for Arabic translators these days also specify who their audience is, and in what region of the Arabic speaking world. That means that some want their document or website to be translated into an Arabic that a Gulf audience will understand, or Egyptian and so forth. Though many variants of Arabic are not written directly in script (for example that of Algeria, Tunisia etc), some translators do cater to very specific jobs. Again, this all comes down to the skills, talent and fluency in various Arabic forms by the translator.
Related post: Top Four Skills That Will Never Fail You
As with any job, the difficulties are overshadowed by the completed task and the end result. The job allows you to exercise your language skills, as well as the cultural aspects of knowing a language, not just speaking it. We are usually better informed and can adapt this into the translation; engaging in not only the beauty of a language, but the people who use it, too. We are able to read foreign newspapers, or even watch news on TV in the given languages.
And that is a major advantage these days. To me, it will always be a positive to be able to move from one language to the next: each translation jobs offers new vocabulary to be learnt, news ways of writing and new connections.
Arabic is one word that covers a region and language that needs a dictionary to portray it.