Translation In Yemen, Ambition & Reality [Archives:2000/47/Culture]

November 20 2000

Saif Al-Sahbani
If we want to know the importance of translation in development of nations, we have to review the two types of translation movement of both the Arab and the European nations. In this investigation we aim at getting acquainted with the reality of translation movement in Yemen after 38 years since the inception of the revolution.
Cadre Scarcity
Mr. Habib Ahmed, 56, a Yemeni holder of diploma in translation and who has a translation office in Sanaa, said, I can speak three languages: Arabic, English and German. I have two assistants who speak Arabic, English and French. We have been translating since 1986 and we have a permit from the Ministry of Culture. However, we suffer from lacking of cadre for the other live languages.
Absence of Control
The Ministry of Culture is supposed to supervise the translation offices that translate every thing without specialized cadre. It only gives official permits and paper to offices owners who put their seals on them and on school certificates. Mr. Hasan Ali Saeed, a 36-year-old Iraqi national, a BA degree holder, said, I can speak two languages: Arabic and English. In my translation office there are no assistants. I translate ordinary, commercial, political, medical, technical, petroleum and scientific translations and books. The office has been given a permit since 1998. The problem is that there are no translators of many other languages like German and French in the office. This applies to other translation offices in Sanaa. The absence of control and supervision of the Ministry of Culture on translation offices make the situation worse.
Faculty of Languages
To know about the reasons for scarcity of qualified cadre in translation, we went to Faculty of Languages at Sanaa University. We first asked Dr. Mahmoud Daud, the Dean, who said, Only those who speak their mother tongue well and who are competent in language can do translation.
The Arabic Language and Translation Department
Prof. Tareq Abdu Awn Al-Ganabi, a 64-year-old Iraqi national, Head of the Arabic Language and Translation Dept., said, Translation, its success, progress, its spread is a good phenomenon and it depends on the cultural and technical interrelation among countries and nations. Translation is a means for exchanging and spreading knowledge, civilizations, theoretical and empirical mental product in all sciences and it consolidates cooperation relationships between nations.
Anwer Abdul-Wahab, a 21-year-old Yemeni student in the 3rd level of English Department, said, Undoubtedly, studying a foreign language will offer me many chances of either having a good job or in learning about the achievements in the world.
Faculty Lacking All Facilities
Nada Al-Shamiri, a 21-year-old Yemeni student in level 3 French Language Dept., said, I liked the French language, I enrolled my name in the French Language Department and overcame the difficulties that appeared in the beginning. However, I, with other students in the Dept., realized that we suffer from lack of lecture halls, language laboratories and cadre. Our faculty lacks all the facilities needed by languages learners.
France, Pioneering Role in Translation
Mr. Francois Burgat Manager of the French Center for the Yemeni Studies in Sanaa, said, My words may be provocative but this is perhaps the nature of abstract scientific facts. Translation is a transitional period in the course of mutual understanding between the two civilizations. Resorting to translation proves that one civilization could not understand the other because of the language. Thus, the translation movement often represents balance of power between the two civilizations for the American civilization does not need to understand the other civilizations according to the rule The inferior submits to the superior. Now, we are at the stage of reconstructing the balance of power between foreign civilizations and other civilizations. Therefore, we find that the number of foreign people who can understand the Arabic Language has increased. The translation movement from Arabic into other foreign languages has prospered. The French Center is participating in this movement by organizing summer courses for the French students who study the Arabic language and supporting translation and publication of extracts from some of Yemeni literature and poetry books. Many French students who studied Arabic and who visited Yemen started translating some works from Yemeni literature and poetry. This is a real first step of the French peoples interest in the Yemeni history, civilization and society.
The students registered in this year 20002001 were 757 and the students who dropped out were about 30. The percentage of females in the college is about 75% of the total number of the students.