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.

Regards,

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
ACADEMIC TRANSCRIPT
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. www.iej.cjb.net/. 16 June 2018.

Clark, Nick. “Education in Egypt.” World Education News & Reviews. 4 November 2013. Web. www.wenr.wes.org/.  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. www.ukessays.com/.  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. www.StateUniversity.com/. 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. www.jstor.org/. 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.

Best,

Wanis

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!

Wanis

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,

Wanis

 

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.

On Writing and Editing: A Self-assessment

As a linguist, I have always been intrigued by how languages work.  From a finite number of letters and sounds, an infinite amount of words, expressions, and sentences come to exist.  My fascination with languages embarked me on a never-ending journey of reading and writing.  Nevertheless, my language training and my multilingual background caused my approach to reading to be far more liberal than my approach to writing.  I am much less fastidious, if not entirely indiscriminate, regarding what I read than how I write.  Early on, I discovered that good writers aim to convey their message and not to merely express themselves.  Albeit message conveying and self-expressing are not mutually exclusive, the former beholds the reader—not the author—as the main beneficiary of the writing exercise.  This course affirmed this life-enduring principle.

Editing for Translation coursework tested my writing and editing repertoire.  During the course, I became aware of my strengths and shortcomings. My diligence, consistency, “writerly ear,” ability to analyze literature, familiarity with professional and academic writing, and working knowledge of other writing manuals came in handy.  Nonetheless, I needed to overcome multiple challenges.  “Good enough” has not been good enough for me during the first few weeks of the course. However, I now can see the amount of stress from which this “standard” relieves the editor. I also became aware that, as an editor, I work for the author with the best interest of the end user (the reader) in mind.  Subsequently, it became clear to me that my role is to enable the author to keep her voice and yet help her get her message across to the reader more compellingly.  This controlled my urges to rewrite for the author.

I faced other challenges as I worked on my editing assignments.  I overlook some minor details. A commendable editor cannot afford much of that.  I, too, tend to spend disproportionate amount of time and energy on researching minor issues, which could be otherwise addressed through “quick fixing.”   Nonetheless, the course helped me systematize my editing approach through developing an “editorial plan of action” (Kathryn Scholz).  Further, the course provided me with concrete understanding not only of how to put the text through different phases of editing and proofing but also of how to manage the whole project.  In other words, not only I became better able to trim the tree but I also know where it is in the forest.

To me, editing and writing is a non-arrival journey.  As a result, I do not expect a course, regardless of how rigorous it is, to make me or anyone for that matter a good editor overnight—practice will. However, this course enabled me to identify where and how I need to hone my editing skills.  I definitely need to become more familiar with Chicago Manual of Style (my new holy bible), fine-tune my stylistic editing approach, widen my constrictive (aka “prescriptive”) approach to grammar, tighten my time management scheme, and center my editing on acting as a fair broker between the author and the reader.  The journey has just started both for me and my students.

Arabic to English Translation: A Quick Review

I enjoyed translating just about all the texts to which we were assigned during the course.  Luckily, I had read all of them in the past and been strongly acquainted with their authors’ works.  The textbook author seems to have a preference for using excerpts written by Egyptian authors!   Nonetheless, I love literary translation, particularly translating fiction, the most.  I believe being a fiction nut has contributed a lot to such an inclination.

Having said that, I must mention that I am not a big fan of translating scientific texts.  I have consistently turned down every translation job that required me to translate over-specialized scientific texts.  In my opinion, those texts are better translated by bilingual professionals in their respective fields.  I do not mind editing the translations though.  This class helped me fine-tune my writing skills in both languages, especially in the area of cultural transfer.

Advanced Arabic to English Translation Seminar: A Misnomer

I truly appreciate the opportunity to weigh in on a couple of issues in this course.  Initially, I must say that it was a beneficial experience during which I was exposed to translating texts that I would not have chosen to translate or even read in the first place.  As I may have mentioned before, I am not a big fan of scientific texts. I continuously turned down lucrative offers to translate scientific texts, as I freelanced throughout my undergraduate years some thirty years ago! I did that despite my dire need of money at times.  I was content to translate legal and “humanities” texts although they did not bring in as much money!  I truly appreciate the push.

On a different note, I believe the course title does not necessarily correspond with its content. Advanced Arabic to English Translation made me anticipate dealing with texts that are advanced because of their philological or semantical complexity not merely because they are nonliterary.  In my opinion, translating excerpts from Albukhlaa or Al-Hayawan by a Jahiz proves advanced, for the translator will have to overcome substantial challenges (e.g., philological remoteness, cultural difference, lexical archaisms, etc).  I believe that this course should be named “Nonliterary Arabic to English Translation.” The course is definitely needed.

Refelction on Literary Translation Seminar

Though not an alien to literary translation, I still benefited immensely from the Seminar on Literary Translation class.  The learning activities the class included gave equal attention to both theory and practice.  Subsequently, I became better able to make translation decisions that were not only based on a developed taste but were also supported by academic research.  However, being the only student in the Arabic-to-English track, I was unable to benefit from the workshop component of this course.  Nonetheless, I sincerely appreciate that Professor Leone went out of her way to provide me with an alternative, so that I do not entirely miss out on receiving feedback on my translation drafts.  I have benefited greatly from her insightful feedback and expert opinion on my drafts.  In short, my situation luckily caused my translation drafts to become beneficiary of an expert review and not just a peer review.

The final revision activity was equally beneficial to me.  The feedback I received from Ms. Generali enabled me to polish and perfect my translation.  Although educated in English and having lived in the United States for the last seventeen years, English is not my native tongue.  The initial and final revision process provided me with what my translation needed most: sounding natural.

Among the many things I learned during this course was how translating poetry differed immensely from translating other literary forms.  I value this learning experience, for it enabled me to overcome my apprehension of translating poetry.  Such apprehension has always caused me to altogether shun translating poetry or even reading translated poems.

This course also helped me develop a more positive attitude toward translating into a hegemonic language such as English.  I have always struggled in reconciling between fidelity and transparency until I became aware that absolute fidelity is only an illusion.  This, to a great extent, suppressed a sizable amount of my grudge toward the fact that English always has the upper hand in deciding on how the translation into it should sound. Despite a few attempts here and there, the discourse on translating into English is shaped, if not altogether dominated, by the fact that the English rendition of a given text must not sound like a translation.  Arabic proves far more tolerant in this regard.

The Seminar on Literary Translation class came as an effective sequel to the skills I availed from Editing for Translation class.  The coursework in both classes contributed to my writing repertoire immeasurably.  The former helped me develop a better voice when I render a literary text into English, whereas, the latter sharpened my skills to write clearly and concisely. However, I need to admit that I have yet to travel the greater portion of the course of how to write more effectively.  Sometimes, my desire to express myself cathartically overrides my obligation to inform the reader of what I mean to say.  Most of the feedback I still receive from my instructors reflects that I need to make more improvements in this area.  There seems to be no finish line to the writing exercise.  No wonder, none arrives.

Final Remarks

Before I embarked on the journey of my interpretation and translation studies, I had set three goals to accomplish by its end: 1) fine-tune my interpretational skills, 2) make both my translation and interpretation accessible to a wide variety of audiences, including the minimally educated, and 3) build a solid foundation for professional interpreting through the incorporation of practice encounters in simultaneous and consecutive interpreting

I need to admit that although I am generally known to have a good command on both verbal and written expressions, I needed early on to transfer the same level of command, accompanied by a high-leveled accuracy, to my interpretational exercises. The difference between the two modes of speaking is readily known. While expressing my ideas, I am speaking my mind, whereas, when interpreting for another party, I am speaking theirs. Despite the fact that this goal has been a lifelong pursuit, I believe that during the course of my study I became more cognizant of my areas of improvement and far more diligent in working on them. Those areas include preserving the voice of the party for which I interpret, if that party existed. At times, I speak in Arabic while interpreting, to a parent or a colleague, a material that was written in English. At other times, I speak to interpret a school decision or a stance on certain issue. Only the first scenario requires me to preserve the voice of the existing party.

Majoring in Arabic has always enabled me to adjust the language register of my interpretation to fit the needs of the parties for which I am interpreting. Usually, I use Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) to achieve this goal. Nonetheless, MSA may be an effective medium of communication for adequately educated parties. Unfortunately, not all the parents at Salam School are educated enough to either understand or communicate in MSA. As a result, my linguistic preparation prepared me well for this task. I am able to communicate with my Arabic-speaking parents in most of their own dialects, provided that their dialects exclude the North-African variety. Otherwise, I use my Alexandrian and Cairene dialects (also known as Egyptian TV dialect) to communicate with them. The reason why I resort to the Egyptian TV dialect last is because one better connects with her interlocutor when one speaks their dialects. During my internship course, my ability to make my interpretation more accessible to all parties has grown exponentially. At present, I am even able to lace my Egyptian TV dialect with some north African colloquial lexicon.

As for the third goal, I must state that I have been able to transfer many of the concepts I learned in the Ethics and Procedure class, which I took last fall. Among the many notions we debated around and researched in the Ethics class was the role of the interpreter and where it falls from
accuracy and advocacy.

As repeatedly mentioned in the literature, interpreters have to act both professionally and ethically. However, the discussion still runs inconclusively about what constitutes acting professionally and ethically. Does asking interpreters to act like machines or conduits fulfil these requirements? I beg to differ, for this is likely to turn interpreters into an advanced Google Translate. After all, an interpreter is a human being. She is obliged to act both professionally and ethically like any other professional, be it a judge, a physician, or an engineer. The public does not ask any of these professionals to act like machines to be ethical. To me, whether interpreting is seen as a technical occupation, and whether it is occurring in a legal, healthcare, or in a community setting, I believe the interpreter should act as a professional and ethical human being whose human interaction must not compromise the ethics of her profession, but rather enriches them.

In my point of view, my role as a principal and interpreter is at times more like a sailor weathering a storm or navigating in the Biscay Bay. I need to use my discretion, experience, and training to make quick decisions regarding which role seems to fit a given situation. As a school principal, I know full well that there is not one cut and dried way to address a situation. The context is the ultimate dictator.

“Of course, unlike many of our interns, Wanis will begin the internship with years of professional experience behind him. It’s understood that he would perform his internship duties in the course of his work as principal” (Kate Scholz as quoted in her letter to Mr. Atta, my internship supervisor). Undoubtedly, my coursework experience has confirmed my career goals, which I set thirty-four years ago. Since I was a junior in high school, I have always wanted to be an educator. Subsequently, I have always been able to incorporate many of the skills I learned within the field of education or in any other field into my educational repertoire. Completing my Master of Arts in Language, Literature and Translation (MALLT) falls in line with my original scheme.