Translating slang into proper Arabic
Thread poster: Maryse Trevithick

Maryse Trevithick  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:53
English to Arabic
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Sep 29, 2008

What is the best way to translate a conversation in English slang into Arabic? Would it be better to do it in a colloquial Arabic or we can still translate it into proper Arabic, preserving somehow the "slangy" side of it?

Appreciate all help.

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Fuad Yahya  Identity Verified
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There is no right answer Sep 29, 2008

Translation is a notoriously situational art. Many factors need to be considered in every situation:

- How "slangy" is the source text?

- How essential is the slangy nature to the purpose of the text?

- Will the ultimate medium of the translation be printed or spoken?

- What is the purpose of the translation? Is for documenting the content of the exchange, or is for sheer entertainment and/or humor?

- Is the intended audience limited to one region that speaks one dialect, or is it intended for an Arab-wide audience, Gulf to Ocean?

These are some of the considerations. And even when we have answered all of these questions, it will still be possible for two intelligent translators to favor one approach rather than the other. And there is a lot of middle ground that has been explored by many writers of fiction (consider, for instance, the writings of Ghazi Al-Gossaibi). I am not necessarily endorsing his approach, but it is out there.

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shfranke  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:53
English to Arabic
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Second Fuad Yahya's good comments. Slangy English > formal English > formal Arabic Sep 29, 2008


I second Fuad Yahya's good comments.

May I add an observation:

Unless you positively, absolutely, unavoidably **have** to render some "colloquial English" text into some equivalent matching form of "colloquial Arabic" (i.e., actually, into a regional variant, such as Cairene Egyptian, Baghdadi, Damascene, Emirati Gulf, or Saudi Najdi or Hijazi or Hassawi dialect), you might well do some refinement of the "slangy English" into > formal literary English and then translate that into > formal literary Arabic.

Another factor is that slang utterances in any language are wrapped in subtleties of culture and context (especially when jokes, puns or allusions are expressed) which rarely convey to another language with even-close fidelity, if at all.

Accordingly, attempts at rendering "slang English" into some sort of "slang Arabic" will multiply the fogginess and unintelligibility of the synthesized translation to a readership or audience.

Hope this helps.

Khair, in shaa' Allah.


Stephen H. Franke
San Pedro, California

[Edited at 2008-09-29 18:26]

[Edited at 2008-09-29 18:26]

[Edited at 2008-09-29 18:50]

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Ayman Medarwash  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:53
English to Arabic
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Contextual Meaning Oct 4, 2008

The game of Translation, I call Contextul Meaning which simply means what Faud said and I support every word he said Study the nature of your source language and teh appropriate associated contextual meaning; the get answers for all these question Faud suggested then you will know how to phrase this source file in a proper Arabic language.

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Translating slang into proper Arabic

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