The Bloody Journey by Ibrahim Isa

In his 707-page novel, The Bloody Journey[1], Ibrahim Isa weaves history into drama as he retells the events of the greatest sedition in Islamic history whose immediate result was the murdering of the third rightly guided caliph, Othman b. Affan, whereas the Muslim nation is still suffering its long-term repercussions.  Overall, the author’s language mimics the language of the first half century of the Islamic calendar. This comes as a direct result not only of the too many narrations that the author ferreted out of old history books and inserted in the novel, but also as a consequence of the author’s long attachment with those books. Their style rubbed off on his.

To a great extent, Isa succeeded in creating live characters whose hallmark is humanness. Their being companions of the Prophet (S) or even his wives (R) (aka mothers of the believers) did not shield them against human deficiencies such as bias, lack of foresight, misjudgment, foul temperament, greed, vendetta, etc. None should overlook the fact that Othman b. Affan, a human, had his own share of mistakes and misjudgment, too. Yet what the reader will never forget is how a great companion like Othman b. Affan whom the Prophet (S) had given the glad tidings of his place in paradise and whom he assured the permanence of his status of the divine reward was reviled by a sizeable number of the companions and Aisha (R).

Othman was sieged in his house, starved with his family and eventually massacred as he was reading the Koran while fasting. His body was left for three days, before it was buried in the Jewish graveyard in Madinah by Nathan: a Jew who looked like Othman whom the latter was always taunted and reviled by his name[2]. So much for being one of the ten whom the Prophet (S) announced their admission to paradise!

[1] The literal translation of the title is the Blood Journey.

[2] Othman was called Nathan by some of the companions and Aisha (R).

Farahat’s Republic in Light of Equivalence Theories


This paper examines Denys Johnson-Davies’s English rendition of Farahat’s Republic by Yusuf Idris (a famous Egyptian short story writer) in light of equivalence theories.  The paper employs Eugene Nida’s “Principles of Correspondence” as a theoretical framework through which Davies’s rendition of Farahat’s Republic is approached. The paper also includes examples that illustrate how Denys Johnson-Davies’s translation of said text seems to have employed both “formal” and “dynamic” equivalences to preserve most of the source text’s features while it “transplanted” it into the target language context: British and British-educated readership. The paper concludes with a brief evaluation of Nida’s theory in terms of its adaptability to literary translation.

Born in Oklahoma City in 1914 and deceased in Madrid in 2011, Eugene Nida, is considered one of the most important Bible translators of the modern age. In addition to his role as a translator, he was also a linguist and a Baptist minister. He maintained that the Bible should be accessible to all people, irrespective of their decoding ability (“Principles of Correspondence” 143). In “Let the Words Be Written: The Lasting Influence of Eugene A. Nida,” Philip C. Stine praises Nida for making the Bible accessible to “millions of people speaking hundreds of languages” in an unprecedented manner (vii).

In “Principles of Correspondence,” Nida begins by asserting that given the fact that “no two languages are identical, either in the meanings given to corresponding symbols or in the ways in which symbols are arranged in phrases and sentences, it stands to reason that there can be no absolute correspondence between languages” (141).  Subsequently, this renders the supposition of exact translation impossible. Hence, “the total impact of translation can be reasonably close to the original, but there can be no identity in detail” (ibid).

Nida lists three basic factors that contribute to the differences in translation: “(1) the nature of the message, (2) the purpose or purposes of the author, and by proxy, of the translator, and (3) the type of audience” (142).  In addition, Nida sets the bar high for translators, for translators should not feel satisfied when their translations are “intelligible” to the receptors, but rather when their translations are meaningful to the receptors (143).

To this effect, Nida developed two basic approaches (orientations) that have significantly influenced the field of translation studies: formal equivalence (FE) and dynamic equivalence (DE). The difference between the two and the decision of which one to use are predicated on the purpose of the translation, which, in turn, is determined by the intent of the translator (143).

On one hand, FE focuses the attention on the message, where “the message in the receptor language should match as closely as possible the different elements in the source language. . . (gloss translation)” (144).  As a result, a translation that employs the FE approach is inherently a source-oriented rendition that should strive to preserve and “reveal” much of the form and content of the source text (ST). This includes “grammatical units, consistency in word use, meanings in terms of the source context” (149). Translators should also bear in mind that “the reproduction of grammatical units may consist in: (a) translating nouns by nouns, verbs by verbs, etc., (b) keeping all phrases and sentences intact. . . and (c) preserving all formal indicators, e.g., marks of punctuation, paragraph breaks, and poetic indentation” (ibid).

On the other hand, DE is based on “the principle of equivalent effect.” In other words, “a translation of dynamic equivalence aims at complete naturalness of expression and tries to relate the receptor to modes of behavior relevant within the context of his own culture” (144). Subsequently, DE translation targets receptor response. Nida defines DE translation as “the closest natural equivalent to the source language message” (151). Further, he maintains that natural rendering “must fit” the receptor language and culture as a whole, the context of the particular message and the receptor language audience (ibid).

Nida deems that natural translation includes two “principal areas: grammar and lexicon” (ibid). Additionally, DE translation involves a number of FE adjustments in the areas of special literary forms, semantically exocentric expressions and intra-organismic meanings (154). Furthermore, Nida maintains that in any discussion about equivalents whether formal or dynamic, one must consider “three different types of relatedness as determined by the linguistic and cultural distance between the codes used to convey the message” (154). To Nida, these three different types are (1) closely related culture and language (e.g., translation from Frisian into English), (2) unrelated languages but paralleled cultures (e.g., translation from German into Hungarian) and (3) totally different culture and language (e.g., translation from English into Zulu) (ibid). Nonetheless, he states that “differences between cultures cause many more severe complications for the translator than do differences in language structure” (ibid). Agreeing, Nida quotes Tancock stating “when there is no happy compromise [between meaning and style (content and form)] meaning must have a priority over style” (148).

Farahat’s Republic is a short story, written by Yusuf Idris, set in an Egyptian metropolitan police station at night, sometime between 1945 and 1952. It was first published in Arabic (as Jumhuriyat Farahat) in 1956. Denys Johnson-Davies translated it into English in 1967( The story revolves around Sergeant Farahat relating a movie scenario to an unnamed arrestee (he did not know that his interlocutor was an arrestee at the time). Meanwhile, he is constantly interrupted by complainants and arrested citizens. His interactions with them accentuate salient social features of poor, everyday Egyptian people.

Born in 1927 in Al-Bayrum Village, Egypt, Yusuf Idris moved to Cairo in 1945 to join the College of Medicine at Fouad I University (Cairo University currently).  In college, Idris joined the nationalist movement against the British. This caused him to be jailed multiple times on political charges. As a physician, Idris worked in impoverished areas where he became more entrenched with the poor and their lives. His literature portrays a wide range of their human experiences. Idris gained prominence as a journalist, novelist, playwright, and particularly as a short-story writer.  Idris’s nationalist and socialist subscriptions put him on a collision course with the Egyptian regimes during the British occupation and during the early years of Nasser’s rule. When Nasser’s rule shifted toward socialism, Idris became a fervent supporter of Nasser and his regime.

Not only did Idris write about the poor Egyptian people, but he also wrote to them.  They were his primary target audience.  Subsequently, the language of his works issued as a creative mix of simple formal Arabic and Egyptian colloquialism. Essentially, he used the former in the descriptive accounts in his works, whereas he used the latter in the dialogues, which are rich in Egyptian folklore. Idris elaborated on his writing approach in three essays entitled “Toward the New Arabic Theatre” (Encyclopedia Britannica).

Born on 21 June 1922, in Vancouver, Canada, Denys Johnson-Davies, the son of lawyer-teacher father, spent his childhood in Canada, Cairo, Uganda and Sudan. At the age of 12, Denys traveled to England to be formally educated. Four years later, he joined St. Catharine College, Cambridge to read Arabic. In 1946, he traveled to Egypt to occupy a position at the British Council Cultural Centre, where he became friends with many prominent Arab writers. Over a seven-decade period, Denys translated works by Mahfouz (a Nobel Laureate), Idris, Teymour and Al-Hakim, to mention a few. According to Edward Said, “of all the major world literatures, Arabic remain[ed] relatively unknown and unread in the west… the position of Arabic literature in English translation was transformed…due to the contribution made, more than anyone else, by Denys Johnson-Davies” (The Guardian).

As mentioned above, Denys translated Farahat’s Republic in 1967, the year in which Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Palestine lost the Seven-Day War to Israel, which expanded its occupation of Arab land into the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, Golan Heights in Syria, and into the West Bank in Palestine. It was the time that Nasser’s Pan-Arab bubble (movement) was burst and the Egyptians were put to the test of reality. Denys’s target text (TT) aimed to continue to introduce the works of prominent Egyptian literary figures to the English-speaking world, particularly the British.

The two excerpts and their translations below are examples of how Denys’s rendition compares to the source text (ST). Although my comparative analysis between the English text and the Arabic text attempts to show how much, or whether at all, Denys applied the FE and/or DE approaches in his rendition, I make no assumption that Denys benefited from Nida’s theory or was even aware of it. One way to look at this process is to test the aptness of Nida’s theory and how it is naturally incorporated in translators’ minds as they proceed to translate a given text.  Since the text of Farahat’s Republic includes descriptive narratives and dialogues, the first excerpt stands as an example of the former variety, whereas the second primarily stands for the latter.

ولكني حين هدأت قليلا واعتدت على المكان، وتأملت كيف وضع “الكاب” فوق رأسه في وقار مخيف وزرر معطفه الضابطي – على غير العادة – إلى آخر زرار فيه، وشد جلد وجهه في تزمت صارم فاختفى كل ما فيه من تجاعيد وأصبح أملس كجدل الطبلة المشدود، وأضفى على نظرات عينيه بريقا تحس معه أنه لا ينظر بهما إلى الناس بقد ينقر ويلسع وحمل صوته ما لا يطيق وهو يشخط ويهدر بكلمات غير مفهومة كأصوات الرصاص.

. . . but when I had calmed down a bit and got used to the place, I observed how he wore his cap at a most dignified yet fearsome angle, how his officer-type overcoat was buttoned right the way up—contrary to the usual practice—and how the skin of his face was drawn back so tautly, with such severity, that all wrinkles in it disappeared and it became as smooth as the stretched skin of a drum.  There was an intenseness about his gaze that made one feel that he not so much looked at people as pecked and stung them; his voice, required to perform feats of which it was incapable, snarled and roared, staccato as bullet shots, with unintelligible words.

Although the excerpt above was lifted from a paragraph in the TT, it stood as a separate paragraph in the ST.  Further, despite the fact that the TT attempts to mimic the ST’s punctuation, particularly in terms of using commas and dashes, to reproduce the ST’s cadence, it seems to impose a considerable stretch on the TT’s punctuation conventions. Additionally, although the TT seems to adhere, to an extent, to the form and content of the ST, it veers off it at times.  For instance, the sentence “and how the skin of his face was drawn back so tautly…” is rendered in the passive voice in the TT, whereas it is set in the active voice in the ST (وشد جلد وجهه في تزمت صارم: and he tightened up the skin of his face. . .). Furthermore, the last sentence in the paragraph seems to represent Nida’s DE. Initially, although the sentence stands as a separate sentence in the TT, it stands as a conjunctive clause in the ST. Also, the translator seems to have taken some free hand to the sentence where he replaced “and added to the look of his eyes a spark: وأضفى على نظرات عينيه بريقا” with “intenseness about his gaze” and “imposed on his voice what it could not bear: وحمل صوته ما لا يطيق” with “his voice, required to perform feats of which it was incapable” and finally “unintelligible words like the sound of bullets: بكلمات غير مفهومة كأصوات الرصاص” with “staccato as bullet shots, with unintelligible words.”

وكانت “البت” امرأة واقفة ضمن الواقفين ترتدي ثوبا كان أسود ثم أحاله ساحر الحاجة إلى رمادي. وتتعصب بمنديل كالح لا يخفي إلا القليل من شعرها البني الأكرت القصير وقد تلوثت نهاياته وتنافرت. وكان وجهها غامقا أسمر. وفي عينيها كحل أفسدته الدموع…

وردت تقول في ذلة:

  • أم سكينة والبت عيوشة وبنت أختها نبوية والود…
  • مالهم؟ مالهم؟
  • اتلموا على وضربوني في بطني.. آه يانا…
  • وفي ومضة خاطفة كانت في حالة بكاء تام. وأضافت والدموع والشهقات تختلط في حلقها…
  • وأم سكينة.. عضتني.. هنا.. في كتفي… وزغدتني في بطني… والبنت عيوشة قلعتني الحلق.

وقهقه الصول وخشخش صوته وقال:

شايف يا أستاذ شايف؟ مش قلتلك؟

كل وحياتك كدب …نصب واحتيال.. بقى بذمتك دي حيلتها البلى الأزرق؟ حلق أيه يابت اللي خدوه؟ حلق حوش؟


The ‘girl’ was one of those standing in front of him. She was wearing a black dress which the magician of poverty had changed to a drab grayish color; round her head she had wound a faded handkerchief which had but little of her short coffee-colored, kinky hair, the ends of which were twisted and ragged. Her face was a dark brown and the kohl on her eyes had been smeared by tears. ‘Umm Sakeena,’ she said meekly, ‘and the girl Ayyousha, her niece Nabawiyya and the boy—’

‘What of them? What of them?’

‘They attacked me and hit me in the stomach,’ and she began sobbing.

In a flash she was in full flood. Her voice choked with tears, she added, ‘And Umm Sakeena. . .. She bit me. . .here. . .in the shoulder. . . and gave me a poke in the stomach. The girl Ayyousha pinched my earrings.’

The Sergeant-Major’s voice was thick and guttural from the guffaws of laughter he gave vent to. ‘See what I mean, sir?’ he said. ‘D’you see? Didn’t I tell you? I swear to you it is all a pack of lies, and absolute fraud. I ask you, can you imagine her owning so much as a brass button? What earring are these, my girl, they’ve taken? The crown jewels?’

Aside from the first sentence in the descriptive paragraph that precedes the exchange between the Sergeant-Major and the girl, the rendition of the paragraph and the following dialogue, to a great extent, follows the FE approach. Not only is this represented in replicating most of the grammatical units, observing the consistency in word use and preserving meanings in terms of the source context but also in the sequence and the length of the sentences. This facilitated the conservation of many ST’s salient features. Nonetheless, the English translation still came out interlaced with a few DE renditions.  For instance, “in a state of complete weeping: في حالة بكاء تام” was idiomatically (and artistically) replaced with “in full flood,” “the interjectional “O my…: آه يانا…” was declaratively rendered as “and she began sobbing,” and “does she even own blue dye: دي حيلتها البلى الأزرق” was rendered “can you imagine her owning so much as a brass button” and the play-on-word exclamation “draw a ring: حلق حوش؟” (usually uttered in the context of chasing a thief or making a public arrest) with “The crown jewels?”

Definitions of proper or successful translations are numerous and varied. In “Principles of Correspondence,” Nida quotes Prochazka’s definition of proper translation: “The translation should make the same resultant impression on the reader as the original does on the reader” (148). He further stipulates that the translation must meet four requirements: “(1) making sense, (2) conveying the spirit and manner of the original, (3) having a natural and easy form of expression and (4) producing similar response” (ibid).

Using the expectations above as benchmarks against which the success, or properness, of Denys’s rendition of the Arabic text is measured reveals a few findings.  In terms of “making sense,” the translation is clear and does not include any ambiguity, let alone the slightest confusion. It does make sense. As for “conveying the spirit and manner of the original,” one must realize that the translator had a daunting task at hand.  Idris’s work is immersed in Egyptian folklore: a deeply seated cultural layer that raises many hurdles for a translator to cross. Egyptian colloquialism is so symbolic and metaphorical. Nearly every word signifies a tale or evokes an allegory. There is a story behind every expression that only an Egyptian from this particular sociocultural stratum can unlock the full treasure of its meaning. Not only did Denys’s translation manifest his superb knowledge of this type of Egyptian socio-dialect, but it also displayed his artistic competence in overcoming untranslatability.

Evidently, Denys preferred to use FE, or so to speak, to preserve as much as possible of the ST’s features. Nonetheless, Denys went through many situations where reconciling the form with the content constituted “no happy compromise,” if it did not become altogether impossible (see examples above). This is where he seemed to have used the DE approach. He took license to alter “idioms, vernaculars, slangs, colloquialism, and onomatopoeic expressions in accordance with the culture of the target language” (Venuti 2000: 137-138 as quoted in Dohun 62). However, as an Egyptian who studied Idris during my undergraduate coursework and read all his works later on, I at times felt as if I were reading the original text. Subsequently, to me, this also satisfies the ever-unmeasurable expectation of “producing similar response.”

Regarding the expectation of “having a natural and easy form of expression,” I believe that the TT flowed untrammeled overall. At times, it may have come out overloaded with commas (see above) or included some British expressions. Nonetheless, I must admit that my assessment is not totally free from bias or self-reference. Having read the ST and being bilingually familiar with British English—the form of English taught in the Middle East—may have largely contributed to the facility with which I read and enjoyed Denys’s English rendition of Farahat’s Republic.

Despite the fact that Nida’s work focused on translating the Bible, “his ideas and approach have been applied to the translation of almost all genres” (Dohun 61). In fact, Nida’s definition of DE has been “widely accepted and cited by translation scholars and practitioners regardless of their religious faith or academic/practical interests” (ibid). Not only did DE shift the focus from the message to the receptor, but it also “moved away from the debates over literal translation versus free translation and guided us to the brave new world of receptor-oriented translation (64).

According to Dohun, “Nida’s (1969) model back-transforms Chomsky’s transformational generative grammar to present a three-phased model of translation” (66).  These three phases are: analysis, transfer and restructuring. In a nutshell, Chomsky maintains that languages have deep structures (kernels) and surface structures (phraseology).  Kernels contain the core meaning of the message, which in turn informs the phraseology according to a multiplicity of moods and modes (Khalil 1986). Nida’s DE employed Chomsky’s model in reverse.  In other words, when employing the DE approach, translators should dive through the phraseology of the text and arrive at its core message, which they are expected to rephrase (restructure) in a manner that would have a similar effect on the TT’s reader like that the ST had on its reader—”receptor response.”

Given the fact that Nida’s theory was initially developed around translating the Bible—a literary text per se—Nida’s theory inherently proves adaptible to literary translation at large. To many translation scholars, “Nida’s theory moved translation studies into the realm of science by formulating a linguistic theory of translation for researchers and offering a practical manual of translation for translators” (Dohun72).

Conversely, Meschonnic (1986: 77 as quoted in Dohun 65) compares Nida’s approach to “automatic behaviorism that authorizes untrammeled manipulation, and protests that translation will turn into adaptation, with Dynamic Equivalence as its good conscience.” Further, to Dohun “the considerations during the transfer and restructuring phase are anecdotal, rather than systematic” (71). In his Contemporary Translation Theories, Gentzler attacks both the motive and the basis of Nida’s theory. He maintains that Nida’s religious beliefs (i.e., spreading the Baptist understanding of the Bible) tend to be instrumental in the formulation of his scientific approach (3, 59, 57). He also holds that “every “phantasm of sameness” between languages and every linguistic theory built on a presumption of universals must be judged unscientific” (146).

Despite its multiple contributions to the field of translation studies, Nida’s theory is, after all, a human endeavor. It is not flawless. This comes with the territory of its being a theory and not a universal fact. Nonetheless, basing the DE’s effectiveness on the response of the receptor remains, at least to me, one of its salient downfalls. Readers’ responses to texts are individualistic and based on a multitude of factors (e.g., the academic, cultural and economic background of the readers, their psychological inclination, political subscription, sexual orientation, etc.). Additionally, the unmeasurability of receptor response “blurs the distinction between translation and communication” (Nichos ii). However, Nida’s DE must be credited for providing translators with a license to be used, at their well-informed discretion, to garb and even tailor the ST’s message to fit the TT’s cultural and linguistic context.

 Works Cited

“Farahat’s Republic”. World Literature and Its Times: Profiles of Notable Literary Works and the Historic Events That Influenced Them. Accessed 29 Jan. 2019.

Gentzler, Edwin. Contemporary Translation Theories. London and New York, Routledge, 1993, p. 3-59.

Idris, Yusuf. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica inc., 28 July 2018, Accessed 29 Jan. 2019.

Idris, Yusuf. Gomhooryyat Farahat. Dar Es-Shorooq, Cairo, 1999.

Idris, Yusuf. “Farahat’s Republic.” The Essential Yusuf Idris, edited and translated by Denys  Johnson-Davies, The American University in Cairo Press, 2009, p. 224-267.

Johnson-Davies, Denys. The Guardian. 18 June 2017.  Accessed 29 Jan. 2019.

Khalil, Helmy, Lectures on Chomsky. Alexandria University, Spring 1986. Unpublished.

Kim, Dohun. “Dynamic Equivalence: Nida’s Perspective and Beyond.” SKASE Journal of       Translation and Interpretation, vol. 8, 2015,  Accessed16 Oct. 2018.

Nichols, Anthony. Translating the Bible: A Critical Analysis of E.A. NIDA’S Theory of  Dynamic Equivalence and its Impact Upon Recent Bible Translations. Department of Biblical Studies of the University of Sheffield, 1996, p. i-83.

Nida, Eugene. “Principles of Correspondence.” The Translation Studies Reader, edited by Lawrence Venuti, Routledge, 2012, p. 141-155.

Nida, Eugene and Taber, Charles. The Theory and Practice of Translation. Leiden, 1982.

Stine, Philip C. Let the Words Be Written: The Lasting Influence of Eugene A. Nida. Society of

Biblical Lit., 2004.


Translating Baudelaire by Scott, Clive: Summary and Analysis

Scott maintains that Translating Baudelaire is about his apprenticeship of translating Baudelaire and the approaches that might be brought into the process of translating the poet. The text includes his engagement with multiple theories along with his “own theorizing” (1). Scott states that “an important task of this book is to discover an appropriate approach to the criticism of translations” (8). Much of the book is essentially concerned with the distance translators “take” from the ST and how they “fill the space” between themselves and the ST as “coauthors” (9). It is difficult to place Scott’s text on Holmes’ Map of Translation Studies. It is a crossbreed between pure translation studies, for it includes and engages theoretical approaches, and applied translation studies, as it also deals with translation criticism.

To Scott, the target language (TL) must not “mask” the target text (TT). Further, the translator should be aware that there is tension between the TL and the TT that is similar to the tension existing between the source text (ST) and the source language (SL). Hence, the ST is “its own linguistic being” and should not be assumed as “exemplifying” the SL, and, by the same token, so is the TT (2).  This contrasts with Benjamin’s stance on translation, for to Scott, the TT constructs its own linguistic being and does not stand as an example for its TL; to Benjamin, translation is a product of the SL and the TL coming together into a “universal language” experience (Hynd &Valk 92).  Furthermore, Scott maintains that translators “must be allowed to take possession of [their] own work, even if this involves textual intrusions” (2). Consequently, translations must be “treated more integrally, as whole texts” (ibid).

Scott bashes the linguistic approach to translation, for although linguistics has made “undoubted contribution” (particularly in stylistics) it is “less reliable” when translating poetry (3). Translation reflects how a translator “possesses his own language” and not how much of it he knows (2). Subsequently, he faults the two assumptions that the linguistic-approach commentators often make: “some individuals have a richer grasp of their own language than others (poets should translate poetry) and this gives them greater rights to freedoms; or . . .  everyone has the same access, . . ., and there are dictionaries and thesauruses.”  To him, this is “the heresy of a linguistics-based approach” (ibid).  He further explicates that translation “asks not ‘What does this ST mean?’ but rather ‘What does the ST mean to you in your retextualization of it?’ (3). This makes translators coauthors.

Scott agrees with Benjamin’s idea of “evolution of meaning” (Zohn 73): texts are retranslated over time because individuals want to say things differently and they have different ways of projecting themselves into the text (3).  Also, Scott seems to agree with Steiner’s concept of “faithful reading” (Steiner 160): the translation of the verse is based on reading it.  This is where the communication takes place “more between the reader and himself than between a poet and a reader” (3).

Regarding translatability, Scott quotes the “so-called” neo-Humboldtians: “each language creates a complete image of reality, which is self-sufficient” (4). Subsequently, translation becomes impossible, “for no two people are ever quite talking about the same thing, even when they are talking about the same thing in two different languages” (ibid).  However, Scott believes that the commonality among languages is promoted by their interaction. To him, languages exist “in a dialectical relationship with each other; the more translation that is done, the more translatable languages become” (5). This stance contrasts with Benjamin’s, for the latter believes that all languages share similar or “fragmentary” qualities that allow them to connect at a certain level (Zohn 78). Nonetheless, Scott’s stance comes in line with Schleiermacher’s: “much of our language . . . was developed, or restored from oblivion, only through translation” (Schleiermacher 62). Nevertheless, both Scott (5) and Benjamin (Hynd & Valk 76) seem to agree that translation should pay little attention, if at all, to communication.

Scott advocates for the visibility of the translator. He derides Leakey’s and Lowell’s ideas of “English Baudelaire.” Scott believes that the translator needs to appear in the translation as a “writer . . ., a reader . . . (as opposed to an interpretive critic)” (7). Scott is troubled by Leakey’s introduction, for “it does the visibility of the translator no favors…does nothing to develop the relationship between the translator and his/her reader” (ibid). Scott’s stance concurs with Schleiermacher’s idea that the ST is still a medium through which the author is communicating thoughts that had existed in his mind before he produced the text (Schleiermacher 49). This affords translators greater freedoms as they reproduce STs. Scott’s take also agrees with Dryden’s notion that neither words nor lines were “confin’d to the measure of their Original” (Dryden 41).

Scott’s chapter on foreignization “moves in the other direction” from other chapters of his book in which the “translator moves away from the ST” (11). According to Scott, “each new translating situation” requires different adjustments and “reconfiguration of strategies” (ibid). Foreignization is a necessary strategy that helps translators define the type of readership they are seeking, emphasize the pedagogic role of translation and test the parameters of tolerance in TL (9,10). Scott advocates for creating a type of “translationese which is prepared to use a whole range of diacritical and graphic signs, and a range of language structures, which the target language can only just bear” (16). This resonates with Schleiermacher’s approach that in order for a translator to preserve as much as possible of the genius of the original work, he will have to “bend” and stretch his TL as far as possible (Schleiermacher 62). To Scott, foreignization seeks to minimize “linguistic disparity,” while urging the “easily distracted reader to strain to hear the voice of the original” (14). The hallmark of foreignization is when the ST informs the TL and eventually the TT (18). Ultimately, STs should be viewed as translations of TTs (22).

At times, Scott comes off as a postmodernist, deconstructionist theorist who devalues commitments to “aesthetic prejudices of organic wholeness, textual integrity [and] systemic completeness” (22).  His own introduction shows how he has gone through several paradigm shifts as he treaded the path toward progressiveness.  For instance, he “became increasingly persuaded of the benefits of free verse as a translational medium…although [he] does see the functional importance of translations in strict forms” (9). To me, his approach drives its equilibrium from seeing translators as coauthors.

Works Cited

Benjamin, Walter. “The Translator’s Task.” DELOS: A Journal on & of Translation, edited by D. S. Crane-Ross, National Translation Center, Austin, Texas, 1968, pp. 76-96.

Dryden, John. “From the Preface to Ovid’s Epistles.” The Translation Studies Reader, edited by Lawrence Venuti, Routledge, 2012, pp. 38-42.

Schleiermacher, Friedrich. “On the Different Methods of Translating.” The Translation Studies     Reader, edited by Lawrence Venuti, Routledge, 2012, pp. 43-63.

Scott, Clive. Translating Baudelaire. Exeter University, Exeter, 2000, pp. 1-28.

Steiner, George. “The Hermeneutic Motion.” The Translation Studies Reader, edited by         Lawrence Venuti, Routledge, 2012, pp. 156-161.

The Arabian Nights: Translation Criticism

Not only is The One Thousand and One Arabian Nights a peerless Arabic literary jewel, but it is also a world literature masterpiece. Both the book’s author and the exact time period in which it was written are unknown. Despite many claims that the book was translated from Persian into Arabic during the second Abbasid era, Hatoom, in his introduction to the 1999 edition of the book, makes a compelling argument that the author of the book was an Egyptian scholar who lived during the Fatimid Caliphate (3,4).  Subsequently, the Arabic text at hand is source text (ST). The book is a collection of 139 folklore stories written in formal Arabic. The Arabian Nights seeks to educate the public through the entertainment of storytelling. Overall, the author distrusted the female gender. Most of The Arabian Nights’ stories portray women as the cause for every evil that has befallen man “whether he was a king or a subject” (ibid).

This paper provides a brief critique of three English translation excerpts of one of The Arabian Nights’ stories: “The Fisherman and the Demon.”  In the story, the fisherman casts the net and hauls it four times. The first time, he hauls a dead ass; the second time, a large jar filled with sand and mud; the third time, broken bottles, stones and bones; and the fourth time, a lead-sealed cucumber-shaped brass flagon. Nonetheless, each of the three excerpts stops at a different point (haul) in the story.  To provide a balanced comparison, this critique goes through the second haul only.

In his 1885 rendition, Richard Burton translated the story under the title of “The Fisherman and the Jinni.” According to the Arabic copies I have, Burton’s rendition stays close to the ST in an unsurprisingly outmoded language for the current English readership. Nonetheless, his translation’s register must have suited the taste of the late nineteenth century’s readership, and, at the same time, complimented the ST’s language style. To a great extent, Burton’s translation respects the ST’s sentence structure, content and sequence.  However, it does not come entirely free from additions and flourishes.  For instance, “tucking up his shirt and plunging into the water” (47) does not exist in the ST in the passage that describes the first cast’s preparation. Similarly, “had torn the meshes” (ibid) does not exist in the entire ST. Actually, the ST is totally silent about tearing and mending the meshes.

Payne’s 1901 translation (“The Fisherman and the Genie”) is naturally more faithful to the ST’s prose than it is to its poetry; it omits and adds verses.  Further, Payne’s rendition includes the same additions that Burton’s translation includes. Additionally, despite the fact that Payne’s translation appeared only 16 years after Burton’s, the language of Payne’s translation is contemporary and crisp. Not only did Payne replace “thou” with “you” and “hath” with “has,” but he also used modern, shorter expressions (e.g., “poor fisherman” (30) instead of “a Fisherman . . . and withal was of poor condition” (47)). All in all, both Payne’s and Burton’s translations seem to dedicate themselves to “representing” the ST and not “explaining” it in English (Alter xix) and letting it speak for itself.

Compared to the two translations above, Husain’s 1990 translation (“The Fisherman and the Demon”) veers off the ST substantially. Still, it includes all the added details the two translations include. Husain’s translation seems to have taken the freest hand in rendering the story in English. In short, neither words nor lines were “confin’d to the measure of their Original” (Dryden 41).  Subsequently, his translation not only omits and adds words, but it also plays with the details of the story in an attempt to accentuate neediness and struggle.  For instance, the ST mentions that the fisherman had three children and not three daughters as the target text (TT) states (30).  Further, the ST states that the fisherman went to the sea—whose location is not identified— fishing at noon and not to “the outskirts of the city,” where the TT locates the sea, after the early morning prayer (ibid).

Husain’s rendition seems to put more premium on considering the thoughts of the ST’s author than his exact words. After all, the ST is still a medium through which the author is communicating thoughts that had existed in his mind before he produced the text (Schleiermacher 49).  For instance, the main character, the fisherman, is old and has a hard lot in life.  Intensifying this notion, Husain makes him a father of three daughters and not three children as the ST mentions. This subtle choice deepens the fisherman’s neediness, for daughters, at all stages, are considered an economic burden, with honor-shaming susceptibility, in the Arab culture.

Like every other story in The Arabian Nights, the narrative of “The Fisherman and the Demon” is interwoven with poetry. However, although the three translations include a translation of six verses of poetry expressing the fisherman’s lamentation after he hauled in a dead ass for the first catch, the ST includes only one verse instead.  Further, unlike the ST copies I have and Husain’s rendition, both Burton’s and Payne’s renditions include a translation of two verses before the fisherman takes out the dead ass and cleans the meshes in preparation for casting them a second time. Interestingly, the three translations switch out the third verse of the four verses following the second haul in the ST with the second verse in the TT.  Even more interestingly, the three translations employ the star metaphor in translating the last verse of the four verses, whereas neither the metaphor nor the calling for it exists in the ST.  Far more interestingly, both Husain’s and Burton’s translations evoke the “Pleiads” metaphor.

Should it be that “[no] man is capable of Translating Poetry” (Dryden 40), one would expect a far greater disparity among the three translations at hand in translating these four verses. Nonetheless, the three translations seem to have a lot more in common than they have in difference, not only in rendering said verses but also in the whole scheme of how poetry is intertwined with prose—not to mention their inclusions of details that the ST does not list.  Evidently, the three translations seem to agree more with one another on the number of verses, their location in the narrative and their overall translation than they agree with the ST copies I have or other ones I have reviewed. Based on the textual evidence above, it is plausible to speculate that both Payne’s and Husain’s translations may have recycled portions of Burton’s.

Works Cited

Alter, Robert. The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary. NY, London, Norton and Company, 2004, pp. ix-xIviii.

Burton, Richard F. The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night: A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights Entertainment. NY, The Heritage Press, 1934, pp. 47-49.

Dryden, John. “From the Preface to Ovid’s Epistles.” The Translation Studies Reader, Edited by Lawrence Venuti, Routledge, 2012, pp. 38-42.

Hatoom, Afeef, editor. Alf Laila wa Laila. Beirut, Lebanon, Dar Sader Publishers, 1999, pp. 18-   19.

Hadjawy, Husain. “The Fisherman and the Demon.” The Arabian Nights, translation, edited by  Mahdi Muhsin, NY, Norton 1990, pp. 30-31.

Payne, John. The Book of the One Thousand Nights and One Night. Edited by Bassora, London, 1901, pp. 30-31.

Schleiermacher, Friedrich. “On the Different Methods of Translating.” The Translation Studies  Reader, edited by Lawrence Venuti, Routledge, 2012, pp. 43-63.

On the Different Methods of Translating by Friedrich Schleiermacher:A Profile of Theorist and Theory

Friedrich Schleiermacher (21 November 1768 –12 February 1834) was a German theologian, philosopher and Bible scholar. He significantly contributed to the field of hermeneutics. His essay “On the Different Methods of Translating” was first published as a lecture, delivered on the 24th of June, 1813, at a meeting of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin (Bible Researcher 2016).  This profile is based on Susan Bernofsky’s English translation of Schleiermacher’s essay that was published in The Translation Studies Reader.

Schleiermacher uses the word “interpret” to convey the mechanical transfer of information from a source language (SL) to a target language (TL). On one hand, he thinks that interpretation is an adequate process of content transfer as is the case in “interpreting” business publications and transactions.  On the other hand, he deems interpretation a deficient process when translating art, science and letters. According to him, “artistic and scientific works are to be transplanted from one language into another” (45).

Further, Schleiermacher posits that translation is about bringing the writer and the reader together for the latter to enjoy what the former produced. To achieve that, the translator needs to either bring the reader to the writer (“foreignization” in today’s terminology) or the writer to the reader (“domestication” in today’s terminology). Evidently, Schleiermacher prefers the first approach to the second as a means of approximating two persons. Also, he believes that the text is a medium through which the author is communicating thoughts that had existed in his mind before he produced the text (49). Additionally, he maintains that mixing the two approaches will not bring the desired results. It is a bad choice that a master translator must shun (ibid).

Indeed, translation always loses. This happens both in science and in art.  According to Schleiermacher, loss occurs as a result of the translator’s decision or inclination.  At times, the translator may sacrifice the form for the content or the latter for the former. This could happen as a result of which of the two (form or content) the translator deems more important either to the reader or to himself (52-53). Further, to keep the authenticity of the original work, the translator needs to gravitate towards fidelity. This approach especially flourishes in translating classics, particularly in cultures that appreciate and favor the preservation of the foreignness of said works (54).

Translation informs and expands the language of the target text. Subsequently, the target text’s language must allow for and tolerate some of the impositions that the source text’s language may inflict on it.  In the end, translation has always proven not only formative of the target text’s language but also restorative. According to Schleiermacher, “we must not fail to realize that much of our language that is beautiful and strong was developed, or restored from oblivion, only through translation” (62). Therefore, in order for a translator to preserve as much as possible of the genius of the original work, he will have to “bend” and stretch his TL as far as possible not only to comprehend the source text’s content but also to realize its thought components (ibid).

A translator’s talent at mastering a second language will vary.  In some cases, a translator may develop a mastery on a nonnative language that is similar to his mastery on his native tongue. This seems achievable only when a translator’s immersion in a nonnative language reaches the level of a full cultural assimilation and mental processing in said language[1] (57-58).  In addition, a translator needs to be well-versed in the topic he translates. Too, he must possess a robust knowledge of the author—both his style and thought process—and a full assimilation of the environment in which the author lived and produced his work. In short, the knowledge and talent of the translator should come close to, if not altogether match, that of the original author. Only then will the translator be able to “transplant” the source text successfully into the target language’s culture (ibid).

Plainly, Schleiermacher advocates for foreignization (i.e., the target text should sound to the reader more like a foreign composition in a native tongue). This seems to be the approach that Gregory Rabassa adopted while he translated Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Similarly, Susan Bernofsky followed the same scheme while she translated Schleiermacher’s essay. They both seem to have followed very closely the ST’s syntax.

Although Rabassa’s approach succeeded in endearing the Latin American literature to the English readership (Huang 2016), Bernofsky’s attempt to preserve Schleiermacher’s style added to the inaccessibility of the text. Although I agree that translation should preserve the ST’s artistic features, I firmly believe that translation must perform its primary task first (i.e., making the text accessible).  Many literary, scientific and philosophical texts became better accessible to their native readership through English translations.


[1] Almost fourteen decades later, Noam Chomsky developed a theory in linguistics (Universal Grammar) that falls in line with Schleiermacher’s linguistic approach. Primarily, both scholars perceive language as a fundamental tool of mental processing and not just a mere means of communication.

Works Cited

Huang, Miguel. “Friedrich Schleiermacher – On the Different Methods of Translating.”  26 January 2016. Web. /. 15 September 2018.

“On the Different Methods of Translating.” Bible Research. 20 February 2016 Web. /. 15 September 2018.

Schleiermacher, Friedrich. “On the Different Methods of Translating.” The Translation Studies Reader. Third edition. USA: Routledge, 2012. Print.



The Importance of Comparative Education in Informing LSP’s Linguistic Decisions

Comparative education proves most valuable in informing the decisions of a language professional in the educational setting. This paper elucidates this fact by drawing both an overview of education systems in the US and those in the Middle East, and on theories of making meaning within Translation Studies. The paper includes specific real-life examples that illustrate how a professional translator or interpreter must have a deep understanding of the systems in both the source and the target languages to be able to produce comprehensively accurate transfer of meaning from one language to another.

This paper refers frequently to the Egyptian Educational System (EES) as a representative of the educational systems in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).  Not only is EES the oldest and among the most comprehensive and well-developed systems in the region, but it also served as a prototype for many states in the region as they developed their educational systems over the time. Further, since this article targets the US readership, it primarily focuses on the Egyptian Educational System. Subsequently, unless a direct, bilateral comparison between the US Educational System and the Egyptian Educational System is needed to expose a difference, the paper invariably focuses on the latter.

Like most of the educational systems in MENA, EES consists of four main stages: elementary (grades: one through six), middle (grades: seven through nine), high (grades: 10 through 12) and tertiary (aside from military academies and medical and engineering schools, universities in MENA confer their first college degrees in four years). “Education in Egypt is compulsory from [first] grade [through] [ninth] grade” (Clark 2013).

The general responsibility for education in Egypt is shared among the Ministry of Education (elementary, middle and high), the Ministry of Higher Education (post-secondary education), and the Ministry of Al-Azhar Affairs (Al-Azhar schools, institutes and university) (Education System in the Middle East 2013).  In terms of public and private education, both varieties exist both in Egypt and in the rest of MENA states (Al-Azhar schools are government-sponsored schools). All public and government-sponsored schools (with the exception of some experimental schools) use Arabic as the language of instruction and follow the national curriculum that the Ministry of Education sets.

In pre-university education, private schools either follow the national curriculum or an international curriculum (e.g., IB and IGSCE) or other countries’ curricula (e.g., American, French and German). On one hand, the private schools that follow the national curriculum use either Arabic, English, French or German as the language of instruction. On the other hand, the private international schools use English as the language of instruction, whereas the other private schools, which follow a curriculum of a certain foreign country, use their respective countries’ languages as media of instruction.  The greatest majority of private schools offer college-bound curricula (Education System in the Middle East 2013).

Basic education is mandatory and comprises first through ninth grades (Akkari 2004). “Students are awarded a Basic Education Certificate or [the] Al-Azhar Basic Education Certificate after successful completion of nine years of schooling” (Clark 2013). Students with a Basic Education Certificate or Al-Azhar Basic Education Certificate are eligible for admission to general secondary school, vocational secondary school or Al-Azhar secondary school (ibid). Both general secondary education and Al-Azhar secondary education are college-bound education. The main difference between the two is that Al-Azhar curriculum contains a heavy dosage of Islamic sciences.  However, in both general education and Al-Azhar curricula, the curriculum bifurcates into two main tracks: the scientific track, which prepares its students to pursue scientific disciplines in tertiary education (e.g., engineering, medical, agricultural or pharmaceutical) and the literary section, which prepares its students to pursue humanities disciplines during their tertiary education (e.g., literature, languages, history and social sciences).

General secondary school education students must pass the General Education National Exam (Atthanawyya Al- ‘Aamma) to become eligible to apply to university. Similarly, Al-Azhar secondary school students must pass the Al-Azhar Secondary Education Exam (Atthanawyya Al-Azhariyya) to become eligible to apply to Al-Azhar University. Upon passing the General Education National Exam, the general secondary school education students are awarded the General Secondary Education Certificate. Likewise, Al-Azhar Secondary Education students are awarded Al-Azhar Secondary Education Certificate upon passing the Al-Azhar Secondary Education Exam.

Vocational secondary schools offer trade curricula in different fields of industry, agriculture, mail, and business.  The duration of study at the vocational secondary schools is either three or five years. At the end of their course of study, the vocational secondary school students are awarded the Technical Secondary Education Diploma. Students who have successfully completed the five-year track at a grade of 80 percent or higher become eligible to apply to college to further pursue the disciplines they studied during their high school vocational preparation (Clark 2013).  Overall, the MENA educational system, particularly the pre-college public school system, stands to improve in many aspects. Its curriculum needs to target the development of higher-order thinking among students, instead of catering to rote memorization. Students’ performance needs to be assessed by standardized testing that not only shows gaps of achievements but also prescribes remedies for their closure. “And teachers will need to be held accountable for their performance in results-oriented evaluations, rather than through strict adherence to a curriculum” (Education Encyclopedia 2015).

Universities in MENA are either public or private. The language of instruction in public universities is Arabic. Nonetheless, programs in medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and engineering are often offered in English. Some private universities teach in English and French. All public universities and higher institutes must be approved and recognized by the Ministry of Higher Education. The Supreme Council for Universities manages admissions policies and quotas, while also having the responsibility of approving private institutions and their programs of study (Clark 2013).

Normally, universities in Egypt and in the rest of the MENA region grant their bachelor degree (bakkalorius aka licence) after eight semesters of full-time study (12-150 credits), 10 semesters, in the event of obtaining a degree in engineering, pharmacy, architecture, veterinary medicine or dentistry (180-210 credits) or 12 semesters as in medical schools (210-240 credits).  Graduates of medical, veterinary and pharmacy schools are awarded Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, and Doctor of Pharmacy titles upon obtaining their bachelor degrees (Clark 2013).

Graduate diplomas (diplom ad-dirasaat al-’oliya) are usually one-year programs, which must be in a specialization related to previous study at the undergraduate level. Some graduate diploma programs are two years. Typically, the graduate diploma program consists of an advanced coursework without or with marginal research component.

The master’s degree (magistir) typically requires two to three years of full-time study (30-42 credits) with a mix of coursework and research (thesis). As for the doctoral degree (doktora), it normally requires four years of research-based study (100-120) credits and the production and defense of a thesis before external examiners (ibid).

MENA higher learning institutes, colleges and universities do not have a universal grading system or scale.  Even Egyptian universities, although they may agree on the stratification of the degrees of passing (grades): excellent, very good, good and pass, not all of them assign the same percentage value to each of these degrees (grades).  For instance, at the University of Alexandria (where I completed my undergraduate studies) excellence in humanities reflects the percentage range of 90 through 100, whereas it reflects the percentage range of 85 through 100 in the College of Engineering at the same university. Further, although the standard minimal passing percentage is 50 in most colleges in the MENA, some colleges lower the percentage to 40 in certain undergraduate disciplines, and some even raise it to 75 in certain graduate programs.  This type of knowledge proves essential to language service providers (LSPs) as they engage in translating or interpreting educational documents coming out of this part of the world.

Not only do LSPs working in translation and interpretation for Education settings need to be well-versed in comparative education (at least in terms of environments, systems and trends), but they also need to serve as cultural experts. After all, “translation is a form of rewriting” (Marinetti 2011).  Although the cultural approaches in translation generally advocate for unfettering the translators’ hands to exact a greater “manipulation” while translating a literary text in an attempt to transfer its cultural content to the target text’s culture or to create an impact on said culture, some of this manipulation may be needed while translating educational texts.  “Translation is rewriting and rewriting is manipulation” (ibid).

Since the source text is a product of its source culture and the target text should prove adequate to its target culture, the two texts may depart from each other substantially (Vermeer 1983).  Nonetheless, the purpose of translation must inform the degree of manipulation (departure).  Admittedly, translation is different from mere transcoding.  The former is “prospectively oriented towards the target culture” unlike the latter, which is “a procedure that is retrospectively oriented towards the source culture” (ibid).  Subsequently, translation is re-creation and not cloning.  This also sets the tone and the bar of how LSPs should be perceived by their clients and also what they should expect from themselves: they are “experts to whom one must listen” (ibid).

Nevertheless, in his seminal work, “Skopos Theory,” Vermeer maintains that “every text has a given goal, function or intention, and also an assumed set of addresses” (ibid).  A deeper understanding of the statement above leads the reader to believe that translation is also a bilingual process of “mediated communication” (Reiss 2017).  A process that runs on the basis of securing functional equivalents as conveyances of meaning between SL and TL.  Finding functional equivalents inherently denotes changes. Some of those changes could be intentional and some could be unintentional.  Unintentional changes “may arise from different language structures as well as from differences in translating competence” (ibid).

As for intentional changes, they are informed by the intended function of a given text.  In other words, LSPs need to decide whether the goal of translating a particular text is “(a) the communication of content, (b) the communication of artistically organized content or (c) the communication of content with a persuasive character” (ibid).  Subsequently, this should inform LSP rendition approaches.  Undeniably, “it is useful to situate the TT on a scale between extreme SL bias and extreme TL bias” (Dickins 2002).  As a result, LSPs will be better able to provide a goal-oriented rendition. Not only will they be able to navigate the path between fidelity and transparency, but they will also have the choice to swerve toward either of the two extremes should the goal of the rendition so require.  In the light of the above, the term “balanced translation” proves vague, if not altogether fallacious. Simply put, a good translation is a goal-oriented translation.

According to Reiss, both text type and text variety play a major role in the translation process. On one hand, text type determines the general method of translating: informative, expressive or operative. On the other hand, the text variety demands consideration for language and text structure conventions (2017).  Nevertheless, LSPs still can create a good blend of the methods above.  However, this blend must be informed by the goal of the translation first and then by the salient characteristics of the given text. Yet, the goal of the translation must always override any other consideration.  For instance, should artistic form compete with content in an informative text, the latter must be preserved.

Comparative education and theories of meaning coincide in tangible ways when translators and interpreters do their jobs.  As a proficiently bilingual school principal, I frequently find myself drawing equally on my knowledge of other non-US educational systems, especially the MENA educational systems, as well as my LSP repertoire, particularly the theories of meaning.  This frequently happens when students who have completed parts of their education in MENA apply for admission into Salam School. The school’s guidance department presents the report cards and transcripts of the student applicants to me.  Usually, these documents are written in Arabic. However, the linguistic barrier is never the only hurdle to clear.

As an educational expert, I initially evaluate the student’s transcript according to my knowledge of the respective course’s weight (i.e., length, depth and breadth of the course and how often the class of the course is in session weekly and per semester). I then move to trace the course sequence and recurrence (e.g., national public schools and private national curriculum schools in the Middle East teach physics, chemistry and biology every year during the three high school years, unlike the American high schools that teach sciences in the following sequence: biology (freshman year), chemistry (sophomore year) and physics (junior or senior year). Finally, I evaluate the grade the student applicant obtained at the end of the course according to how the percentage ranges equate to latter grades in the MENA and according to whether the cumulative assessment at the end of the course was standardized, state, governorate or teacher-set. Also, the locality, demographic and the status and type of accreditation of the school from which the student applicant is transferring play an essential role in informing my assessment.

My role as a language professional ensues, as I move to reproduce the document in English. Customarily, I set an action plan: goal, intervention (method) and language and text structure considerations.  To me, translating and/or interpreting educational credential comes close to transferring a content of a legal document.  Subsequently, I am always mindful and most inclined to err on fidelity’s side whenever a TT match appears slippery or dubious. Hence, I set the goal as informative content transfer with special consideration to using idiomatic expressions and localized terminology.  More often than not, the document will include footnotes, unless otherwise it is sent to an external credential evaluation agency.  Usually, this occurs during the process of evaluating teachers’ foreign credentials as explained later.

Since translation of educational documents and transcripts serves as a form of documentation, the language professional’s role is multifaceted.  She is an educational expert whose evaluation of the candidate’s credentials is critical to candidate’s placement.  Also, she is a cultural agent.  Her rendition of the text should preserve what the ST means in its source culture, while making sense to the TT culture.  For instance, I have issued the following email to the school’s guidance director after I had evaluated a sophomore applicant’s transcript.  The applicant has completed her tenth grade in an Egyptian experimental public school where English was the language of instruction.  Although the transcript was in English, it needed to be re-credited as prescribed below.

Dear Mr. (…)

This is to inform you that the student candidate whose transcript is attached to this email is admissible into eleventh grade.  However, she will need to make up for the following course deficiencies:

  • A semester in Biology (the “Biology” course she completed during 9th grade was retranslated and re-credited as a “General Science: Basic Scientific Concepts.” Although the candidate covered some concepts in biology, the content she covered comes closer to what the eighth grade students cover during the fourth quarter at Salam School.
  • Two semesters in US History (the “History” course encoded on her transcript was retranslated as “Contemporary National Movements in the Middle East.” Please credit it as an elective course.


Wanis H. Shalaby

Head Principal

PS: The candidate should be placed in the upper math track.  She has completed pre-calculus. “Mathematics 3” was retranslated and re-credited as “pre-calculus.”

The example above shows how my knowledge of the intricacies of the Egyptian Educational System intertwined with my skill set as a language professional in producing a goal-oriented translation as well as in making accurate educational decisions on the student’s placement.

Also, below is another example that shows how my knowledge of tertiary education in North Africa (Morocco) helped a colleague of mine apply for admission into a teacher preparation program at a local private university.  The respective colleague needed to submit her credentials to the Educational Credential Evaluators agency (ECE).  Both her diploma and transcript were originally issued in Arabic and in French.  They needed to be translated into English before they were submitted to ECE.  Since ECE, as one of only four agencies whose credentials evaluations are accepted by colleges in the Midwest, has full-fledged, comprehensive evaluative criteria, I only needed to translate the documents above in a manner that leaned towards fidelity. The reason I decided to produce a fidelity goal-oriented translation was because I knew that the evaluators at the CEC may initially attempt to match the TT to the ST (they ask that the original documents be attached to the translation).  Subsequently, my translation needed to withstand that level of scrutiny.

 Bachelor of Arts

According to His Majesty’s Decree number 1.75.102 issued on February 25, 1975 , as a Statute regulating universities’ affairs, and based on the ministerial decision number 2.75.663 issued on October 17, 1975 concerning university institutions and the list of degrees they confer, and  based on the ministerial decision number 2.82.472 issued on January 31, 1983, concerning the reorganization of the courses of study and examinations that are required to obtain a BACHELOR OF ARTS DEGREE, and based on the minutes of the examination committee occurring on June 30, 2000, the Dean of the College of Arts and Human Sciences in City of Tetuan hereby certifies that the Student (…) (National No: […]) who was born on (…) in the City of Tangier (ID No: […]) has successfully completed a BACHELOR OF ARTS DEGREE in ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE in May, 2000 with general grade (PASS).

Issued in the City of Tetuan on June 30, 2000. Only one copy of this diploma is issued to student. In case of need, the university may issue another copy upon graduate’s request.

As shown in the example above, the language sounds legalistic and, to a greater extent, aims to replicate the ST. However, careful consideration was given to the localization of the terminology the document included. For instance, I used “bachelor” instead of “license.”  I also replaced “controlling” by “regulating” in the segment of “Statute regulating universities’ affairs.” Below is another and final example of how I translated her transcript.  I am only providing the first page of the transcript’s translation.

UNIVERSITY ABDELMALEK ESSAADI                                                      COLLEGE OF LETTERS AND HUMAN                                                    SCIENCES                                                                                                            TETUAN School Year 1996/1997 1997/1998
The Dean of the College of Arts and Human Sciences in City of Tetuan certifies that the student (…), born on August, (…), 19(…) in the City of Tangier and whose ID number is (…) has earned the following scores during her undergraduate first and second years in English Language and Literature.
First Year Scores
WRITTEN 1- Grammar 1&2 2- Composition 3- Comprehension 11/20 13/20 08/20
SPOKEN 1- Guided Reading 2- Spoken English: P.C. Reading 3- Arabic & Second Language 12/20 07/10 07/10
Final Score 58/100 Pass


Second year    Scores
WRITTEN 1- Grammar, Comprehension & Precis 2- Composition & British Civilization 3-  Introduction to Literature 08/20 12/20 08/20
SPOKEN 1- British & American Civilization: Introduction to Language 2- Islamic Civilization 3- Arabic & Second Language 12/20 05/10 06/10
Final Score 51/100 Pass
[Dean] [Signature] Sidi Mohamed EL YAMLAHI PhD [University Seal]


As shown above, the text type caused me to adopt a higher level of fidelity as I rendered the content of the ST. Nonetheless, the text variety informed my consideration for language and text structure.  I used US- localized language, tabulated the content of the transcript and used segmented phraseology within the tables.

This paper demonstrates that language-services providers (LSPs) must have more than linguistic competence. A comprehensive understanding of educational systems in both source and target countries proves crucial to making accurate transfer of meaning. Also, it must be observed that meaning is made with more than words.  What an LSP leaves out of ST during the translation process contributes to the TT’s meaning as much as what she includes or adds.  Finally, an LSP is not only a linguist but also a cultural consultant.  To this effect, she must engage in continuous follow-up on the educational developments in her ST region.

Works Cited

Abdeljalil, Akkari. “Education in the Middle East and North Africa: The Current Situation and Future Challenges.” International Education Journal Vol. 5 (2) (2004). Web. 16 June 2018.

Clark, Nick. “Education in Egypt.” World Education News & Reviews. 4 November 2013. Web.  16 June 2018.

Dickins, James. Thinking Arabic Translation: A Course in Translation Method: Arabic to English. USA: Routledge, 2002. Print.

“Education System in The Middle East.” All Answers Ltd. November 2013. Web.  16 June 2018.

Marinetti, Cristina.  “Cultural Approaches.” Handbook of Translation Studies. Vol 2. PP.26-30. USA: Johan Benjamins Publishing Company, 2011. Print.

“Middle East and North Africa – Regional Background, Educational Perspective, Future Challenges and Direction and Conclusion.” Education Encyclopedia. October2015. Web. 16 June 2018.

Reiss, Katharina. “Kind and Individuality of Text: Decision Making in Translation.” Poetics Today. Vol. 2 (4) (1981): pp. 121-131. Duke University Press. Web. 10 October 2017.

Vermeer, Hans. “Skopos and Commission in Translational Action.” The Translation Studies Reader Vol. 2. Third edition. 1983. Print.

Now that you are here, go back!

Governments are increasingly becoming less welcoming towards potential immigrants, and are not only trying to restrict immigrants from entering, but are also attempting to deport many who have already entered the country. For a multiplicity of reasons, Europe, the United States, and even Canada, seem to have developed a similar attitude towards the issue of immigrants and refugees coming through their borders: they do not want them.

This attitude is usually promoted through flagrantly flawed allegations and inaccurate generalizations (e.g., “Illegal” immigrants are a burden; are a threat to the “cultural” landscape of “our country”; are potential terrorists; and so on). This post attempts to point out some immediate consequences of using the above bogeyman arguments as a basis to formulate social policies.

Should a social policy be a measure to solve a problem or address a need “that cannot be addressed by the system as it is” (Barley’s lecture), studying the problem objectively is the only way to provide adequate answers. Otherwise, a compounding problem is likely to occur. As a result, looking at the issue of immigration through an us-versus-them prism or framing its discourse by painting its components with the same brush must be avoided.

Recently, the hatred narrative has heavily informed the making of social policy, be it measures taken against immigrants (whether documented or undocumented) or turning a blind eye to oppressive regimes in return for keeping their people within the borders of their countries (e.g., all countries on the southern edge of the Mediterranean basin).  Suffice it to say that the DACA workers and students have landed the INS deportation list. In the middle of that, translators and interpreters are trying to make sense of nonsensical, let alone unethical, policies. Should the above not be indicative of chaos rather than a reflection of a well thought-out policy, I definitely do not know what is.



Thoughts on Immigration and Translation

Generally speaking, the sense of being an immigrant fades away as time elapses.  Actually, it is replaced by the sense of full citizenship among the US-born generation.  And this is where the narrative takes a dichotomous turn.  On one hand, the sense of ownership to the country of birth surpasses that of the country of origin.  On the other hand, the inclination to write off the fresh off the boat (FOBs) becomes stronger. Subsequently, those who were immigrants in the past discriminate against today’s immigrants—basic group psychology!

As for how society views translation, this largely depends on the topic of the translation.  When translation occurs on a need basis, be it technical or commercial, it is usually viewed as use-and lose-service—very utilitarian!  It is even worse in literary translation.  Suffice it to say, the English speaking world is mainly interested in literature that is originally produced in English. It should not surprise you to know that only 3% of the total literary print in the English-speaking world is translation.

Additionally, and I hate to break it to you, although translators, among other language service providers, are gaining respect and recognition as established and needed professionals, they are still seen by many as second-class professionals.  Rarely their names are mentioned on the books they translated, and they are excluded from receiving royalties. As for how to change this, it is changing already.  Just be patient!


History…Pastry…Both Are Shapable

Can a discourse develop in absence of historical facts?  No brainer…it absolutely can.  Actually, you needn’t look very far to cite an example. Just listen to President Trump.  A discourse is more or less a narrative.  You can “rhetoricize” it, stuff it and craft it any way you want.  Nonetheless, taking history into account has always been part of discourse development.  Generally, “history” serves as the prime persuasive component of a reasoned discourse. And here lies the problem.

Unless an oxymoron, historical facts constitute a small, if not minuscule, portion of history.  The rest are happenings that could be interpreted in different ways.  Manipulating historical events is customary in creating discourses and counter discourses. Ultimately, the context, the political climate and the craftiness of incorporating “history” into a given discourse is what determines its success.

Yet, it is naïve to assume that history can dispel myth, for history could be a myth itself.  For instance, and against all odds, America has gone down in its history not only as “the land of the free” but also as “the world champion of democracy.” Try to reconcile that with America’s recent history with slavery and current racism and her being in bed with oil-producing dictatorships as well as apartheid Israel.

In the past, we learned that history is biased, for the victorious gets to write it. As “Globalization” shifts from interdependence to competition, everyone gets to write history. This introduces history to a new landscape, let alone changes its typography. History is no longer written after a fight has been concluded, but rather it is written by the contenders during the fight.  The contender with the craftiest narrative wins. In short, history is no longer an aftermath. It has become a strategy! To me, a translator is a text reproducer.  Her ability to reproduce an accurate text is predicated on her awareness of the given discourse, its interplay with history and where it falls from other discourses.

My two cents,



We are not all living on the same street

All the way from genetically modified cotton seeds to “how do you like my new t-shirt? I bought it on sale from TJMAX,” a whole world of production, shipping and consumerism exists.  As it is impossible to count all the endeavors that go into each one of the fields/steps above, it is not nearly as impossible to identify the systems through which these endeavors interconnect.  To me, these systems are basically economic (both macro and micro: e.g., marketing, enterprise revenue and balancing a checkbook after a customer makes an individual purchase at a store), industrial (e.g., seeding, cropping, building machines, and so on) and sociopolitical (where people fall into a full continuum that ranges from enslavement to employment).

As needs and hopes continue to inform the human behavior, human beings have always reacted to realities that extended far beyond their localities.  Nowadays, the difference is that these realities have become more immediate.  There is no denial that the world is becoming more interdependent, where the word “globalization” has reached a new horizon.  It is no longer reflective of or synonymous with world’s interdependency, but rather “[Globalization] has become an instrumental term put to work in shaping as well as representing the growth of global interdependency” (Sparke, p.5).

Although Globalization may correctly mean that the world has become a global village, it certainly does not mean that we are all living on the same street.  Some of us are in the slums toiling to slightly increase their below-average caloric intake, while some of us are dying out of surfeit.  This is one systemic difference that not only threatens the harmony of the textile production but also that of the entire globe.