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Lost in Translation - Part II

Lost in Translation - Part II

In our previous article titled ‘Lost in Translation’ published in Issue 18, October 2019, of the Driver Trett Digest, we explained the common shortfalls and flaws in documents submitted to courts that were translated by generic translation agencies. We also highlighted the increasing demand for translation services due to requirements in most Middle East jurisdictions that all the documents that are submitted to the courts must be in Arabic.

Author: Mustafa Abdulsalam, Senior Consultant, Kuwait

In this article, we will take a closer look at the field of Arabic translation and provide practical notes in relation to approaches to translation and associated challenges.

This article will also provide some tips on how to produce a well-prepared translated document that delivers a true and accurate meaning of the original documents without any ambiguity or distortion.

Translation plays a significant role in our everyday lives, more than we realise. Translation can be seen as a medium that is used to spread knowledge and ideas between people, and to facilitate effective communication between different cultures.

The history of translation began a long time ago when there was a need to exchange knowledge of science and arts between different cultures, and for society to fulfil the human enthusiasm to gain knowledge from every possible source.

For example, the Arabians preserved Greek notions and philosophies during the Middle Ages with their translations, and the Bible was translated into more than 500 languages. Moreover, as trade and economies advanced, physical location became less of a barrier to business.

International companies benefitted from working overseas due to the additional markets that they got to trade in, and their clients benefitted from the professional and industrial expertise of others, all of which resulted in the need for high-quality translation for communication to be effective. Therefore, translation is considered a bridge for communication to not only provide the equivalent meaning of the words in the original language, but also to spread the thoughts and sentiments beyond the mere meaning of the text. Arabic and English languages are no exception.

There are many reasons why translation has become an important aspect of industry and commerce, including in the construction industry, and particularly in the Middle East. Whilst many documents are produced in English due to the global nature of the construction industry and its tendency to rely heavily on the use of English, Arabic is the official language for many countries in the region, and therefore, if these documents are required to be submitted to government entities such as ministries or courts, Arabic translation is required - which usually prevails over the original text.

The level of interaction between international and local companies when it comes to negotiation of business transactions, partnerships or sponsorship agreements, also drives the need to exchange written documents in two, or sometimes more, languages. Unless the translations precisely capture the meaning and the true intention of the text in its proper technical context, miscommunications and misunderstandings can arise, which could end up resulting in a dispute.

In recent years, Driver Trett has provided technical translation services to many of its clients in the State of Kuwait, and in the wider region. Our services usually involve the translation of our deliverables from English to Arabic and the presentation of the same to their clients and/or to expert panels, and the like, in local courts, or other third-party tribunals.

In doing this kind of work, it is paramount to consider two key aspects: the technical subject knowledge required, and the language and translation knowledge required. From the technical side, one of the key advantages we have at Driver Trett, is that translations are carried out by native Arabic speakers, who have the technical knowledge and qualifications to translate technical reports and documents, in the right context.

It is not uncommon for the consultant who prepares the report in the first place to be the same consultant who carries out the Arabic translation of that same report. This therefore helps ensure that the Arabic translation reflects accurately the meaning of the technical terms and terminology that has been used in the English text without compromising the quality of the information presented in the translated documents. Recently, we were appointed to represent a leading international contractor operating in the energy sector in the State of Kuwait in front of a panel of experts in the local courts, where the official language was Arabic. For this commission, Driver Trett not only produced a rebuttal and counterclaim for use by its client in the proceedings, but also translated these documents into Arabic and further provided one of its native Arabic speaking consultants to attend the hearings and simultaneously interpret and interact with the discussions between the experts and the parties’ representatives.

As many languages have different origins and characteristics there is sometimes a risk that the quality of translation could easily be compromised. For example, the terms ‘quantum meruit’ and ‘ad hoc’ which are terms widely used in the field of dispute resolution, are Latin-based terminologies which have no equivalent in the Arabic language. For that reason, it is necessary that a translation should capture the proper meaning of any specific terms and incorporate them in the right and appropriate context. This of course would be difficult if the translator did not have the appropriate technical background to understand such terms. Depending on the circumstances and the nature of the commission, we adopt different approaches and techniques to translate documents. For some documents, albeit an approach not frequently used, we focus on the word-for-word technique where each word in the original text is translated using the most common meaning and keeping the word order of the main document.

There are also instances where we follow the literal translation of the text, i.e. where each word is translated independently using the most common meaning in its context and then reordered to follow the grammatic structure of the Arabic language.

To deliver the precise meaning it may be appropriate to focus and translate the overall text without considering the meaning of each word separately.

In a recent commission involving a dispute between an international and local contractor in the State of Kuwait, which the parties decided to refer to the local courts, Driver Trett was instructed to review a document that had been translated by a generic translation agency, before submitting it to the court. During our review we focused on, among other things, identifying the technical terms that were incorrectly interpreted from the original text. One of these terms was “unjust enrichment” or in Arabic “ الإثراء بلا سبب ” which the translator, who was not familiar with the meaning of the term, had translated to the Arabic word equivalent to “Graft”.

This term if submitted to the court as it had originally been translated, might have had a serious consequence on the outcome of the case.

In conclusion, translation of technical documents is not always the straightforward process that some might consider it to be. It requires certain skills and technical experience as well as knowledge of both the languages to produce a well translated technical document. The choice of the translation approach and technique depend on the circumstances and the nature of the document. However, the ultimate objective of a technical translation is to communicate accurately the thoughts and sentiments of the document beyond the mere literal meaning of the original text, when that text is translated.

This article was written for issue 22 of the Driver Trett Digest. To view the publication, please visit: www.driver-group.com/digest-issue-22


Articles  /  Digest  /  Global  /  Middle East

Articles  /  Digest  /  Global  /  Middle East

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