This article is devoted to the English Arabic translation; it will lay the light on the definition of translation, the importance of English Arabic translation, the difficulty idioms impose to translators, the qualities of a good translator and the necessity for translation in general.

Translation in Dr. Hasanuddin Ahmed’s words is: “the action or process of delivering from one language into another. It is the expression or rendering of sense of words, sentences, and passages etc from one language into another.” Ulm-ul-Qur’an, Dr. Hasanuddin Ahmed, I.A.S.

The Columbia Encyclopedia defines translation as the rendering of a text into another language.

Katharine Barnwell (1986, p. 8).defines it as follows: Translation is re-telling, as exactly as possible, the meaning of the original message in a way that is natural in the language into which the translation is being made.

Translation is much more than the interpretation of the meaning of a text in one language and the production of a new, equivalent text in another language , or the substitution of the words of one language with the words of another language, or the rendering of meaning of a text or whatsoever in one language into another, it is the bridge of appreciation and understanding among people of different cultural groups , it is the means of communication among different groups of people, the means of cultural exchange, the means of preserving cultural heritage of any nation, the means of forming ties and friendships among different groups of people, and the means of understanding and peace.

Human beings are after all not living alone and, every human being has the need and desire to know about one another, man tries to learn what other people are doing, how they are living, and how they have lived. We would like to know, apart from our different ethnicity, color, language, and culture, whether we share the same understanding of love, passion, sorrow, aspiration, sympathy, jealousy and many other respects of human nature. So as long as the desire to exists, translation will be the only bridge across which our aims are reached and our desire realized.

In the general sense, the goal of translation is to build bridges among different groups of people, but the goal of translation in the theoretical sense is to establish a relationship of equivalence between the source and the target language; it should ensure that both texts communicate the same message.

There has been debate as to whether translation is an art, a science, or a Skill. I think Translation is a combination of all of them. It is a science in the sense that it needs complete knowledge of the structure, grammar, semantics, and syntax and in general the make-up of the two languages concerned. It is an art since it requires artistic talent to reconstruct the original text in the form of a product that is presentable to the reader who is not supposed to be familiar with the original. It is also a skill, because it requires attention to detail the meaning and a thorough understanding of the relationship between syntax and semantics, coupled with extensive cultural background and the ability to provide the translation of something that has no equal in the target language.

Also being a human skill, it enables human beings to exchange ideas and thoughts regardless of the different languages they use. Man is endowed with the ability to convey his feelings and experience to others through language. For this process of communication man acquired both spoken language and the written language, but when human beings spread over the earth, their languages differed and they needed a means through which they can communicate and interact with each others. Thus necessity for translation to convey one’s feelings and experiences into the other language was felt.

Sometimes we ask ourselves, why is translation between English and Arabic important? Both Arabic and English are of the world great languages, in the book ‘The Spread of English, on page 77 the writer says: “the great languages of today are languages of empire, past and present. Only two, Mandarin Chinese and Russian, continue as languages of administration within single, ethno linguistically diverse states. The others -Arabic, English, French, and Spanish-are imperial legacies, having survived the disintegration of the empires that fostered them.”

Arabic language is one of the great world languages. there have been great languages of great empires that did not survive as a great language , like Turkish for instance, when we compare Turkish with Arabic, we find out that Arabic survived the disintegration of the Arab Islamic empire and it continues to be one of the great languages of the world till today, while the Turkish language which was the language of administration and authority in the middle east , Balkans, and different parts of the world that was under the Ottoman rule for a thousand years ,but Turkish in the words of Fishman on page 77 in the book ‘The Spread of English” ‘flowed back to Anatolia with the collapse of the ottoman empire’. But these words are not 100% accurate because Turkish is spoken all over Turkey and in Northern Cyprus, not only in Anatolia which is only a part of Turkey. Also Turkish minorities in the former Soviet Union republics, Bulgaria, Russia, Greece, and Romania use Turkish as their mother tongue. Moreover the languages of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, are all branches of the Turkic language family. Yet, no denying that Turkish language lost a lot of its importance after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Returning to Arabic, it is one of the six official languages adopted in The United Nations. Arabic is the language of a rich culture and civilization dating back many centuries; it was the language of Muhammad, the Messenger and Prophet of Allah (Allah is the Arabic word for God), and it is the language of the Holy Qura’an. It has produced great figures such as Averroes(Ibn-Roshd), the medieval Aristotelian philosopher; Ibn Khaldun, the first social historian; and Khalil Jibran. Between the eighth and the fifteenth centuries, the volume of literary, scholarly and scientific book production in Arabic and the level of urban literacy among readers of Arabic were the highest the world had ever known to that time. Islamic artists have used Arabic script as their principal art form for centuries; the beauty of their work will be revealed to anyone through the study of Arabic. Arabic is a member of the Semitic group of languages, closely related to Hebrew and Aramaic, the language the Christ spoke. Moreover, Arabic is widely spoken; total speakers of Arabic exceed 350 million.

According to the Wikipedia encyclopedia, Arabic was also a major vehicle of culture, especially in science, mathematics and philosophy during the middle ages, that is why many European languages have also borrowed numerous words from it.

Pamela J.Farris says in her book Language arts on page 99

“English has borrowed from Arabic algebra, candy, lemon, orange, sugar, and magazine.”

Not only these words English borrowed from Arabic, but there are hundreds of other words borrowed from Arabic, there are some hundreds of the words English borrowed from Arabic in Al Mawrid English-Arabic dictionary, such as typhoon which means in Arabic 7HA’F , Spinach 3(‘F. , and sesame which means in Arabic 3E3E.

So Arabic being one of the world great languages makes translation from and into that language very important, especially English Arabic translation.

No doubt that English is a world language; nowadays it is the language of science, aviation, computing, diplomacy, and tourism. It is listed as the official or co-official language of numerous countries .As well as Arabic, it is one of the six official languages in the United Nations

Consequently, the knowledge of the English language is one of the most important tools in achieving scientific and technological knowledge; moreover it is a tool of communication between countries, different cultural groups, various companies and organizations, communities and friends.

Translation is the tool to make use of the new technology and science. Science knowledge coupled with multiple languages and cultures are increasingly important in an expanding global economy and world welfare. It is clear that Britain and the USA are the forefront of new ideas in science and technology. USA has pioneered in all fields of technology and science; accomplishments of Britain and US technology are in English, so it is very essential to know English to make use of such technology and science.

Also Political relationships, wars, and conflicts make translation so important to have access to what is going on in different parts of the world, especially Arabic English translation, as English is the language of the big powers of the world, and the Arab region is the theatre, where vital events take place at present.

No denying that English is the cornerstone of the world media, many important news sources are in English, on page 34 of the book The Spread of English the writer says: “English newspapers in non English mother-tongue countries are another indication of the world wide status of English”.

If one knows English, one can read the news and points of views of several writers around the globe, by doing so one can expand his knowledge, and get a broader outlook on the surroundings, and to look at issues with a broader perspective. In my opinion, knowing any language is an international passport specifically English.

English is also the language of communication, with the spread of internet, English appeared to be the language of communication, hundreds of millions of different races communicate with each others via the internet in English, thus English helps to strengthen ties, and make friends among different cultural groups of people on different spots of our planet.

So being the language of science technology and communication, in the age of the internet, English spread so widely, there has never been a language so widely spread in so short a time as English.

As mentioned above, both Arabic and English are great world languages, so translation between this pair of languages is important and essential because of the many reasons mentioned previously.

Translation has been and continues to be the means of cultural and knowledge exchange among people throughout history, and the means of preserving cultural heritage.

As the Islamic Arabic Empire spread, the Arabic language and, indeed, culture was enriched by contacts with other civilizations: Greeks, Persians, Copts, Romans, Indians and Chinese. During the ninth and tenth centuries, a great translation movement, centered in Baghdad, was in force, in which many ancient scientific and philosophical tracts were transposed from ancient languages, especially Greek, into Arabic. Many were enhanced by the new wisdom suggested by Arab thinkers; other texts were simply preserved, only to re-emerge in Europe during the Renaissance.

Modern European languages, such as Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and English owe a great debt to Arabic. The English language itself contains many words borrowed from Arabic: algebra, alchemy, admiral, genius, ghoul, mare sherbet, soda and many others. “

By the means of translation cultural heritage is preserved and new civilizations evolved and flourished; the western civilization for instance, was established on the Arabic and Islamic civilization; scientific books were translated from Arabic into different European languages, and it was the core for the current western civilization.

In the book of “Muslim Contributions to World Civilization” On page 118 we will find that, “From 1154 AC to the sixteenth century, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholars from Western Europe and Spain translated books from Arabic into Latin in the Toledo Academy established by Alfonso, Sabio the Wise. The translations were then distributed to academic centers in Europe, where they became the basis of the Renaissance, the revival of knowledge in Europe.”

Stanwood Cobb says:” Europe was indebted for all of its beginnings in alchemy and chemistry to the chemical science of the Arabs, which reached them through translation of Arabic works into Latin. In this science, as in other arts and sciences which they practiced, they developed an objective and experimental method as opposed to the purely speculative method of the Greeks.”

“The science of algebra owes much to gifted mathematicians of the

Islamic era. Its very name proves the magnitude of this debt, for the name itself is Arabic, al gebr, “a binding together .”

“In addition to the volumes of Greek science, many scientific works of the Arabs-Avicenna, Averroes, and Rhazes in particular-were translated.”

So English-Arabic translation has been and continues to be of great importance, the causes in the past and present are only different. Currently, it is well known that English Arabic translation is increasingly becoming a topic of much concern and importance these days. Oil, strategic location, history of the Islamic and different other civilizations that took place in the Arabic region, and the current events in the Middle East on the Arab side and the western desire to possess the oil and dominate the region on the Western side, contribute to this importance. This paper highlights the importance of English Arabic translation, mainly the translation of the two word English idioms into Arabic; as English language is full of idioms native speakers of English use a lot of idioms and expressions in everyday conversations, books, newspapers, magazines, TV shows on the Internet because idioms add color to the language, but at the same time, idioms are difficult to understand because their meaning is not what it appears to be at first sight. This imposes a major difficulty to translators from English into Arabic.

For example in the Telegraph newspaper dated 19/09/2006 one of the headlines reads “Police patrols at churches stepped up in Pope Row”

The Idiom ‘step up is used in this article, the Idiom Connection defines the idiom’ step up ‘as follows “rise to a higher or more important position, be promoted”

Al Mawrid dictionary translates the idiom ‘step up’ as J2J/- J6’9A- J2/’/- J*6’9A- JF/A9- J*B/E

In the context of the previous article, the idiom ‘step up’ can be translated as – J2/’/ , it is the translation of the meaning of the idiom.

A Second example in The Sunday Times dated April 30, 2006, the Idiom ‘back down’ is used in the following articles:

Iran’s psychopath in chief, by Israel

“Britain, France, Germany and America hope to pass a resolution at the United Nations Security Council this week mandating Iran to suspend its work on uranium enrichment. If Iran refuses to back down, the security council could impose targeted sanctions.”

Also in the Mail guardian online dated 07 November 2005 we will find the headline

‘Blair to back down on anti-terror laws’

British Prime Minister Tony Blair reluctantly accepted on Monday that he would have to back down on proposed anti-terror laws that would enable police to hold people for up to 90 days without charging them.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke, announcing what amounts to a climbdown, said, however, that the new time limit would not be as short as the 28 days sought by critics of the new Terrorism Bill, which faces a parliamentary vote on Wednesday.

“We do not want to compromise on the 90 days at all. It will be a compromise with this nation’s security,” said Blair at his monthly Downing Street press conference, where he held out hope that he could yet minimise the impact.

American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms – defines the idiom’ ‘back down as ‘Reverse one’s upward course, descend. For example, When she saw the wasps’ nest on the roof, she hastily backed down the ladder. This literal usage usually refers to something one has climbed, such as a ladder or mountain. [Mid-1800s]

Al Mawrid dictionary translates the idiom ‘back down’ as –J*F’2D 9F E7D(

Also 9F J*.DJ 9F – J*1′,9 is a proper translation

In the previous articles, it can be translated as 9F J*.DJ 9F – J*1′,9, and it is the translation of the meaning of the idiom.

Idioms are one of the factors that makes translation remain a human activity; although attempts have been made to automate and computerize the translation of natural language texts, or to use computers as an aid to translation, but translation remains mainly a human activity that needs skill, intelligence, human feeling that keeps the life and spirit of the original language to the translated text, idioms pose a challenge to any translation program. Since a lot of idioms cannot be translated literally.

The right understanding of Idioms is the key to have a good translation from English into Arabic. English is full of idioms; native speakers of English use a lot of idioms and expressions in their speech and writing, in other words, native speakers of English use idioms all the time. Idioms are the grease that makes language flow, but at the same time idioms are difficult to understand because an idiom is “An expression whose meanings cannot be inferred from the meanings of the words that make it up.” Webster’s Online Dictionary, but some are easier to guess when they have some association with the original meaning of the individual words. So the translator should be aware of the idioms.

The idiom ‘cold feet’ which the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary defines as:”to suddenly become too frightened to do something you had planned to do, especially something important such as getting married” , whereas the American Heritage Dictionary defines the idiom ‘cold feet’ as

“Fearfulness or timidity preventing the completion of a course of action”.

It is used in an article in the guardian newspaper on Saturday March 25, 2006 as follows:

‘Iraq hostages ‘were saved by rift among kidnappers’

o Guards got cold feet after American was shot

o Returning Kember ‘failed to say thanks to rescuers’

Jonathan Steele in Amman, Ewen MacAskill and Richard Norton-Taylor

Saturday March 25, 2006

The Guardian

The British hostage Norman Kember and his two Canadian colleagues owe their freedom to a rift among their Iraqi kidnappers, a western security source close to the rescue operation said yesterday.

This idiom used in the previous article can be translated as AB/’F ‘D-E’3 DA9D 4& E’- FB5’F ‘D4,’9G #H ‘D+B) DA9D 4& E’, the translation is the paraphrase of the idiom according to definitions given above. So the right understanding of idioms is the key to translate well.

An idiom is learned and used as a single unit of language; and should be translated in the same way. To translate idioms the translator , first of all needs to recognize idioms , understand them, know the culture from which the idiom comes, the origin, the atmosphere in which it is used , then the translator should do his/her best, at first to find an equivalent or a corresponding idiom in the target language that keeps the flavor of the original, if there is not such corresponding idiom or phrase the translator analyzes the idiom and translates the meaning of the idiom in words that keep the color and flavor of the idiom in the source language

Every language is idiomatic; each language has a certain set of rules that govern the way words are put together to express facts, ideas and feelings. The rules and their exceptions are unique to the language, despite possible similarities with other languages. In this sense, a language is always idiomatic. Within this general consideration, we usually think of ‘idioms’ as unique phrases: we use them to express something that other, more general sentences can’t express just as well. It is important to learn idioms to be able to communicate well. They are also interesting to study because of the insight they give us into the language and the people who use them. These expressions originate in the history, literature, religion, and traditions typical of a certain community. For this reason, idioms reveal much of the way of thinking of a community.

Since idiomatic expressions are so frequently encountered in both spoken and written discourse, they require special attention in translation

the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines ‘idiom’ as : a group of words whose meaning is different from the meanings of the individual words:. This means even if one knows the meaning of each word; one may not understand the idiom itself. So we cannot translate the idioms correctly unless we understand their meaning. If we take into account the idiom ‘ New blood and translate it into Arabic (/E ,/J/) word by word, (/E ,/J/) is sometimes used in Arabic to mean young people. On one hand, it can be viewed as an equivalent, on the other hand sometimes it is hard to guess that the expression actually means ‘ people with a lot of energy or fresh ideas who are brought into an organization in order to improve it’ as defined in Cambridge advanced Learner’s dictionary, as in F-*’, ‘DJ /E ,/J/– it can mean the need for new blood in a hospital for instance, but sometimes it can be misunderstood.

Based on the previous definition in Cambridge advanced Learner’s Dictionary, the appropriate translation for this idiom is #4.’5 EDJ&) (‘D7’B) H ‘D-JHJ) H ‘D#AC’1- ‘AC’1 H 7’B’* ,/J/) .The translation here is a paraphrase.

As a matter of fact, the literal translation of an idiom is often absurd or comical. The idiom ‘Back burner ‘ literally translates into Arabic as ”D-‘1B ‘D.DAJ’

The literal translation in Arabic sounds comical. The Dictionary of English Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions defines it as follows: If an issue is on the back burner, it is being given low priority is ‘ then the right translation is -‘D EF 9/E ‘D’G*E’E-BDJD ‘D’GEJ)

sometimes The image created by the literal meaning of an idiom is comic but sometimes it can help to remember that idiom.

Here is an example of English idioms that can be easily understood from the images they evoke. The English idiom double faced translates literally in Arabic as 0H H,GJF- (with two faces) in Arabic. So the image created by this idiom helps us to remember and understand it. So we can translate it as EF’AB ‘hypocrite’ in Arabic- or -E.’/9 deceiver (in Arabic), which will be an adequate translation. The image created by the idiom double faced can make us think of a person with two faces , which means hypocrite .Even though using the images of the literal translation is an effective and fun way to learn English idioms, the literal translation alone is deceiving in many cases

The real meaning of the English idiom has to be learned in context to be correctly understood. It is necessary to study idioms within sentences. A proper example makes the meaning and the use clear. For example the idiom sitting duck which means ‘an easy target’, when we learn this idiom in a sentence as in “His arguments were so simple, she was able to knock them down like sitting ducks.” It will be easy to understand that the idiom means ‘an easy target’ and translate it into Arabic adequately, if we translate it literally in Arabic it would be (7) ,’D3) which does not make sense in Arabic, but the adequate translation is a paraphrase translation of the idiom which is G/A 3GD

Translation of ideas and meaning from one language to another leaves much freedom to the translator , but translation of idioms does not need only translation of ideas and meaning , the translator should keep the effect idioms give to the language as possible as the translator can. To translate idioms word-for-word” translation is inadequate and confusing, To translate idioms well, the translator must recognize idioms to be idioms, the translator must understand the goals and intents of the author of the original work; and the context in which idioms are used, then s/he should understand the meaning of the idioms, s/he should look it up in dictionaries, search on the web , ask native speakers, and understand the massage of the idiom and in what context it is used . It is good to find a similar idiom in Arabic that carries the same meaning of the English idiom, if the translator cannot find so it is good to parse the idiom apart into its meaning and translate the meaning.

Katharine Barnwell says: The task of the translator is to translate the meaning of the message, rather than the words.

Bible Translation, Katharine Barnwell, 1986, p. 12.

In order to have a good translation, there must be a good translator, who should be fluent in the two languages he seeks to translate between. He must understand the language which he is translating from, as well as the language in which he is translating the work into. Moreover, a good translator must specifically be a good communicator in the target language. A good translator must have the knowledge, skill and experience in this business; In fact the translator has a very serious responsibility not to change the meaning in any way. He must be careful not to add anything to the meaning, or to leave any part of the meaning. Actually the task of translator is more difficult than the writer himself, the writer is free to express his ideas and views in the way he sees suitable and in the vocabulary he likes, but the translator confines himself to the words the writer used and he must be careful not to add anything to the meaning, or to leave any part of the meaning.


From what has been mentioned above, it is obvious that translation is the bridge of appreciation, love and friendship among nations, it is necessary for progress and prosperity .By the means of translation new civilizations evolved, the western civilization was established on the Arabic and Islamic civilization; scientific, books were translated from Arabic into Latin, and it was the basis for the western civilization.

English Arabic translation has been and continues to be of great importance, because both languages are great world languages, moreover current events, wars, conflicts and struggles in our world add to this importance ; English is the language of big powers and Arabic is the language of the region where conflicts take place for many reasons mentioned previously

Idioms pose a challenge to translators from English into Arabic. English is full of idioms which cannot be understood from the individual words .A translator of English idioms into Arabic needs good knowledge of the two languages and a good knowledge of both cultures .Idioms reflect culture traditions ,cultural identities and history of any nation. They give us insight into history , culture , traditions, and values, morals. So idioms reflect our common humanity through language.