The kinds of problems we face when we translate English into Arabic.
We can classify the principal problems we face when we translate English into Arabic into four categories:
- Lexical problems
- Grammatical and structural problems
- Cultural problems
- Textual problems
In this article I would like to talk about the lexical problems which could face a linguist on we translate English into Arabic.
Lexical problems which we face when translate English into Arabic.
We can divide the lexical problems which we can face when we translate English into Arabic into various issues:
Homonymy: when we need to translate English into Arabic we sometimes find words that can have different meanings, such as “Bank”. This word is a good example of homonymy: it could mean the slope of land adjoining a body of water,especiallya river,lake, or channel, or it could mean a business establishment in which money is kept for saving or commercial purposes, or is invested, supplied or loans, or exchanged. The context will define which meaning we’ll follow when we translate. In reality, however,when we have a complicated text, or when we translate English into Arabic without a context, it will be difficult to ascertain which meaning is being referred to.
Polysemy: another problem we can face when we translate English into Arabic is the coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase. A good example of this case is the word “tender”, which can have many meanings:
Easily crushed or bruised; fragile: a tender petal.
Easily chewed or cut: tender beef.
Young and vulnerable: of tender age.
Sensitive to frost or severe cold; not hardy: tender green shoots.
To make tender.
A strip of meat, usually chicken, often breaded, deep-fried, and served with a sauce.
Example of the Polysemy problems we face when we translate English into Arabic.
The text below provides a good example of the issues we can face when we translate English into Arabic:
The teacher asked the student to draw a right (Adj.) angle, but insisted that the student draw it with his right (N.) hand, even thoughthe student was left-handed. Of course he didn’t draw it right (Adj.),so the teacher gave him low marks. Right away (Adv.) the student complained that it was his right (N.) to draw with which ever hand he liked. The headmaster, who was a fair(Adj.) man, agreed that he was right (Adj.)
Idioms: the third kind of lexical problems we face when we translate English into Arabic is Idioms. We can divide idioms into two categories:
These are some examples of the direct idioms we can find in a text when we translate English into Arabic:
He serves two masters
It makes my blood boil
Lend me your ears.
Below are some examples of indirect idioms we can come acrosswhen we translate English into Arabic:
On the horns of a dilemma
Do your best
I hope you break a leg
How to handle such problems when we translate English into Arabic
The problem when we translate English into Arabic is how to handle such idioms: some of the examples above have a literal equivalent in Arabic, in which case there’s no problem, since we can simply use the Arabic equivalent and follow the original message and tone of the source. However, we need to decide how to translate the ones that do not have an Arabic equivalent: should we translate literally and provide some explanation, or do we need to translate the meaning? This depends on the nature of the source– is it literature, or a political or economic text, etc.?