By Hady Hamdan
AMMAN - Translation in the Arab world is facing several challenges which are impacting the spread of knowledge throughout the region, linguists and academicians warned on Tuesday.
During the opening session of the Second Jordan International Conference on Translation, experts, scholars and translators discussed obstacles facing translation in the Arab world.
According to Yarmouk University professor and conference organiser Abdullah Shunnaq, the lack of professionalism in Arabic translation is a pressing issue that “must be dealt with firmly”.
“Translation is in a very bad state in the whole Arab world and Jordan in particular, because of poor organisation. Unfortunately every person thinks they can practise translation, whether they are professional or not,” he told The Jordan Times at the three-day conference.
The lax regulations for licensing a translation office in Jordan is another hurdle facing the profession, he added.
“Several translation offices are given licences without any inspection of their performance or their translators’ proficiency, which leads to poor translation,” he added, stressing that offices should be in line with Jordan Translators Association standards, which call for translators to be accredited by the government.
He attributed Arab translators’ reluctance to translate books from English to Arabic and vice-versa to the difficulty of the task compared to the relatively small financial return.
Rajaai Alkhanji, English literature professor at the University of Jordan, said Arab children are not given the proper foundation in the classroom to become good translators.
“The problem is that students at the primary school level are not introduced to translation. When they come to university, they discover a whole new skill that they have never studied,” he told The Jordan Times at the conference.
Alkhanji proposed that educators include translation lessons in class syllabi starting from the first grade onward.
Mohammad Anani, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences at Petra University, said many of the problems facing Arabic translation stem from the limited spread of global knowledge.
“We lack Arabic reference points that are up to date with the developments in all fields in public and private sectors,” he said, adding that new theories and technological advances often go un-translated for long periods of time, leaving translators stumped when they encounter the terms for the first time.
“Experts in scientific and literary fields should unify their efforts in order to transfer various sources of knowledge to the Arab world,” he said.
Anani called for the establishment of a specialised, Arabic centre comprising university instructors from various faculties to provide specialised texts in Arabic.
Nihal Ameira, chair of the Petra University English department, suggested the utilisation of new learning tools to advance Arabic translation in the 21st century.
“Knowledge has to be associated with technology; we must instil positive change in students through the latest learning resources and abandon traditional teaching methods,” Ameira said.
As part of their recommendations, participants called for the conference to be held on an annual basis.