Perspectives: Translation and transcreation for the Arabic-speaking marketplace

Matthew Mermel
MultiLingual April/May 2015
Columns and Commentary

Multinational companies regard the Arab world, teeming with emerging socioeconomies such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as a vast region of untapped potential; accordingly, corporations as diverse as Ford Motor Company and TGI Friday’s Inc. devote considerable effort and resources toward localizing campaigns and products for the Arab marketplace. In order to reach these consumers, however, experts in the local sociolinguistic culture are clearly needed; for instance, as The Economist article “Surfing the Shabaka” found last year, “the proportion of Arabs online grew 30-fold between 2000 and 2012,” even though “fewer than 1% of all web pages are in Arabic.”...

Effective and accurate translation from one sociolinguistic standard to another requires individuals intimately familiar with the target culture, as well as its language and its expectations for socially acceptable behavior, particularly with regard to translation and transcreation into Arabic. In “Arabic Translation Across Cultures,” Moheiddin A. Homeidi reviews the myriad of challenges and linguistic complexity of providing accurate and culturally relevant translation. Homeidi asserts that language is an integral part of culture and vice versa: after all, “words only have meanings in terms of the culture in which they are used.”

Beginning with a review and bidirectional translations of Arabic and English idioms, Homeidi transitions to a discussion of the theoretical and applied considerations each translator must be cognizant of when carrying out his or her duties. Rejecting the need for literal translations, which, crucially, fail to capture the original intent of the text, Homeidi instead stresses the importance of contextual and cultural knowledge to effective and accurate translation....