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This research will be an empirical, interdisciplinary project, building on scholarship in the fields of translation studies and linguistics. Literature in the aforementioned discussion that is related and will contribute to this research will be reviewed. The two main objectives of my research are to explore the extent of the impact of politics and censorship practices on translation processes in Saudi Arabia. The second objective is to explore the difficulties and issues facing Saudi translators due to political , cultural and linguistic contexts; and to examine the strategies these translators use in dealing with these difficulties and contexts.
The examples of this research will be collected from the translation professionals and students during the interviews. These examples include Arabic political texts translated into English and deal with cultural, linguistic and religious issues that may be perplexing when translated. The examples will display a spectrum of translational issues and problems, and manifest a variety of aspects of the Arabic language. This will allow the research to deal with and investigate various translation methods and strategies. Through these examples, I will explore the means, methods and strategies used by translators in dealing with political texts which have cultural difficulties and issues and that include or address culture-specific issues.
Perhaps one of the most challenging tasks of a translator is translating culture-specific concepts, more widely known as CSCs.
In Mona Baker's book, entitled "In Other Words", Culler (1976) stated the phrase "languages do not simply name existing categories but articulate their own". The context of this phrase as mentioned by Culler (1976) was the idea that translating languages would have been easy if it were a mere set of words or concepts which retain its idea when translated to a different language. However, such was not the case in translating languages. As mentioned by Culler (1976), each language uniquely articulates a specific meaning for a specific word that may far be different from another. In Culler's words, "it organizes the world differently" which means that language communicates a totally different meaning to each word which the world may perceive to be different or unusual. This can also mean that each language defines the world differently from depending on the cultural context from which the language was taken.
One of the most important translation issues for instance is the lack of word equivalence expressing the same meaning to a different language. Oftentimes, the case is that words do not have the same meaning or even an equivalent meaning when translated to a different language. In Mona Baker's book, Cruse (1986) mentioned four different types of meaning that can be derived from written and spoken words which proves that the meaning of every word or utterances may indeed vary depending on the context, expression and functions used by a particular person.
According to Baker (1992), different cultures interpret the meaning of the words differently. Interestingly, to further add to the complexity of translating languages, different groups of people from a particular culture also have various interpretations on the meaning of each word. This implies that each word's meaning differs from every culture and within that specific culture, the meaning of each word further varies. Hence, when a person is participating in a discourse, he or she must consider the appropriateness of each word he or she chooses to use depending on a particular situation.
Baker (1992) further adds that the translators must also be wary of that fact. Translators must greatly consider the appropriateness of the words he or she chooses in order to avoid misinterpretation, committing an offense or eliciting an improper reaction from his or her readers or listeners by misusing a particular word and not considering the cultural context out of which the people perceive or interpret the message.
Because of this very nature of languages, translators are expected to experience difficulty considering and choosing the appropriate words to use in a particular text. There is no single right formula in dealing with the problem or concern on "non-equivalence", that is, words lacking the same equivalent word which expresses the same meaning in a different language (Baker, 1992).
One of the most common problems encountered by translators with "non-equivalence" is the problem on culture-specific concepts or CSCs. The problem with CSCs is that certain words or concepts express an entirely different meaning which a specific culture entirely has no clue of for these words are "non-translatable". One example given by Baker (1992) was the word "Speaker" (referring to the House of Commons) which does not have an equivalent word or concept in other languages such as Arabic, Chinese or Russian. In fact, aside from the word "Speaker", many other political words popularly used in certain cultures do not have an equivalent concept in another culture. This becomes a problem therefore for translators of political texts as the lack of a specific term which must be appropriately used in a certain political context must be importantly addressed in order to avoid biases, unbiases and the lack of common understanding among different cultures.
Politics is definitely a topic that is largely rooted in the particular cultural context of a country. To translate a text across language barriers, one must first have a good understanding of what the text means in the source language (or SL) before constructing the message in the target language (or TL).
If language were something that can be passed back and forth across different media, then we would have no problem understanding messages in a variety of tongues. But because we all have various viewpoints, histories and cultures, our way of saying things and meaning them in one way or another is not preserved when it is translated in another language. The bigger the disparity between two languages, the harder it is to transfer messages from one to the other. The difference between two languages, as well as their between respective cultural backgrounds, makes translation challenging.
Thorough examination and investigation will be carried out to ensure the credibility of the results of analysis. Translation is not an isolated discipline and has never been one. It is indeed an interdisciplinary field. In her article When is a Translation Not a Translation, Susan Bassnett uses the metaphor "a chameleon quality" to describe translation, which is, in her opinion, "able to change its colour and shape, to translate itself into many different things" (Bassnett, p. 26). By the same token, Maria Tymoczko strongly recommends that "Existing studies by anthropologists, ethnographers, sociologists and linguistics â€¦ must be identified and put to use within translation studies" (Tymoczko, p. 16).
The political texts are translated using translation strategies in order to be understood by Western readers and to not mislead Western readers in their meaning. Also, in my opinion, these strategies are used intentionally by the translator for reasons such as cultural constraints, embarrassment, fear of authorities, censorship practices, and religious and political restrictions, or even because of the ideology of the Arabic translator in the Islamic-Arab society.
The main research questions for this study are:
To what extent do political contexts impact translation processes in Saudi Arabia?
What are the strategies used by translators to deal with these political contexts?
This research will also analyse a wide range of political texts that involve cultural issues such as the huge translation problem on "non-equivalence" or simply the lack of an equivalent word meaning from the source language (SL) to the target language (TL) which occurs mostly in political texts. Aside from this major problem on "non-equivalence" other sub-issues need to be dealt with in this research study such as the following: a.) the existence of cultural-specific concepts or CSCs b.) the availability of a "meaning" for a source-language word which is not yet lexicalized c.) the semantical complexity of a source language word d.) the differences in meaning distinctions between the source language and the target language e.) the target language's lack of superordinate words f.) the lack of specific term for the target language g.) the differences in perspectives (physical or interpersonal) h.) differences in expressive meaning and i.) the differences in form. To be more specific, this research will try to answer the following questions:
Does the translator face hindrances while translating Arabic political texts into English?
Do politics and censorship practices impact the ideology of the translator when translating political texts?
Does the translator play a major role in adapting views between Arab and Western societies through the translation of political text?
Which translation strategy, which minimises the cultural barriers to make the text more understandable to readers, is the best strategy and is used by many translators for the translation of political texts?
Which translation strategy supplies the details and information necessary for familiarising the TT readers with, and educating them about, the source culture, its people, literature and language?
Which translation strategy, when translating political text, helps maintain the emotive meaning and cultural value of the source text in the target text?
The research methodology that this study will employ is a qualitative type of research study. First, I. the researcher in this qualitative research study, will come up with the list of problems and research questions to be addressed by the proposed research study. Identifying the specific problems and research questions and listing them down one by one will help me address the research objectives accurately.
Second, in order to address the identified problem and research questions, I will make use of a qualitative research through the use of unstructured interviews and focused group discussion. The research sample that I will be using will be selected professional and student translators. I will be inviting 10 professional translators and 15 student translators who have had previous experience in translating political texts.
In this research study, I will be utilizing "political texts" as the research data which will be collected from the chosen research sample of professional and student translators in order to assess the data one by one. The professional translators will be asked to provide at least five Arabic political texts translated into English from their previous translation work experiences. With these "translated texts" at hand, I will be able to assess the strategies and methods that these professional translators normally use in order to translate political texts. Through these data, I will also have an idea of the translation difficulties or concerns they have encountered in the process of translating these texts.
Third, an in-depth analysis of the political texts will be conducted through the use of descriptive, comparative and evaluative analysis. All these data will be collated and will be analyzed deeply through a special kind of research assessment which involves comparing, evaluating, referencing and contrasting one text from another. It is through the process of research analysis will the researcher be able to accurately come up with a reliable list of findings and conclusion for this research study.
The figure below shows the blueprint or framework of the research design that will be employed by the researcher in this qualititative study:
Research Design Blueprint (Figure 1)
1.2 Qualitative Research
- Unstructured interviews
- Focus group
The Problem and research questions
Face to face
- Professionals (10)
- Students (15)
Examples ( political texts)
Collected data ( face to face)
Findings and Conclusion
Address the research questions
As mentioned earlier, the research data ( political texts ) will be collected from professionals and translation students. With regard to the political texts, I will ask the professionals to give me five examples (Five Arabic Political Texts) translated into English by the respondents themselves from their earlier translations. The political text segments I will choose from these collected examples deal with cultural, linguistic and religious issues that may be perplexing when translated. The main reason for collecting the examples because through these examples, I will explore the means, methods and strategies used by translators in dealing with political texts which have cultural difficulties and issues and that include or address culture-specific issues.
Reading the collected examples carefully, I will identify all parts that relate to the problems or cultural issues I will be studying. For example, I will note whether there have been literary, grammatical, factual or stylistic problems that can be appreciated in the TT once it is compared with the ST. These problems will be categorised under separate headings, and the number of their occurrence in the TT shall likewise be noted in order for the researcher to show a quantitative picture of the differences between the ST and the TT.
Then I will very carefully select a number of segments to use for this study. The illustrative examples I choose will serve the purposes of this study, present an array of various problems and issues, feature a wide scope of strategies and methods used by the translators and give a taste of the different stylistic and cultural features of the Arabic language, including social, political and cultural issues.
Returning to the goal of textual equivalence, it must be noted that the researcher is interested in breaking up the TT into discrete blocks only insofar as they serve to underscore the overall differences between the two texts, and not in picking the text apart to look for translation mistakes or inconsistencies. The most important thing to accomplish in this study is to determine how the meaning of an Arabic political text has changed when it is translated into English, compared to when it is read and written in Arabic.
It must be remembered that once the text is translated, the target audience will most likely no longer bother trying to understand the ST. Thus, whatever meaning or interpretation they get from the TT is the only meaning or interpretation that they can ever derive from the said text, unless they find a way to obtain the ST and understand it in its own unique light.
The analysis of the collected examples will consist of the following parts:
(1) a descriptive part
(2) a comparative part
(3) an evaluative part
I will generally start by describing the original text contextually, literarily, linguistically and stylistically including grammar and usage. I will also generally follow suit in dealing with the TL text and make a surface level analysis by checking its coherence, cohesion and meaning as against the ST.
In accomplishing the descriptive part of the analysis, I will conduct an examination of word-level equivalence done by each of the translators on each political text. I will also identify the strategies that they used in dealing with each CSC in order for me to assess other challenges or difficulties they have encountered in translating the text.
First, I will come up with the list of words used from the ST and assess the words used by the translators in the process of changing it to the TL text. And then, I will identify the culture-specific concepts from the Arabic Political Texts they have translated which I am certain do not have a word-level equivalent in English. After coming up with a list of CSCs, I will then identify the specific strategies adopted by the translators in translating those specific concepts, that is, assessing whether they have used any of the following strategies: a.) translating the CSCs by using a more "general" word b.) translating the CSCs using a "neutral" word c.) translating the CSCs through cultural substitution d.) translating CSCs by paraphrasing using a related word e.) translating CSCs by paraphrasing using an unrelated word and finally, f.) translating CSCs by illustration.
Second, I will closely examine the lexical equivalence and meaning of the TL text by closely looking at the idioms, clichés, formulaic expressions and collocations used in the ST and how these was translated to TL. Specifically, I will note the differences between the ST and the TL text and identify the possible roadblocks encountered by the translators especially in dealing with culture-specific collocations which may be totally unfamiliar to another culture.
Third, I will deeply examine the text's "bigger picture" or textual equivalence and assess how the thematization, backgrounding and cohesion were presented in both the TT and the ST. I will closely identify the cohesive markers in the TT and assess whether these have significantly altered the semantic relations present in the ST. Also, I will examine whether the TT was coherent or incoherent after the translation process was accomplished. As in the case of many TT, incoherence is very common due to the lack of knowledge of some translators in analyzing translating the texts via textual equivalence assessment. As mentioned by Charolles (1983) in Mona Baker's "In Other Words", although the TT may prove to have some continuity and sense in certain parts of the text, it would still be very possible for the reader to not fully understand the meaning of the text. By assessing the TT through textual equivalence, I will also be looking at the "implicature" of the text or what the translator is trying to imply rather than what he or she literally communicates.
And finally, I will be examining the TT and the ST based on the former's pragmatic equivalence. As I said before, I will be looking at the "bigger picture" of the text or its textual equivalence rather than the direct and accurate translation of each word to another language. The problem with not looking at the textual equivalence is that certain translations will not make sense to a specific reader from a totally different or opposite culture compared to the writer of the ST. I will be strictly examining certain aspects such as the cohesion, coherence, implicature and the overall structure of the translated texts, that is, how words relate one another in order to make sense and communicate the ST in a way that is relevant and familiar with the readers of the TT. In order to do this, I will be identifying what the background information the translator used in order to interpret or translate the TT.
Furthermore, I will be identifying the various strategies adopted and utilized by the translators in translating the "original meaning" of the ST. I will be looking into several strategies that may be used by the translators such as the following: a.) identifying the conventional meanings of structures and words as well as the identity of the references b.) the use of the co-operative principle and its maxims and c.) the context of the utterance.
After accomplishing the descriptive part of this qualitative research study through accomplishing these four steps, I will then move on to comparing the TT with the ST. I will be assessing whether the translation process was successful based on the appropriateness of the methods and strategies used by the translators in translating the text. Also, I will assess whether the translators utilized the strategies of textual equivalence to evaluate whether or not their translated texts were coherent and whether or not the implied meaning of the ST was also translated plainly and accurately.
Afterwards, an in-depth evaluation will be conducted by the researcher in order to assess whether the translation process accomplished by the chosen sample was indeed successful or not. The underlying reasons will then be identified as evidence of the results of the analysis of the study.
As already noted in the preceding sections, the researcher is more interested in determining the textual equivalence of the TT with the ST. Therefore, the analysis would lean more towards determining what particular discourse the TT is advocating and whether this is similar to the ST. As sensitive texts, political texts are important in giving rise to inter-state and intra-state discourses about political activity (Simms, 1997).
Thus, while the ST could be a passionate and persuasive text that is designed to arouse feelings of camaraderie among members of a certain political party or standing, the TT could be more of a news bulletin that gives an impartial and dispassionate account of the events. Discourse analysis is likewise the most appropriate method of analysis for the purposes of this research, as we are looking at texts that are meant to shape the way people think about the world around them.
Discourse, according to Pym (1992), allows for nuances in the translation from one language to another based on the natural constraints of each language, while ensuring that the message still remains the same. The certainty or the accuracy of the translation is dependent more on the discursive constraints than to actual, word-for-word dictionary equivalents. Thus, there is a need to take a step back from the text and read it in the context in which it is embedded instead of looking for individualized and structured translations that, although technically correct, would make no sense at all. The non-correspondence of the source and target terms at the word level would therefore not be as important as seeking the actual message that the words, read together and read as an entire text, can provide. The process of translation simply widens the discourse in the text despite the non-equivalence of the terms used.
Comparing and contrasting the two texts with one another requires greater analysis than simply looking at the word-level meanings they convey, and must, therefore, take the entire text as a whole message that gives a cohesive message to the audience. The evaluation stage will follow the comparison stage, wherein the researcher will synthesise the findings made in the entire text by highlighting particular portions that show the translator's deliberate choices.
These analytical steps will not follow the same order every time. In the evaluation, I will seek to answer questions such as:
What strategies are used by translators? How frequent are they? Which ones seem to be predominantly used?
Which are the accurate and the inaccurate translation strategies employed?
How effective is the translation strategy on the translation?
Are there clear reasons behind the translator's choice of a particular strategy? Was his or her choice forced by the nature of the source text or the target text? Was it because of the target language or the target audience? What purposes, agendas or ideologies can be realised through the translator's way of rendering the text? Is his or her strategy source-oriented or target-oriented? Does the translator use domestication or foreignization? Are the translators schematic, systematic and consistent in their use of methods and strategies? (This list of questions is not exhaustive.)
In cases of mistaken translations or losses, I will address the reasons that led to such mistakes and losses. I will also try to answer questions such as: Are there other strategies that are likely to lead to more effective results? How and why could the proposed strategies achieve better results?
In this study, it also very important to consider the role of context in the interpretation and translation of text. Context plays a very powerful role in translating texts specifically those texts with political and cultural nature. In simple terms, context refers to the background information or the circumstance and condition out of which a particular text was drawn upon. Many cultural and political texts are barely understood by people of the same language and culture because these people did not know the context out of which the text was written.
Context actually makes the work of translators a lot easier and more successful as when the translators have the right amount of knowledge on the context out of which the text was written, they would automatically move away from using word-level equivalence which most of the time fails to identify the implied meaning of a specific text. Context is most important in cultural and political texts because it normally involves an interplay of ideologies, politics and power wherein accurate translation is highly relevant. Different cultures have different contexts or conditions of circumstances out of which ideas are born or created.
In this study therefore, what I want to achieve is to link the text with the "bigger picture" or the outer circumstance or condition from which the meaning may be interpreted accurately. Without looking at the "bigger picture" or context out of which the ST was drawn upon, the implied meaning would not be captured and the essence of the text would not be captured as well, thus leading to a totally different interpretation which may cause trouble or bigger problems especially if the message mainly contains political or cultural ideologies which are very critical and sensitive topics.
The research will explore translation from cultural perspectives. It will demonstrate how translation plays an essential role in cultural representation and misrepresentation. By looking at misrepresentation, the researcher will focus on the different challenges and obstacles that translators may unwittingly fall prey to by choosing one mode of translation over another, or simply by using one term instead of another to convey the meaning that is being delivered by the SL. Cultural problems are bound to appear when a text is borrowed from its SL and translated to another language, but these problems may not be readily seen by the untrained eye (Boberg, 2008).
This is why it is important to look at the different steps that translators use when they transfer a text across different languages. For example, Vinay and Darbelnet (1995) saw translation processes that were mainly equivalence-oriented as a procedure that seeks to replicate the situation found in the ST (source text) while using completely different words in the TT (target text). They suggested that if such procedure was used in the translation process, it could preserve the style and impact of the ST in the resulting TT.
Equivalence is a very important concept because it allows for the tracing of the similarities and differences between the two texts that are being studied, comparing them on the most basic level (word-for-word equivalence) and assists in the more complicated choices that the translator has to make during the process of translation (such as pragmatic equivalence, where we seek to find the 'signature' style of the translator and identify the choices made with regards to curbing the difficulties of translation) (Khariminia and Heidary, 2009).
According to Baker (1992), pragmatics deal with the study of meaning not as dictated by the linguistic system but as conveyed by the communicators in a specific communicative setting. In determining the pragmatic equivalence of the text, it is very necessary to explore or examine the coherence, cohesion and implicature of the text being studied. The process of translation would prove to be a very tedious and challenging task which can be a big failure especially if the translator does not know how to use pragmatic equivalence specifically "implicatures" in interpreting or translating texts. Unlike grammatical and word-level equivalence, pragmatic equivalence goes beyond the meaning of each word in each text but includes the structure and cohesion of the texts wherein meaning could be identified.
In translating culture-specific concepts and highly debated issues such as politics, there are various methods by which a translator can come up with the TT. For example, according to Graedler (as cited in Ordudari, 2007):
Make up an entirely new word in the TT to explain the word in the ST.
Explain the expression in the ST instead of simply translating it.
Use the term in its ST form and explain its meaning.
Finding and using the nearest synonym of such word from the SL in the TL.
Baker also identifies certain strategies which have proven to be useful in dealing with CSCs such as the following:
a.) translating the CSCs by using a more "general" word
b.) translating the CSCs using a "neutral" word
c.) translating the CSCs through cultural substitution
d.) translating CSCs by paraphrasing using a related word
e.) translating CSCs by paraphrasing using an unrelated word and finally,
f.) translating CSCs by illustration.
Using these guides, the researcher will evaluate the choices made by the translator in crafting the TT in English, especially since the political framework of Saudi Arabia is very different from that of the Western world. Looking only at equivalence at word level is not enough to various choices a translator makes. It is not enough; Therefore, the researcher aims to expand his analytical focus to look at the overall understanding of the political structure of Saudi Arabia as can be gleaned from the entirety of the text, or what is called 'textual equivalence'.
Using textual equivalence, the researcher's aim is not to break the whole text into discrete and independent blocks of text that can provide insights into the translation: The goal is to look at the bigger picture or story that the TT is trying to convey and then highlight key terms and phrases that the translator has used to make his or her point from one language in another. In this manner, the researcher is able to appreciate the text as a whole before delving into its specific parts.
This research will discover the utility of the strategies used in translation based on the quality of translation, its faithfulness, effect, reception, intercultural awareness and dialogue communication. Classe (2000) noted that literary works do not exist in a vacuum, and Paddon (2006) further added that in the process of translation, some things are inevitably lost while others are added into the translated text. This does not mean, however, that a faithful reproduction of the ST cannot be had, especially if the translator is cognizant of the various ways by which meaning can be lost or altered through the use of certain words and processes of translation.
A translation is necessary only when the ST is being brought to the attention of a wider audience whose cultural frame would inevitably be different from that of the SL, such that a little help may be needed in getting the right message across in the most effective manner. The national idiosyncrasies and lifestyle of the source culture is, according to some scholars, actually untranslatable (Classe, 2000), thus, calling on the translator to look for ways to make the target audience understand the message as if they were reading or hearing it in the SL itself.
But despite these apparently insurmountable differences between cultures and languages, there seems to exist some core human knowledge and experience that makes communicating across different media and languages possible (Classe, 2000). This is what makes translation work, and why we are able to understand and appreciate messages from one language to another. Because cultural differences block the channels of communication, it is important for translators and language scholars alike to determine how best to go beyond these obstacles and allow translation procedures to bridge the gap between one culture and another.
2.2 Research Data
As I stated above, my research data also include sample translations from my interviewees. So through the interview with respondents I will collect the sample from my interviewees. The sample translation will be Arabic political texts translated into English by the respondents themselves from their earlier translations. The political text segments I will choose from these collected examples deal with cultural, linguistic and religious issues that may be perplexing when translated. The main reason for collecting the examples from the professionals because through these examples, I will explore the means, methods and strategies used by translators in dealing with political texts which have cultural difficulties and issues and that include or address culture-specific issues.
Also, the research data will be gathered from translation professionals in Saudi Arabia and students at The University of King Saud in the College of Translation. I will aim to contact 20 students and 10 translators. I feel that 30 respondents should be sufficient for the primary research. I will contact only 10 translators as it will be difficult to achieve their complete attention, unlike the student community.
With regard to the primary research in Saudi Arabia, I will try to interview 10 professional translators who have been regularly translating from Arabic to English. Translators should be aged between 30 and 60 years old. They must have been working in the field for more than 10 years and they should be experienced in dealing with translating political texts from Arabic into English. This category of respondents should be employed as professional translators (whether in the public sector or private sector). Through the content of this interview, I will explore the extent of impact of politics and censorship on translation processes in Saudi Arabia and what strategies are used by translators to deal with these political contexts. Also, I will explore what are the cultural difficulties and issues faced by Saudi undergraduates and translation professionals when translating Arabic political texts into English, and what are the strategies used to deal with cultural difficulties and issues faced by Saudi translation professionals when translating Arabic political text into English, and what are the factors and contexts influencing the use of these strategies?
The collected interview data will then be analysed, compared, contrasted and referenced to address the research questions.
Under the primary research I will also meet 20 students as a focus group in order to explore how these students learned to deal with political texts that include cultural, linguistic and religious issues and the strategies they use to deal with these. They must be in the last year at The University of King Saud in the College of Translation. I will explore these questions by giving the students some Arabic political texts to translate into English. After the translated texts are collected, they will be analysed, described, compared, contrasted, evaluated and referenced according to how they support the research questions, based on the questions in points 1,2,3,4 and 5 above in the text analysis.