Treasures in Translation


root: ت-ر-ج-م / noun / plural: تَراجِم / definition: translation

Last week, a friend and I visited this charming little coffee shop in Central London. Maybe it was the dimly-lit, cosy atmosphere or maybe it was the ludicrously overpriced hot chocolate that elicited some serious life contemplation, but either way: as Arabic graduates, our conversation (like always) naturally drifted back to the language.

For language enthusiasts, the learning process is always punctuated with linguistic gems that you stumble upon every so often.

One type of gem, we both agreed, was the discovery of those elegant, bordering-on-poetic Arabic phrases used to express a single foreign term.

Before entering into the final year of my Arabic degree, I was browsing online for some useful language-learning resources when I came across the name Project Syndicate.

The website is essentially a huge archive of opinion articles (or commentaries), with topics ranging from the environment to global politics and culture.

What’s really brilliant about it, though, is that they translate the online articles into thirteen different languages*—including Arabic.

Not every commentary is translated into each one of those thirteen languages. But, thankfully for us, Arabic is usually there.

You can see which languages the article has been translated into in the drop-down menu at the top of the article. Just click on a language for the translation.

One reason that it’s incredibly useful to see the exact same article in both your native and target language is that you can compare the expressions of certain structures and phrases between the two texts.

From this article, for example, compare the following:

“Ominously, the Earth’s temperature is now higher than during the Holocene”

“وما ينذر بالسوء أن درجة حرارة الأرض أصبحت الآن أعلى مما كانت عليه خلال عصر الهولوسين”

There’s so many interesting translation points to pick out here, but I think the most fascinating one has to be the Arabic translation of the word “ominously”: “وما ينذر بالسوء أن” (which literally translates as “and what warns of evil is that…”). Cool, right?

And you can always search for articles about the topics you’re currently studying or interested in as a way to consolidate and expand your subject-specific vocabulary.

So do check out the website and see what you think. If you know any other good language-learning resources, please do share them in the comments below!

Bye! مع السلامة

* The thirteen languages are: Arabic, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Kazakh, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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