Translation of English idioms into Arabic

Abu-Ssaydeh, Abdul-Fattah
May 2004
Babel;2004, Vol. 50 Issue 2, p114
Academic Journal
This paper consists of three parts; the first part examines the definition of "idiom" as a technical term, primarily from a translational perspective, and the strategies usually employed by Arab translators when translating English idioms. The second part analyses the Arabic translations given in a sample of two hundred and fifty-three English idioms in terms of strategies and the significance of their frequency. This analysis reveals four important things: 1. Statistically, the most common strategy applied is paraphrasing, followed closely by literal translations and semantic equivalence, with omission, compensation and other strategies being of significantly less importance; 2 Literal translation has allowed certain English idioms to become part of Arabic lexis; 3 A disproportionately large number of the translations are literal and, therefore, sound "foreign" or are deemed void of sense to the Arab reader, 4 Literal (and therefore erroneous) translations in the target language arise primarily from the failure of the translator to decipher the meaning of the idiom in question. The last part revisits literal translation in order to understand its nature, reasons for its prevalence, its effect on the translated text and its impact on the Arabic language.


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