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Date: Mon, 01 Dec 2003 17:30:22 -0500 From: Becky Molloy Subject: Thinking Arabic Translation: A Course in Translation Method and Tutor's Handbook
Dickins, James, Sandor Hervey and Ian Higgins (2002) Thinking Arabic Translation: A Course in Translation Method: Arabic to English, Routledge.
Dickins, James, Sandor Hervey and Ian Higgins (2002) Thinking Arabic Translation, Tutor's Handbook: A Course in Translation Method: Arabic to English, Routledge.
Rebecca Molloy, unaffiliated scholar
OVERVUEW The book is a practical course in translation from Arabic to English, and directly derives from Sandor Hervey and Ian Higgins' (1992) Thinking Translation: A course in French-English translation. Thinking Arabic Translation offers a progressive representation of various translation problems, accompanied by lots of practical work in developing underlying principles for solving the problems. It is a course in translation method, fostering thoughtful consideration of feasible answers to practical questions. As one would expect, theoretical issues do come up, but they are discussed only in so far as they relate to developing proficiency in method. If this is not a translations theory course, this is not a language-teaching course either. The focus is on how to translate. So it is assumed that the student is already proficient in Arabic and is familiar with the proper use of dictionaries and databases. The course is thus intended for senior-year undergraduates, and postgraduates or others who are looking for an academic or professional training in translation. However, since a wide range of texts are dealt with in the book, students do learn a fair amount of Arabic and most likely some English too. And though the main goal is to improve the quality of translation from Arabic to English, by its very nature, the course is also useful for native speakers of Arabic seeking to improve their translation capabilities into English.
The structure of Thinking Arabic Translation gradually progresses from general linguistic issues to specific genre-dependent ones. Chapters 1-4 tackle the basic questions of which a translator needs to be aware: Chapter 1 deals with the process of translation and sets forth terms and basic definitions that are used throughout the course; Chapter 2 explores translation as a finished product, including the degrees of translation freedom, from literal to free translation; Chapter 3 looks at basic principles and categories of cultural transposition in translation.; Chapter 4 discusses the significance of compensation in translation and the few forms it can take.
Chapters 5-6 describe key semantic notions in translation: denotative meaning and connotative meaning. Chapters 7-11 deal with formal properties of texts. These properties include six textual variables: phonic and prosodic issues in translation, grammatical issues (considered on the morphological and syntactical levels), sentential issues, and discourse issues. Chapter 11 tops off the discussion on the formal properties and is devoted to the metaphor and its categories. Chapters 12 and 13 focus on issues of language variety (register, sociolect and dialect) and textual genre as factors in translation. Chapters 14-16 deal with specific genres in which professional translation work might be done: technical, legal, and consumer-oriented texts. Chapter 17 completes the course with revision and editing. Chapter by chapter, Thinking Arabic Translation offers a new methodology and plenty of practical exercise. Students are gradually trained to ask, and to answer, a series of questions that apply to any given text. In the translation assignments at the end of each chapter (Practicals), students are asked to work on an array of technical, legal, business, journalistic, literary, and academic texts, as well as political speeches, tourist brochures, and more. In working on an assignment, students are expected to analyze the Source Text (ST), identify its most important features; use the analysis to devise a translation strategy; and apply the skills they have acquired to produce a good Target Text (TT). What a good, balanced Target Text is, is of course what is being learned.
Along side the course book, the authors fashioned a tutor's handbook to propose ways of teaching the course and evaluating it, both generally and with respect to individual practicals. The tutor's notes follow the structure of the course book, and include remarks and clarifications regarding the specific topic/s introduced in each chapter. For each Target Text the tutor's handbook provides, there is a comprehensive list of decisions concerning problems of grammar, vocabulary, etc. that are encountered in the process of translating the concomitant Source Text in the course book.
A possible schema for the course is given on pages 6-9 to illustrate how seminars might be organized. Everything from class schedule to classroom logistics, from organizing group discussions to when to discuss marked homework assignments, is touched on in the introductory chapter to the tutor's notes. The Introduction also suggests means of assessment and examination based on the authors' teaching experience from the Arabic course, as well as its French, German, Spanish and Italian predecessors. Here different types of exams are discussed and evaluated for their efficacy.
EVALUATION Thinking Arabic Translation is a great pedagogic tool, from the perspective of the student, as well as the teacher. The decade or so of experience of teaching a translation course are evident in the arrangement of the course book and its content. The authors took great pains to transpose the context of the course from its non-Semitic (European) precursor to give it its Arabic character. The course does a great job focusing the student's attention on textual properties that are essentially Arabic while grounding those properties within the framework of more general linguistic issues. The authors set out to help make students significantly better at translation, to help develop proficiency in method; and I believe their book achieves precisely that. Moreover, the book and tutor notes also help make better teachers of translation. With its structure and emphasis on understanding a range of literary devices that make up the fabric of a text, the book helps make the process of translation more transparent, helping student and teacher alike identify problematic issues in the cultural transposition that is actually occurring in the act of translation. In this respect, Thinking Arabic Translation makes an important contribution to the field of language studies in the way it raises awareness. Furthermore, one of the greatest strengths of the book is the introduction of a wide variety of source texts; the selection guarantees to capture students' interest and make class sessions fun and motivating.
One drawback to the course book might be that there are only two or three practicals for each chapter, which could get a bit repetitive for a tutor teaching the course all year, for several years. Additionally, if the book's practicals are to be used for assessment exams, completed assignments will be circulating very quickly among students. That said, the authors of the book do provide additional handouts and other materials relating to practicals upon request. In the introduction of the tutor's handbook a postal address and email are provided so that such materials can be obtained directly. I believe tutors will find this very helpful.
REFERENCE Sandor Hervey and Ian Higgins (1992) Thinking Translation: A course in French-English translation, Taylor & Francis
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Rebecca Molloy is an unaffiliated scholar. She holds a doctorate in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies. Her main research topics are medieval Arabic grammatical theory (particularly transitivity), and Islamic legal theory.