Problems Encountered in Translating Cultural Expressions from Arabic into English

Bader S. Dweik, Maisa Suleiman
2013 International Journal of English Linguistics  
This study aimed at investigating the problems that Jordanian graduate students majoring in the English language faced when translating culture-bound expressions. To achieve the goal of this study, the researchers selected a random sample that comprised 60 graduate students who were enrolled in the M.A program in three Jordanian universities during the second semester 2009/2010. The researchers designed a translation test that consists of 20 statements which M.A students were asked to translate
more » ... from Arabic into English. Each statement contained a culture-bound expression based on Newmark's categorization of cultural terms. Proverbs, idioms, collocations and metaphors were extracted from different cultural materials, i.e., legal, historical, religious, social... etc. The researchers also conducted informal open-ended interviews with experts in the field of translation to yield additional information from the experts' point of view regarding these problems, their causes and solutions. The results of the study revealed that graduate students encounter different kinds of problems when translating cultural expressions. These problems are mostly related to: 1) unfamiliarity with cultural expressions 2) failure to achieve the equivalence in the second language, 3) ambiguity of some cultural expressions, 4) lack of knowledge of translation techniques and translation strategies. In light of these results, the researchers recommend narrowing the gap between cultures through adding more courses that deal with cultural differences, cultural knowledge, and cultural awareness, especially in the academic programs that prepare translators. In his attempt to define translation and the role of a translator, Nida (1964) took into consideration the cultural elements by stating that "the role of a translator is to facilitate the transfer of the message, meaning, and cultural elements from one language into another and create an equivalent response to the receivers" (p. 13). He also suggested that the message from the source language is embedded by a cultural context. According to Newmark (1988) foreign cultural expressions include ecological, material, and social cultures. They also include expressions related to social organizations, political, religious, artistic, gestures and habits. Cultural expressions can also be found in proverbs, collocations, phrasal verbs and figures of speech including metaphors. Gaber (2005) asserted that culture-bound words can be translated by using five different techniques. The first one
doi:10.5539/ijel.v3n5p47 fatcat:377jfm4n7vhatnbjidxnpbsioi