Problems in the translation from English to Arabic.


I talked in a previous article about the problems and issues we could face when we have a translation from English to Arabic; here I wanted to highlight some more common issues. When we start a translation from English to Arabic the problem arises from the fact that the semantic equivalent in the target language (Arabic) cannot convoy the

message in the source (English), or the written style in the source is different from the one in the target. This happens due to the cultural differences between the English and Arabic, and the differences in the linguistic and syntax structure of the two languages, what makes a translation from English to Arabic a job that needs an extensive knowledge about these differences. The Arabic language is characterized of the subtle differences and that one word could be name in some case and verb in other case, the same word has many different meanings, for example, the Arabic word عين has more than seventeen different meanings in the dictionary, arranging from “eye” to “noble”, “spring of water”, “property” and “spy”. In the other hand the English word “Senior” does not have an exact Arabic equivalent when it comes in context like “Senior Project Manager”, some linguists pretends to translate as “كبير” what means “Big”, but in fact it is a very weak translation, does not sound natural in Arabic, so the best approach is to search for an Arabic semantic equivalent, the best option could be “أول” what means the “First”, this last translation is common  used in the administration and the military hierarchy. In a translation from English to Arabic we face some times texts that it is impossible to find an equivalent in the target language, especially for the very different structure of this both languages, in the following example the English sentence is composed of Subject –verb – Adjective: the car is beautiful. The translation from English to Arabic for this sentence would be: السيارة جميلة, the difference between the Arabic and the English is clear, the Arabic translation does not have a “verb”, and it is the standard nominal sentence, a topic followed by a predicate. Giving a literal translation from English to Arabic the translation will be السيارة تكون جميلة we added the verb تكون (is) to the sentence, which gives a very weak and strange Arabic sentence. Other issue we can see in a translation from English to Arabic is that the Arabic language has system of nominal and adjectival suffixes; these suffixes do not exist in the spoken Arabic dialects. Those suffixes are presented by diacritics, even they are not necessary and usually are not used in Standard Modern Arabic, but they should be used to avoid any misunderstanding, specially to distinguish between verb and name, passive voice and the active voice, the example below show its importance in some cases, the word مستعمر without diacritics could be read and understood in two ways: colonist and colonized. For this, the absence of diacritics in a translation from English to Arabic could mislead the reader. The problems in the translation from English to Arabic come from the fact that is difficult in some instances to find the most appropriate word or form that could convoy the source message and tone and still original and natural in the target language. This is due to the cultural differences; it is a good question how to handle words like “Girlfriend”, “Boyfriend” in a translation from English to Arabic; or if you receive marketing translation form English to Arabic and you find it full of alcoholic beverages names, in some Arabic countries it is not allowed to mention such products in your advertising, so what to do, should you keep it as is, omit it, replace it…? It is depends on the client, the target market and audience, but it is too important to check such concerns carefully with the client.

Like the English, the Arabic does not have formal and informal form, but it has another approach to the feminine, masculine, plural and singular, also the times in Arabic are limited to only three times, past, present and imperative, the future are expressed by using the present form with prefixes. So in a translation from English to Arabic you could face this question: what is the most appropriate Arabic verb time for the English Future Perfect Continuous time. The cultural differences, and the different structure of the both languages makes a translation form English to Arabic a difficult but very interesting work, the extensive knowledge of the both languages and the consideration of the differences and the subtle details can provide a very accurate and fluent translation from English to Arabic.