How does a passion for languages affect translation services? The American Translators Association (ATA) has 522 registered members while PROZ.com has 59,179 in its database, which consists of language services companies worldwide. It is to be assumed that this is not the total picture though.
What’s realistic is that translation and interpreting services are more vital today than in the past, because globalization has opened many countries (and therefore different culture and languages) to the world at large. These language services providers facilitate communication and understanding between individuals, groups, communities and nations.
Having been in the industry myself for so many years, I’ve realized the breadth and extent of need for language services, the intricacies of the industry and its millions of clients. Getting to know fellow translators and interpreters as I continue handling my company has opened a wider avenue for me.
I get to learn about the fascinating lives of other people involved in our industry, who share not only the same passion for languages, but also to give me insights to their personal lives, their culture, their struggles and what inspires or motivates them to stay in the business.
Once a Hobby, Now a Passion
For my latest interview, I talked with a very fascinating translator and interpreter from Beirut, Lebanon. Her name is Rania Merchak, a French and Arabic translator and interpreter, and also the founder of her own company, Transpremium. Although she’s very busy running her company and taking on translation and interpreting projects herself, she relishes the idea of working and at the same time being able to spend more time with her kids.
Ms. Merchak explains that her name, Rania, is an Arabic name that means “to gaze at something for a long time” and “to listen carefully.” She shared that her father, who is also a translator and interpreter, is her role model, but she derives constant inspiration from her children.
She’s amazed that her three-year old son, who speaks fluent Arabic, French and English, already wants to learn Spanish and is actually starting to learn by watching language videos on YouTube.
Rania herself had a love of languages ever since she was a young girl. She was born in Morocco and used to speak the Moroccan dialect fluently. But because they moved to Beirut when she was only nine or ten, she was not able to practice. While she can still understand Moroccan Arabic, it has become difficult for her to speak it.
She said that she’s been passionate about English since she was young and she used to write stories in English. For her, it was just a hobby but her father counseled her to concentrate on translation and interpretation when the time came to choose a major in college. Now that she’s into language services, her past hobby has become her passion.
Lebanese Language and People
Rania Merchak shares that majority of Lebanese people speak at least two languages and about 60% speak three languages (Arabic, French and English), while Armenian Lebanese speak four languages. She explained that the Arab World, comprising 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, understand Lebanese, which makes it easier when interpreting.
While she does both language services, Rania says that she loves interpreting work more, but explains that it is unfair to compare the two, since each one requires a different set of skills.
She loves food but she says that she’s also a fitness freak, and that in another life, she must have been a personal trainer or a chef. She cleanly tied this side of her to one of the memorable projects she undertook. She translated a Pierre Dukan book, “Je ne sais pas maigrir” into English (I Don’t Know How to Get Slimmer). She said the book gave her plenty of insights into eating healthily. What she learned from the book completely changed her lifestyle and her diet, she said.
At my interview’s end, Rania Merchak gave this advice to those aspiring to be a translator or interpreter: “Never give up. Keep on learning!”
The Arabic Language
As Ms. Merchak is an Arabic and French translator and interpreter, I want to give you some insight into the Arabic language, which is spoken in 58 countries around the world. According to Ethnologue‘s latest statistics, Arabic is spoken by 267 million people as their first language, with Saudi Arabia as the primary country where the language is spoken. There are 19 dialectal variations of spoken Arabic.
The language of the Qur’an is Classical Arabic, which was originally the dialect of Mecca (now Saudi Arabia). Today, radio, TV, newspapers and books use the Modern Standard Arabic, an adapted form used by educated Arabs from different countries during conversations. However, the status is different when it comes to local dialects. Due to differences, a Moroccan might not fully understand the Arabic spoken by an Iraqi.
While Arabic is the main language in the Arab World, there are two minority languages that are still prominently used: Kurdish, which is used in many parts of Syria and Iraq and Amazigh and its various varieties that are spoken by the Berbers located in North Africa.
The word “Arab” means nomad, thus Arabic means “the language of the nomadic tribes” living in the Arabian Peninsula’s desert region. It is one of the official languages of Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Iraq, Palestine-Israel, Qatar, Yemen, Sudan, Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. It is also widely spoken in Mauretania, Mali and Chad.
Some Interesting Facts
– Arabic is a fascinating language, which is written in beautiful script. It’s mainly read from right to left, except for the numbers, which are read from left to right. As a writing system, it is third behind Latin and Chinese. Until the 16th century, some texts in Spanish were even written in Arabic script. As a very descriptive language, it is not surprising that it was used in poetry, which is the earliest form of Arabic literature. At that time though, poetry was used either to praise or insult a person’s tribe.
– Arabic has 18 distinct shapes that can vary slightly depending on their connection to the letter that comes before or after them. Interestingly, there are no capital letters in Arabic. Its alphabet comprises 28 letters. The other letters are created by the placement of dots above or below some of the letter shapes.
– In written words, the three long vowels are included whereas the three short vowels are usually omitted, with a mark included above or below other letters as an indication of their omission.
– Arabic ranks among Korean, Japanese and Chinese as one of the most difficult languages to learn.
– The United Nations celebrates Arabic Language Day on December 18.
From a Translator’s Viewpoint
Arabic, which is a difficult language to learn, is also one of the hardest languages to translate. It is a descriptive language where one word can have various meanings depending on usage and context. For example, the English word “love” has 11 terms in Arabic, describing love in stages. Its word construction is also unusual and complex.
That being said, sometimes no single English term can be used to translate an Arabic word. It becomes more complex to translate sentences. Due to the cultural differences and the various terms used in Arabic to convey a meaning, it may take a few more sentences to translate one Arabic sentence. Why does this happen? It’s because the translator has to translate the literal meaning of the sentence as well as explain the facts about why the sentence was constructed in that way.
There are also several Arabic letters that have no direct equivalent in English. Thus the translator must be very careful in choosing the right one that is closest to the sound of the Arabic letter.
So, if you need expert Arabic to English or English to Arabic translation, rely on the experts. Day Translations, Inc. only uses native Arabic-English speakers to handle Arabic to English and vice-versa translation projects. You can easily reach us via our toll free number 1-800-969-6853 or send us a message through firstname.lastname@example.org.