Culture-bound terms in Arabic-English translation: difficulties and implications
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Translation has been essentially viewed as a cross-cultural encounter in which the translator acts as an intercultural mediator. In performing this enormous task, the translator should possess, among other things, adequate skills for handling culture-bound terms. This study investigates the difficulties faced by graduate translator trainees in the American University of Sharjah and the University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates in rendering Arabic culture-bound terms into English. It further examines the extent of the translator trainees' awareness of the translation strategies they employ in their renditions of those terms. A test involving a carefully selected sample of fifteen Arabic culture bound terms used in contextualized sentences was designed as a research instrument. The terms were drawn from several cultural categories and presented varying levels of difficulty of rendition. The informants were allowed to use dictionaries and search the Internet while taking the test. No time limit was set for the test. The results have revealed the informants’ rather low performance in translating Arabic culture-bound terms into English. Four major types of errors were made by the informants: incorrect meaning, under-translation, omission and transliteration errors. The errors have been mainly attributed to the informants’ lack of awareness of the significance of the translation brief while translating, inadequate proficiency in handling idiomatic culture-bound terms, insufficient training in transliteration and improper use of dictionaries. Implications of the study for translator trainers and lexicographers have been explained by the researcher.