4 difficulties of Arabic to English Translation

Arabic to English translation and vice versa is a difficult thing to do and requires skilled translators who are fluent in both languages. But most people who don’t speak both languages don’t have a proper appreciation or understanding of why. I want to provide you with a small insight into that by showing you four major difficulties faced when translating between these two languages.

1.DIALECTS

The required skill to convert a message from Arabic to English is very high and specialized, partially due to the nature of its dialects being very diverse and different. This poses a challenge to translators since it isn’t common to speak more than one or two dialects fluently. The English language has different dialects, for instance American or Australian, but they are very similar excluding some vernacular or a few words that have been changed. This isn’t the case in Arabic and the different dialects are so varied that two Arabic speakers from different countries might not even be able to talk to one another. For example, the Emirati accent, which is quite different to a lot of other Arabic accents, is difficult for others to understand, but through using a translation agency in Dubai you have professionals who can understand Emirati fluently. Even though the languages still have their roots in Arabic they have a very different vocabulary and sometimes even change grammar.

2.SENTENCE STRUCTURE

All proper sentences in English have a verb in them, and are so-called “verbal sentences”, but Arabic can have sentences that don’t contain verbs. These are called nominal sentences. Nominal sentences don’t exist in English, so they would need to be changed to verbal sentences when translated. Verbs are needed in every single English sentence. This isn’t the case with Arabic, so when translating from Arabic to English this needs to be kept in mind because some sentences might sound wrong, incomplete or informal. For example, الولد مصري means “the boy is Egyptian” but in Arabic, there is no verb; it would literally translate to “the boy Egyptian”. But the “is” is implied and needs to be taken into account during translation. Nominal sentences also change the order of a sentence, so when being translated some sentences need word order to be rearranged for it to make sense in English.

3.MISSING LETTERS AND MISSING WORDS

Arabic is a rich language with a large vocabulary and English is the language of the modern world, so it can be expected that there are words that don’t exist in both languages. This leads to issues when translating since you either need to use an entire paragraph to define this single word or it is a something that has been recently created so no languages other than English have adopted a proper word for it.

Letters are also a place in which both languages don’t have some commonality. Not only does Arabic have two more letters than English, some of the letters don’t overlap. There are letters like ث th and ذ dh and غ gh which don’t exist in English or v,c, and p that don’t exist in Arabic. These letters that don’t exist cause issues when translating names. For example, Peter becomes Beter or علي‎ becomes Ali in English. Both are close enough, but don’t quite hit the mark when it comes to the pronunciation. This can cause confusion when translating location names, and can also lose a brand’s identity. There are solutions a translator can use to combat this, but there are always limitations when translating from one language to another. Our advertising translation services in Dubai ensure the use of all the methods and techniques possible to maintain the brand identity.

4.PHARASAL VERBS

An example of a phrasal verb that can go wrong is “I am thinking about my wife, I miss her”. This becomes “I am thinking in my wife, I really miss her” when translated between Arabic and English. This is an issue that is obvious since it happens when translating a lot of phrasal verbs but it is still something you can’t forget about. Phrasal verbs are quite common and having a mistake like this can lead to an atmosphere of unprofessionalism, mistrust or in the worst-case embarrassment/anger because what was said was offensive.

Highlighting some of these difficulties hopefully has given you a better appreciation for the work and effort that goes into translating between Arabic and English.