Impacts of Translating Arabic Poetry into English

Language, as we know, is an important means of human communication through which people exchange ideas and seek for mutual understanding. Communication between people by means of language is possible in two ways: orally and in writing. If people speak one language then the communication takes place directly, but when people speak different languages then direct communication becomes impossible. In this case people need to translate information in their own language and translation, therefore, is an important auxiliary means to ensure implementation of the language, of its communicative function in cases when people express their thoughts in different languages. Thus, translation plays an important role in the exchange of ideas between different peoples and serves to the spread of world’s cultural treasures.

Let us examine Nabati poetry, because we are going to use its translation as a specific one in this work. According to Holes, Salman and Athera (2011), “Nabati poetry is the traditional poetry of the Arab tribes of Arabia and neighboring areas. Though composed in an artistic variant of ordinary Bedouin speech, historically it is the descendant of the pre-Islamic Classical Arabic poetry of antiquity, and its modern exponents still compose in the traditional genres of boasting, praise, satire, elegy, advice and guidance, love and lyric poetry” (p.7). Nowadays Nabati poetry is very popular, because tradition of its use as poetic comment on various contemporary political and social issues is widespread in Arabic world.

Thinking about impacts of translating Arabic Poetry into English we can mention that it has many different peculiarities that are connected with differences between thoughts and images in translation. The difficulties of translating Arabic Nabati poetry are well known and this kind of poetry as other kinds is compact and highly specialized. In this context it is necessary to mention that poetic organization of artistic speech, e.g. versification, imprints its specific character on the principles of poetic art of translation. The more complex, multifaceted the meaning of the source text is, the harder it is for translation.

What does it mean to translate? It seems at the first glance that translation is a rather simple act, but observing different cases of translating Arabic poetry into English we can mention that it is a really hard work that needs not only understanding of the language, but translation also requires knowledge of different traditions and customs that exist in Arabic world. Some researchers even stated that Arabic Nabati poetry is untranslatable, because translating poetry it is necessary to make a choice between rhyme and reason. The interpreter is required to be closer to the text, to convey the thought, rhyme and reason as accurately as possible, because to convey everything in perfect completeness is impossible for obvious reasons. As a result, the translator has to write something like a compromise.

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