Beit al-Hikma 2?

Good news from the UAE, where the Ajman University of Science and Technology has just set up a ‘state-of-the-art’ Linguistic Research, Studies & Translation Center .

One of the aims, it seems, is to address the needs for knowledge transfer by training a new generation of into-Arabic translators. Although there is plenty of translation education around the Arab world (certainly in the Maghreb and Egypt) there is little evidence that the results serve the vital cause of transferring today’s knowledge in the way that the Arabs in 9th century Baghdad translated and thereby kept alive ancient Greek philosophy and science, or in the 19th translated European knowledge at the behest of Mohammed Ali in Egypt.

The contemporary translation scene in Arabic-speaking countries recently received a blistering attack in the Arab Human Development Report 2003, (written by Arab scholars) citing various demeaning statistics on the number of books and other sources of knowledge that are Arabized each year.

While in the U.S. and presumably worldwide, there is enormous interest in mining information from Arabic texts and having it translated into English or other strategic languages, at least someone in the Arab world is trying to do the opposite and hopefully professionalize the local translation community for the more attractive task of localizing global knowledge for the future, not just local news stories for the very immediate present

Andrew Joscelyne
European, a language technology industry watcher since Electric Word was first published, sometime journalist, consultant, market analyst and animateur of projects. Interested in technologies for augmenting human intellectual endeavour, multilingual méssage, the history of language machines, the future of translation, and the life of the digital mindset.


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