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Conducting Research on Translation in and about the UAE

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Abstract

In the last four decades the United Arab Emirates has become one of the emerging hubs of international business and trade. With the bilingual situation in the UAE, the need has arisen to have translators to play the role of linguistic and cultural mediators. Translation industry has flourished and translation activity has gained a momentum in the economic and education sectors. Given this activity setting and the creation of translation degrees in UAE universities, this paper provides an overview of areas of research on translation with regard to the UAE. It is designed to function as a research guide to students and researchers who plan to conduct research on translation in, and of the UAE. A systematic coverage of research areas in translation studies is presented by linking them to the Emirati context. The paper outlines those research areas and offers questions that need to be answered in doing research on translation activity in the economic and socio-cultural system of the UAE. Main areas of research are introduced in the form of indicators for researchers who would like to embark on a research related to translation activity in the UAE. The areas of research are discussed first within Holmes's map of translation studies. They are divided broadly into the traditional fields of investigation with determining parameters whether they are linguistic or extra-linguistic topics of research. A special discussion of translation as inter-cultural communication within the history of the UAE is also provided. Corpus-based translation studies as a research methodology is addressed as well. Introduction Since the early 1970s, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has developed in full tact in all fields. It has become one of the emerging hubs of international business and trade. The seven emirates are now business and cultural centers in the region. With the influx of wealth and thriving businesses, job opportunities have been created, attracting people from around the globe. The number of nationalities and languages is remarkably high. Although Arabic is the official language, English is also a language of business and everyday interaction. A considerable percentage of locals and expatriates are bilinguals. With the bilingual situation in the UAE, the need has arisen along the process of development to have translators play the role of linguistic and cultural mediators. The translation industry has flourished and translation activity has gained momentum in the economic and education sectors. Talks and negotiations, documents, official regulations and announcements, and certificates, all have needed to be translated from and into Arabic. Given this translation activity setting and the creation of translation degrees in UAE universities, this paper provides an overview of areas of research on translation with regard to the UAE. It is designed to function as a research guide for students and researchers who plan to conduct research on translation in and about the UAE, and it can also be used as a reference by senior BA students as well as MA and PhD students. The paper presents a systematic coverage of research areas in translation studies by linking them to the Emirati context. However, the coverage is by no means exhaustive. The paper outlines those research areas and offers some questions that need to be answered in conducting research on translation activity in the economic and socio-cultural system of the UAE. Translation is taken here to cover interpreting as well. Main areas of research are introduced in the form of questions and indicators for researchers who would like to embark on research related to translation activity in the UAE. However, those areas are overlapping and can be investigated simultaneously in one research project because of the inherent relation between them depending on the topic chosen. The areas of research are discussed first within Holmes' map of translation studies. They are divided broadly into the traditional fields of investigation with determining parameters whether they are linguistic or extra-linguistic topics of research. A special discussion of translation as inter-cultural communication within the history of the UAE is also provided. Corpus-based translation studies as a research methodology is addressed as well.
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Conducting Research on Translation in and about the UAE
Sattar Izwaini
Department of Arabic and Translation Studies
American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Abstract
In the last four decades the United Arab Emirates has become one of the emerging hubs of
international business and trade. With the bilingual situation in the UAE, the need has arisen to
have translators to play the role of linguistic and cultural mediators. Translation industry has
flourished and translation activity has gained a momentum in the economic and education
sectors. Given this activity setting and the creation of translation degrees in UAE universities,
this paper provides an overview of areas of research on translation with regard to the UAE. It is
designed to function as a research guide to students and researchers who plan to conduct research
on translation in, and of the UAE. A systematic coverage of research areas in translation studies
is presented by linking them to the Emirati context. The paper outlines those research areas and
offers questions that need to be answered in doing research on translation activity in the
economic and socio-cultural system of the UAE. Main areas of research are introduced in the
form of indicators for researchers who would like to embark on a research related to translation
activity in the UAE. The areas of research are discussed first within Holmes’s map of translation
studies. They are divided broadly into the traditional fields of investigation with determining
parameters whether they are linguistic or extra-linguistic topics of research. A special discussion
of translation as inter-cultural communication within the history of the UAE is also provided.
Corpus-based translation studies as a research methodology is addressed as well.
Keywords: translation studies, UAE, translation industry, translation history, corpus-based
translation studies
AWEJ. Special Issue on Translation No.3 May, 2014
Conducting Research on Translation in and about the UAE Izwaini
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Introduction
Since the early 1970s, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has developed in full tact in all fields. It
has become one of the emerging hubs of international business and trade. The seven emirates are
now business and cultural centers in the region. With the influx of wealth and thriving
businesses, job opportunities have been created, attracting people from around the globe. The
number of nationalities and languages is remarkably high. Although Arabic is the official
language, English is also a language of business and everyday interaction. A considerable
percentage of locals and expatriates are bilinguals.
With the bilingual situation in the UAE, the need has arisen along the process of
development to have translators play the role of linguistic and cultural mediators. The translation
industry has flourished and translation activity has gained momentum in the economic and
education sectors. Talks and negotiations, documents, official regulations and announcements,
and certificates, all have needed to be translated from and into Arabic.
Given this translation activity setting and the creation of translation degrees in UAE
universities, this paper provides an overview of areas of research on translation with regard to the
UAE. It is designed to function as a research guide for students and researchers who plan to
conduct research on translation in and about the UAE, and it can also be used as a reference by
senior BA students as well as MA and PhD students. The paper presents a systematic coverage
of research areas in translation studies by linking them to the Emirati context. However, the
coverage is by no means exhaustive.
The paper outlines those research areas and offers some questions that need to be
answered in conducting research on translation activity in the economic and socio-cultural
system of the UAE. Translation is taken here to cover interpreting as well. Main areas of
research are introduced in the form of questions and indicators for researchers who would like to
embark on research related to translation activity in the UAE. However, those areas are
overlapping and can be investigated simultaneously in one research project because of the
inherent relation between them depending on the topic chosen.
The areas of research are discussed first within Holmes’ map of translation studies. They
are divided broadly into the traditional fields of investigation with determining parameters
whether they are linguistic or extra-linguistic topics of research. A special discussion of
translation as inter-cultural communication within the history of the UAE is also provided.
Corpus-based translation studies as a research methodology is addressed as well.
Research Task and Position
Research in general needs to be an addition to knowledge by answering questions, presenting
new data, testing or refining hypothesis or methodology, or proposing new hypothesis or
methodology (Williams & Chesterman, 2002, p. 2).
Data in many research areas in translation studies are crucial for the investigation of the
topic and drawing conclusions. Data of translated texts can be relatively easy to obtain. Some
research projects need to have data collected by surveys and questionnaires. However, it might
prove to be difficult to obtain data from governmental and private organizations, especially data
which is considered sensitive since they can be classified or subject to confidentiality rule such
as court cases, doctor-patient dialogue, etc. Historical data can be scant, non-existent or require
travelling around the country and abroad to obtain.
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While research questions are important to formulate the general framework of the project, a
researcher has to read the literature to see if such a topic or question has been investigated within
the same area or a different one. In this case, s/he needs to know what kind of methodology is
used, what analysis is presented, and what findings are arrived at. It is also vital to check whether
such a study is feasible or not and whether the data that is crucial for the research is obtainable or
not. Reading the literature in general or in a certain area will also help in generating research
ideas, formulating research questions or pointing out research areas by suggesting specific
research questions or topics.
A researcher will also need to adopt a specific model or research methodology, make
statements, predict what the outcomes can be, propose solutions, make recommendations, and/or
suggest future research. Research models vary and can range from pure linguistic approaches to
inter-cultural communication paradigm. One of the straightforward main stream analysis
methods is the contrastive approach of ST and TT. This can encompass levels of linguistic
realization such as lexical, grammatical, textual, pragmatic, stylistic etc. depending on the
research model adopted in the study to see how efficient the translations is.
One important initial step in getting familiar with the literature is to start with the
standard references in translation studies which can provide a solid foundation, as well as those
works on different areas of research. Examples include Dictionary of Translation Studies
(Shuttleworth & Cowie, 1997), Translation Studies Encyclopedia (Baker, 1998; Baker &
Saldanha, 2009), The Translation Studies Reader (Venuti, 2000), A Companion to Translation
Studies (Kuhiwczak & Littau, 2007), The Routledge Companion to Translation Studies
(Munday, 2009), different volumes of Handbook of Translation Studies (Gambier and van
Dorslaer, 2010-2014), The Oxford Handbook of Translation Studies (Malmkjaer & Windle,
2011), and The Routledge Handbook of Translation Studies (Millán & Bartrina, 2013). Books on
conducting research and research guides such as Hatim (2001), Williams & Chesterman (2002)
and Saldanha & O’Brien (2013) can be very helpful in getting familiar with different research
areas, models and methodologies. Bibliographies, whether hard copy or online, can also be
helpful in locating books, papers and reviews on different research areas or those relevant to the
research in hand. One example is the online database BITRA (Bibliography of Interpreting and
Translation).
A researcher has to ask themselves where exactly their research belongs within
translation studies. A look at Holmes’s map (Figures 1 and 2) may help in
1. locating the research project within the general framework of translation studies,
2. having a good picture where and how the study should be directed in order to avoid
confusion of research area and methodology, and
3. using the mapping of translation studies as a spring board to identify an area of a research
project to initiate it.
Holmes (1988) envisaged translation studies as a discipline whose scope and areas of research
can be divided into pure and applied. These in return are divided into sub-areas where research
can investigate certain aspects of translation and can be oriented towards a specific area of focus
and scholarship.
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Figure 1: Holmes’s map of translation studies (reproduced from Toury 1995, p. 10)
Researching translation studies in, and about the UAE would tend to fall within either partial
theoretical, descriptive or applied translation studies. A more detailed account will be provided
under Areas of Research and will be linked to Holmes’s map. Meanwhile, a brief account of
research orientation is given here (see also Munday, 2001, pp. 10-14 and Toury, 1995, pp. 9-19).
According to Holmes (1988), the partial theoretical translation studies includes the
following research areas:
Medium-restricted research: the attention here is given to whether the translation is
carried out by humans or non-humans, i.e. computers. For example, a study may look at
the scope of using machine translation by the translation industry in the UAE (or other
sectors such as mass media), and what software are used by translators working in the
UAE to aid them in their work.
Area-restricted research: a study can look at the translation activity in the UAE from or
into a specific language, e.g. German, or group of languages, e.g. Far East languages
(Chinese, Japanese, Korean etc.).
Rank-related research: the focus here is on the level of linguistic realization (word,
sentence, or text).
Text-type research: the research can examine the translation of some specific text types
and genres whether literary, business, legal, advertising etc.
Time-restricted research: this area looks at the history of translation. That is, the
translation activity in the UAE across time periods. The research is concerned with
translation activity during specific period of time or contemporary translation activity
(see also Chronological Axis of Research below).
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Problem-restricted research: it deals with certain translational problem such as
equivalence problem. Equivalence can be examined at one or more levels such as lexical,
grammatical, textual, pragmatic etc. (see Baker, 1992).
Within descriptive translation studies, the following kinds of research can be conducted:
Product-oriented research: analysis of existing translations, i.e. the ST and its TT, or one
ST and several TTs, e.g. a novel by an Emirati writer translated into different English
versions, or different languages.
Function-oriented research: here the focus is on the function of the translation in the
target culture. It is not a study of texts as such but of the context. For example, the
reception of the English translation of an Emirati novel in English speaking culture(s). It
can also look at the kinds of texts translated or not translated in the UAE, in which period
of time certain texts are mostly translated.1
Process oriented research: this area looks at the translator’s thinking process and
translation ‘steps’ taken during the translation process. It would look at how translators’
minds function when carrying out translation. One methodology used in this area is the
think protocols (taking minutes of translation process and decisions). It is more about
behavioral procedures of translators while doing their job. This is a complex area of
investigation and as far as UAE is concerned, this area may be too difficult to pursue as it
requires volunteers and would be hampered by the translators’ prior knowledge of the
research which can affect the way they do the translation and take translation decisions.
This kind of research can also cover workplace studies, i.e. translators’ work procedures,
settings and circumstances. Translators’ accounts can be very important in shedding light
on how translators perceive and think about translation. This includes prefaces, forwards,
footnotes, commentaries, articles provided by translators, and in which they express their
views on their own or others’ translations.
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Figure 2: The applied branch of Holmes’s map (reproduced from Munday 2001, p. 13)
The subareas of applied translation studies will be touched upon in Areas of Research below. A
different perspective of research can be based on whether it is related to the linguistic or non-
linguistic aspect of translation. An account of such perspective is provided below. It has to be
noted that areas and subareas can overlap and an approach can tackle different sub-areas using a
different method and aiming at answering different questions. There is a mutual influence and
role play by these areas although they are categorized differently. For example, extralinguistic
areas of research do have implications and impact on the linguistic aspect of translation.
Areas of Research
The areas of research are divided here into linguistic, extra-linguistic, and chronological
sequence of past, present and future. They look at translation as a process and as a product.
Translation strategies, translation universals, ideology and power, and culture in translation can
be the focus of investigation within these areas.
Linguistic areas of research
These areas are conventional fields of research in translation studies that can be investigated with
regard to the UAE. They are stated here as points of departure for researchers by providing
relevant initial questions and hypotheses. Areas are listed here alphabetically to avoid any
sequence based on preferences or any other parameter.
Localization: looking at the translation of Emirati web sites into foreign languages, the research
can cover linguistic issues, cultural issues as well as human-computer interaction. It can also
include localizing foreign web sites specifically to the Emirati audience. Another area is the
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prevailing practices and product evaluation. This can fall under area-restricted and product-
oriented research in Holmes’s map.
Parallel translation: this is a phenomenon of certain texts (contracts, advertisements, brochures,
leaflets, etc.) that have bilingual textual components (Arabic and English) where there are two
‘sister documents’ or two ‘sister texts’ in one document. It is not clear which one is the source
text (ST) and which one is the target text (TT), but there is some kind of linguistic parallelism
and correspondence that make either text the translation of the other. Both texts can function as
the original and the translation at the same time. One cannot tell which one is the ST and which
one is the TT unless the author/translator/publisher of the text informs the researcher. For the
lack of a term for this kind of translation, and for the kind of features and relations such texts
have, I use parallel translation.2 It is some kind of ‘mutual translation’ where two texts can
function as the ST and TT or both. This kind can be investigated in terms of the factors that lead
to have such phenomenon, the conditions in which it evolved, how texts are structured and what
specifications they are designed to have, and what features they have.
Quality assessment: the research model is based on a comparative analysis of the ST and TT by
creating a profile of both the original and the translation and having a register analysis of the
lexical, syntactic, and textual features. Translations are assessed against their originals according
to certain parameters to identify textual matches or mismatches to see (House, 1997).
Terminology and arabicization: with the constant contact with the outside world and its
technological and linguistic products, terms are constantly being dealt with in translation activity
on daily basis. A research in this area will look at how terminology is dealt within Emirati
context. What are the procedures and tendencies in arabicization as well as in the translation of
Arabic terms into other languages? Creation and management of term databases can also fall
within this area. The latter as a translation aid falls within Applied Translation Studies in
Holmes’s map.
Translation kinds and text types: the research can focus on certain text types or genres that are
specifically produced in or about the UAE such as literary (for example translation of Emirati
poetry, novels, children’s literature), business, legal, advertising, marketing brochures and
leaflets, history, and memoirs (see also Snell-Hornby, 1995). According to Holmes’s
categorization, this area belongs to the partial branch of Theoretical Translation Studies.
Within this area, research can also cover looking at the linguistic features of interpreting
taking place in the UAE such as dialogue interpreting, court interpreting, health care interpreting,
and conference interpreting (see also Pöchhacker, 2004).
Due to the fact that the UAE has attracted international business and has become a tourist
destination, some media organizations such as MBC and Al Arabiya made it their home, and
other international TV channels such as CNN and CNBC opened offices there. The implication
of the media activity for translation industry is obviously important. With the free zones in the
Emirates such as the Media City and Internet City in Dubai, translation activity has been
propelled by the business dynamics in the country. Research can look at areas such as
audiovisual translation (AVT) and its types of subtitling, dubbing, voice over, and subtitling.
AVT that is practiced and produced in the UAE can be investigated in terms of translation
strategies and problems. The research can deal with lexical, syntactic, pragmatic, cultural, or
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stylistic features of translation (see also Gambier & Gottlieb, 2001; Orero, 2004; Bogucki, 2013).
One issue of interest is the rationale, justification, or reason for opting to dub certain films or TV
series, e.g. Indian movies translated, into Emirati Arabic rather than Syrian or Egyptian as is the
case with other screen productions.
Translation strategies: one important goal in researching translation is to investigate what kind
of translation strategies translators normally opt to while carrying out translation to achieve
equivalence at different levels and/or the factors that play a role in using a certain strategy or a
combination of strategies. The researcher needs to discuss methods or techniques as well as
factors (linguistic and/or extralinguistic) contributing to adopt one translation strategy or another.
Researchers may want to identify translation kinds and strategies based on the research model
used in the study:
1. The general dichotomy of literal vs. free translation: these two terms are not well-defined,
and the former has acquired some kind of a negative connotation as it has been associated
with mistranslation and awkward TL formulations due to adherence to the SL structures
and a way of expression in general. Free translation implies not complying with the ST and
to have a free hand in conveying the ST message.
2. Addition vs. deletion: these can be obligatory or optional. The SL and TL systems may
dictate adding or deleting elements to have a grammatical formulation, for example, the
obligatory deletion of the copula (verb to be) when translating English sentences into
Arabic nominal sentences. On the other hand, the translation of Arabic verbless nominal
sentences into English necessitates obligatory addition of a verb.
3. Direct vs. oblique translation: according to Vinay and Darbelnet (1995), direct translation
includes borrowing, calque, and literal translation. Borrowing is the transference of an SL
word due to a gap in the TL lexicon. Calque (also called loan translation) is a literal
translation of the constituent elements of an SL expression, producing a new expression in
the TL. Literal translation is choosing the first TL meaning for the SL word which usually
has one-to-one correspondence in reality, or in case of phrases and sentences, not taking
into consideration the lexical environment and stylistic features of the SL text.
According to Vinay and Darbelnet (1995), oblique translation includes four strategies that
are adaptation, equivalence, modulation and transposition. Adaptation involves replacing
SL cultural-specific situation or reference by a situation or reference appropriate for the TL
culture. This may include the translation of fixed expressions and sayings as well as lexical
items for which no concepts or items exist in the TL culture. Equivalence is translating
language and culture specific expressions, such as technical terms and proverbs, into TL
idiomatic expressions (it should not to be confused with the term used nowadays in
translation studies). Modulation is adjusting the SL expression to have a translation with
more TL character; otherwise it can be awkward. Finally, transposition is the replacement
of the SL grammatical structure with a different grammatical structure in the TL, and at the
lexical level, changing the word class without affecting the meaning.
4. Documentary translation (source culture-oriented) vs. instrumental translation (target
culture-oriented). These are related to skopos theory where the purpose of translation is a
decisive factor as how to translate a text. Skopos (the purpose) of the translation is the
translator’s guide in the process. The TT is based on its skopos and the offer of information
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in the TL culture regarding information in the SL culture. The translator interprets the
information and formulates it for TT recipients (Munday, 2001, pp. 79-80).
5. Domestication vs. foreignization where the translator’s role and intervention are visible or
not. The translation either leans towards the TL and complies with the expectations of its
culture (domestication) or retains the character of the SL and its culture and thus
foreignizes the translation (Venuti, 1995).
6. Expanding: this is a specific translation method where the full form of an abbreviation; an
acronym or an intialism is retrieved and translated fully, for example translating BBC into
 .
7. Formal translation vs. dynamic translation: the former is SL-oriented where the focus is on
the ST message in form and content whereas the latter is TL-oriented designed to meet the
linguistic and cultural expectations of the TL reader and aims at achieving the same effect
the ST has on the SL reader (Nida, 1964).
8. Semantic translation (SL-oriented adhering to the content and format of the ST) vs.
communicative translation (TL-oriented, TL reader focused, and adapted to TL norms by
providing smoother TT) (Newmark, 1988).
9. Overt translation vs. covert translation: the former does not seek to have the TT functioning
as an original and where the TL reader is not addressed. The latter seeks to have the TT as
an original where the TL reader is addressed (House, 1997).
Corpus-based translation strategies: Other strategies are discussed under corpus-based
translations studies as a research methodology below. There are cases where translators use a
combination of strategies to deal with a certain expression, for example, translating computer by
both borrowing and addition into  .
Volunteer/amateur translation: here the study addresses translations carried out by unpaid
translators whether professional or not, or by amateur translators who do translations for a
number of reasons, in particular for charity organizations, to help friends or family members, as a
hoppy; amateur translators can be aficionados of certain programs such as Japanese anime and
tend to be computer savvy (fansubs and fandubs). Many such translations are circulated by email
and posted in different venues of the Internet (see Izwaini, 2012). It can also examine areas
related to such translations: translation quality, translation strategies and techniques, and norms
as well as subtitling and dubbing by unpaid translators.
Extra-linguistic areas of research
Research here addresses issues outside the textual material, but the factors involved play a role in
the translation activity.
Commissioners’ guidelines and instructions: the client’s specifications, instructions, and
preferences of the translation job and how this affects translation work and contributes to the
way the translator decides on issues in translation work by opting for one translation strategy or
solution rather the other. This can also include some guidelines with a censoring character.
When it comes to AVT, this can also include work guidelines of satellite TV stations,
outsourcing, public reception, and translation policy, e.g. which kind of AVT (subtitling or
dubbing) to choose for what kind of screen productions etc.
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Censorship: investigating the legal foundations, directives, guidelines, and instructions that
censor translation work, whether authority’s censorship, commissioner’s censorship, employer’s
censorship, translator’s self-censorship of his/her own work, as well as social and religious
taboos that guide translator’s work and shape the final product of translation. The research can
also look at the areas and kinds of translation where censorship is mostly practiced and is more
effective, for example journalistic and audiovisual translation (see Gambier, 2002; Billiani, 2009;
Izwaini, forthcoming).
Translated texts in the Emirati culture: the research here focuses on the context rather than
translations, i.e. the socio-cultural situation of translation activity; what kinds of texts are usually
chosen for translation, in what era, for example, before or after the proclamation of the federal
union of the UAE in 1971 and what influence they have. Which areas and text types are
translated from and into which language to compare and contrast trends and directions of
translation activities in the UAE? (see Area-restricted research and Text type research with
regard to Holmes’s map in Research Task and Position above). What is the culture of translation
in the UAE? What are the practices and tendencies of translation activity? What are the policies
that determine translation activity? (see Function-oriented research with regard to Holmes’s map
in Research Task and Position above).
Power and ideology: the research addresses issues such as complying with the dominant
ideology. How translators look at and perform translation as an action of rewriting; what factors
that systematically govern reception, acceptance, or rejection of translated texts, literary in
particular. Power practice in translation activity can be exercised by professionals such as critics
and reviewers, patrons such as publishers and media, and dominant literary traditions in response
to ideological, status and economic factors (Lefevere, 1992a).
Interpreting: investigating different extra-linguistic factors that play a role in the process and
performance of different types of interpreting carried out in the UAE such as court interpreting,
health care interpreting, and conference interpreting as well as modes such as sight translation
and telephone interpreting. The latter two are most likely non-existent in interpreting activities in
the UAE. Studies can look at the languages mainly covered in such activity, criteria of the
selection of interpreters, laws pertaining to this activity, exams administered to appoint legal
interpreters. Research themes can be settings, directionality, outsourcing, qualifications, and
professional vs. volunteer/amateur interpreting. Another sub-area is the mode of interpreting;
research is concerned with the kind of interpreting that is more resorted to in the UAE. At first
look, community interpreting seems to be wider in scope practiced on everyday basis in
comparison with conference interpreting since the latter is associated with are seasonal events.
Job market: research in this area sheds light on work opportunities for in-house staff,
freelancers, as well as outsourcing of translations whether within the UAE or from abroad. It
examines practices, roles, and recruitment procedures in organizations, whether governmental or
private, where translators are hired. It also covers the activity and role of translation businesses,
legal translation and interpreting.
Languages, directionality and publication: this area of research investigates the languages
involved in the translation activity in the UAE, in which direction it is carried out and the
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publication of translations. One research question is which languages are translated mostly from
and into Arabic in the UAE, and into which languages. Hypothetically, English can be the main
SL and TL. Statistics need to be used here to see how often there are translations from and into
which languages. Also, which direction is more frequent, from or into Arabic? One can
hypothesize that translation into Arabic is more frequent.
This area also covers the publishing industry whether local, regional or international
when it comes to publishing translations in, and of the UAE or by Emirati writers and/or
translators. What are the publication trends in the UAE regarding translation studies and
translations? Which translation direction is more supported and welcome? Which languages,
whether SL or TL, are more locally publishable? What are the publishing venues, such as weekly
and monthly magazines, literary journals and supplements that welcome translations? How do
publishing houses in the UAE deal with translated books? (see Function-oriented research in
Research Task and Position above).
Laws and regulations: this looks at the status of translation in the Emirati legal system. Is
translation and translators explicitly referred to in laws and regulations and how, in which
respects? Are there specific regulations on translation and translators in terms of employment,
professionalism, liability, ethics, and role in general, and legal translation and community
interpreting in particular?
Medium: this looks at whether the translation is carried out by human or non-human agent, i.e.
the computer. Machine translation whether installed software or the internet (using online MT
facilities) seems to have gained publicity among non-professional translators, for example
journalists and reporters, since it facilitates their work without the need of a translator’s service
that takes time and costs money. The area of machine translation can be researched by
investigating how much this alternative is used in the UAE, and how it is used, by whom, in
which areas, how it is evaluated by potential users, and what its prospects are (see also Medium-
restricted research with regard to Holmes’s map above). Investigating MT quality, however, can
fall within the linguistic areas of research.
Organization and sponsorship: the translation activity in the UAE has been stimulated by
governmental institutions and projects that have translation either as their sole activity or part of
their general business schemes, for example the Turjuman (translator) project of Mohammed bin
Rashid Foundation in Dubai and Kalima (word) project of the Culture and Heritage Authority in
Abu Dhabi. Both projects are dedicated to translate books in different fields into Arabic. The
research here should attempt to answer questions such as:
1. How is translation work organized in a nation-wide scope?
2. Which parties are responsible for such organization?
3. What kind of funding and financial aid does translation activity receive and from which
parties?
4. What are the tangible results of such support and what are their effects on the overall
cultural and socio-economic outlook of the UAE?
5. What are the areas that are mostly translated?
6. What are the titles that are chosen for translation?
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7. What are the criteria to choose titles and the respective fields of knowledge for
translation?
8. What are the languages that are mostly translated?
9. What are the criteria used to assign translations to translators?
Statistics should be sought here to support findings. Another aspect that can be researched is the
systematic task of the translation of books, documents and other material related to the history
and culture of the UAE in both directions from and into Arabic. Some questions that can be
asked and the research should attempt to answer are: what material is translated throughout the
UAE history? Who commissions the translation? In which direction is it mostly done (into or
from Arabic)? What kind of funding is allocated for such activity? How is the translated material
disseminated? How is the translation work regulated?
Revision and editing: what can be included in this sub-area are questions like what are the
policies and practices of revision and editing in governmental and private organizations where
translation is an essential part of their everyday work? If not, how do their translators deal with
this important part in their translation work? Also, what are the policies and practices of
translation and editing in mass media? Who does carry out such revision and editing, the
translators themselves or other translators, or a linguist/editor/copy writer?
Translating the UAE culture: how is the local culture being dealt with in the translation of
Emirati works of literature, tourist information, the press, films, TV show, cartoons, and web
sites?
Translation ethics and professionalism: the research here addresses issues such as stances that
translators take and decisions they make in performing their job whether personal ethics or a
code of practice adopted in their professional career. It also tackles the existence or
non-existence of code of ethics, the need to have a code of ethics for translators and translation
industry in the UAE, and professional guidelines and principles followed by translators while
carrying out their job assignments (see also Williams & Chesterman, 2002, p. 27).
Translator’s status and profession: this focuses on translators whether professionals or non-
professionals, i.e. those who carry out translation within their work duties or as academic and
literary activity. What are their qualifications and experience, work setting, and their
perspectives on translation? This can also include the translator’s status in society; how the local
society looks at translators, and how their work is appreciated and compared with other
professions. It also investigates the role and status of translators in organizations; in terms of
hierarchy, salary, perks, and allowances. Recruitment can be another aspect of this area. This
looks at the procedures of recruiting translators, criteria of selection, interviews, and recruitment
tests. It can also deal with the prospect of the establishment and functioning of translators’
professional association/society in the UAE (see also Job Market above).
Translator’s training: this investigates training programs whether at universities or otherwise
including curriculum design, testing, and accreditation. Higher education institutions in the UAE
have responded to the need for translators and have set up translation programs at both
undergraduate and graduate levels. The programs have been designed to meet the need for
translators in the job market. The research here looks at the socio-economic situation that helped
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in setting up those programs. It also reviews admission criteria and accreditation regulations and
process as well as the prospects of translation programs in the UAE. Another aspect is the
availability of translation courses and summer schools, their duration, status, rigorousness etc.
and the parties that offer such training (see the applied branch of Holmes’s map above).
Volunteer/amateur translation: this area is concerned with unpaid translation work whether in
organized projects and charity activities, unorganized individual help or as a hoppy. Point of
investigation can include kinds of projects and activities, organizations, settings, linguistics skills
and qualifications, criteria if any (see the subsection with the same heading in Linguistic Areas
of Research above).
Non-translational sub-areas
Arabic language status: this may sound out of context, but it is very much related to translation
activity in the UAE. A linguistically unique situation can be observed in the UAE in the sense
that there are many language communities including the native language with English as a lingua
franca. There is a heavy emphasis on English in education and business. With this kind of
situation, the research here focuses on how Arabic, functions in the Emirati society as source or
target language. How would the socio-economic status of Arabic determine the scope and
volume of translation activity? Are there governmental guidelines and regulations that require
translation into Arabic? What makes Arabic the SL and what factors play a role in deciding
whether to make it the TL or not, i.e. to have texts translated into or from Arabic or not, for
example signs, notes, or an Emirati web site in English, whether official or private.
One sub-area that can be investigated is the role of AVT in consolidating or undermining the
status of Arabic language in the UAE. The question of using dubbing instead of subtitling which
is in standard Arabic by default, or by using Arabic dialects rather than the standard variety, and
how this trend and decisions taken by Emirati or Arabic-speaking TV channels working in the
UAE regarding which AVT mode to be adopted would improve the audience’s Arabic or
negatively affect their proficiency in Arabic.
Bilingualism and code switching: these can be investigated in terms of their relation to, and
impact on translation. How a high percentage of bilinguals in the UAE would set the trend of
translation activity, reading translations, valuing translations, and having the need for
translations. Also, how code switching facilitates or hinders translation, and how it is dealt with
in translation since parts of the ST are in the target language. The latter can be investigated as a
linguistic area of research.
Chronological Axis of Research
The research perspective here is according to a time framework by looking at translation in terms
of historical and chronological stages of past, present, and future.
Past: this covers the history and role of translation activity in the UAE as well as the role of
translators in UAE history. The strategic location of the UAE, its political, cultural and
commercial contacts with other nations have made translation a significant medium of
communication in the history of the country. To document this vital aspect of UAE history, a
research can examine the role of translation in and its contribution to the relations of the UAE
with other countries. The UAE has had political, economic, and cultural links with neighbouring
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as well as farther nations such as China, Indian subcontinent, South East Asia, and European
countries such as Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain as well as USA.
UAE’s relations with Portugal are significant since the latter’s forces landed in the north of the
country in the 15th century. Also, the UAE has had a special relation with the Dutch as they had
an influential military and commercial presence in the area in the 16th and 17th centuries. Britain
had a military and administrative role in individual emirates (prior to the union). Britain has also
had commercial links with the UAE since the 18th Century (see Zahlan, 1998; Kazim, 2000;
Onley, 2007).
These relations required language mediation between those countries and the UAE (as
individual emirates or one unified country since 1971) to establish and maintain communication
with them. This communication, in its turn, required translators, in the broad sense, as cultural
agents to carry out the task of linguistic mediation. This mediation is a significant activity in the
history of the UAE that is worth investigating. Such research will be a pioneer study in
documenting and assessing translation and its roles in nation-building with special reference to
the UAE. It aims at assessing the role of translation, as a social agency, and translators as agents
of change and intercultural mediation (Lefevere, 1996, p. 55)
In this context, such research looks at how translation served this communication process,
and the historical role played by translators in the multilingual and multicultural society of the
UAE as well as in the work of its public and private organizations. The research looks at
translation as intercultural activity that has taken place throughout the history of the UAE as well
as the pathways of this activity. It investigates the linguistic and non-linguistic aspects of the
communication process between UAE leaders, their representatives, governmental institutions
and staff, private organizations, and the people of the Emirates with foreign dignitaries,
diplomats, overseas companies and their staff, explorers, historians, engineers, physicians,
scientists, merchants, teachers, technicians etc.
Research of the history of translation attempts to answer questions such as: how did
translation help in the intercultural communication between the people of the UAE and foreign
forces, companies, governments and individuals? How did translators play their role as cultural
mediators between the communicating parties? The research follows the footsteps of translators
throughout the history of the UAE, highlighting their work as facilitating agents of
communication and understanding between UAE and its foreign partners, enabling along the
way political dialogues, the conclusion of commercial agreements, positive bridging of cultural
differences, and representing local Emirati values, religion, customs and traditions of society as a
whole (see also Lefevere, 1992b; Pym, 1992; Delisle & Woodsworth, 1995; Pym, 1998; Katan,
2004; Martin & Nakayama, 2004).
The research investigates this interaction to highlight the ways in which the process of
communication took place on official and private levels. How did people communicate? Was it
through foreign languages (Dutch, English, Hindi, Portuguese, Urdu), or via the native language
(Arabic), or through linguistically mixed discourses, or was it through signing? If translation was
used to communicate, who then carried out the task of translation? (see the memories of H. H.
Dr. Sultan Al-Qasimi, 2009, pp. 225-318 regarding who played the role of the translator). Was
the translator a private person or a member of staff? If it was a staff, was s/he a translator
employed by the UAE authorities or by the foreign party? Were the translators professional with
experience and/or qualifications in languages or translation? Did they charge or were paid for
their services?
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Present: a research in this area provides a general overview of translation activity in the UAE in
present time context, including all or particular aspects, factors, and relevant issues that are
discussed above within extra-linguistic areas of research. These can cover all aspects of the
translation industry and include translators’ status and qualifications, job market and recruitment,
legal and organizational framework, translation features and impact, translation policy/policies,
translation trends and publishing, and translator training. Translator’s certification is a vital area
of research as there are guidelines and methods followed in the UAE that need to be investigated
to see whether or not they are adequately administered.
Future and prospects: in this area a future outlook of translation in the UAE is offered, based on
its present time situation as well as history, taking into consideration the cultural and
socio-economic factors that can help promoting and consolidating translation or weakening it. It
can suggest what future plans are needed regarding translation industry, its legal framework,
professional settings, and organization. Such plans can also include training programs and
recruitment practices and procedures, translation initiatives and institutions, translators
associations and code of ethics, and international cooperation.
Corpus-based translation studies as a research methodology
Whereas the traditional methodology of studying translation is investigating a ‘corpus’ of hard-
copy texts (originals and translations), corpus-based translation studies adopts methods and
techniques of corpus linguistics by having electronic corpora of machine readable texts stored in
computers to conduct research. This methodology helps researchers to process much larger data
than in the traditional way in a much shorter period of time. It can also help in tracing translation
strategies used by using software that produce parallel output of STs and their TTs. Special
software, which are common now, are used to trace features of originals and their translations
(see for example Izwaini, 2003).
Corpora have different profiles according to their composition and aims. Some research
can be done on already available corpora, and some compile their own. Corpus-based research
has the advantage of having a large number of translations investigated (they can be millions of
words), quick processing of texts, and convenience in dealing with originals and translations to
trace translation features at different levels.
Using electronic corpora has a potential impact on, and great significance for the
empirical investigation of translation strategies. In recent years, there has been a great interest in
using corpora for the investigation of translation. This led to the emergence of corpus-based
translation studies as “a major paradigm in the field” (Baker, 1999: p. 287). Research based on
machine readable corpora has been increasingly conducted in translation studies (for example
Malmkjaer, 1998; Scarpa, 1999; Kenny, 2001; Williams, 2005; Izwaini, 2010). Using corpora in
investigating translation is a methodology rather than an area of investigation, which can be used
with different topics of research outlined above (see also Saldanha & O’Brien, 2013).
One kind of corpora (comparable corpora) which comprises original texts in one language
and translations in the same language would help in identifying how translations are similar or
different from texts originally written in that language, and if different, how. We can detect
translation features and the factors that play a role in shaping translations and what actually
happens when translators do their job. One area of research is translation universals which
investigates translation features irrespective of the language. According to Baker (1996) and
Laviosa-Braithwaite (1998; 2002), these can include:
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1. Explicitation: it is a kind of addition by making what is implicit in the ST explicit in the TT.
2. Levelling out: having one translation for a variety of SL words or expressions.
3. Normalisation: shaping the translation according to the TL conventions to the extent of
exaggeration of these patterns.
4. Simplification: the tendency to use TL structures that can be easily-processed to make the
translation easier for the TT reader, for example by having TL short sentences for one long
SL sentence.
More discussion of corpus-based translation studies can be found in Oakes and Ji (2012),
Zanettin (2012) and Kruger, Wallmach and Munday (2013).
Conclusion
Translation in the UAE is a rich area of research with a wide range of sub-areas and topics that
can lend itself to numerous treaties, master dissertations, and PhD theses. Areas are diverse, and
have different foci and can be researched from different angles. In the previous pages I have
attempted to provide an overview of research areas of translation in the UAE. The kinds of
research according Holmes’s map is introduced. The areas are divided into linguistic, extra-
linguistic, and chronologically based research. Corpus-based research as a research methodology
is also touched upon. A special section is devoted to the significance of the study of the history
of translation and the role of translators in the inter-cultural communication in the UAE.
Research questions of those areas as well as hypotheses are also provided.
Notes
1. The sequence of areas here follows Holmes’s discussion (1988: 72) rather than the left-to-right
layout presented by Toury (1995:10).
2. The term ‘parallel translation’ was used by Casagrande in 1954 (Shuttleworth & Cowie 1997:
p. 120-121) to refer to the translation of a text simultaneously into a number of TLs.
About the Author:
Sattar Izwaini earned his PhD in Translation Studies from the University of Manchester
Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), UK. He is an assistant professor at the American
University of Sharjah, UAE where he is the coordinator of the MA program in translation. He
teaches translation at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. He has taught languages,
linguistics and translation in Britain and the Arab World. His research interests include corpus-
based translation studies, audiovisual translation, localization, terminology, machine translation,
and contrastive linguistics & translation.
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