Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Editing Translation

A North Sudanese friend of mine, Rania, asked me to help her edit a couplepapers she was writing for one of her AUC courses. Worth 20% of her final grade, she was translating Arabic newspaper articles intoEnglish, and she wanted help from a native English speaker regarding her sentences structure, grammar, and general flow. Sounded great to me! I've always enjoyed editing papers, even to the point of getting a job through the Psychology Department at St. Olaf in which I edited papers, so this really excited me. Of course, helping a friend is enjoyable in and ofitself.

So, I met Rania at the AUC yesterday and for the next four hours wesat and worked through her assignment. By the end my head and eyeshurt. I was reminded of my sophomore year of college studying Spanish, only this time I was giving the advice that I had once received withmuch anxiety and frustration.Rania is very articulate, so I was surprised to discover her written skills lacking far behind her oral communication skills. After my first reading of her work, I decided we needed to start from scratch and take it paragraph by paragraph in order to create a decent translation.

First, I asked Rania to start reading at the beginning of the articleand translate for me. What she said made more sense than her written translation, but it was still confusing and haphazard. It didn't takelong for me to figure out what was going on. She was reading inArabic and translating "in Arabic." I had the same problem whentranslating into Spanish--I would write sentences with the Spanish vocabulary I knew but in an English-sentence format. I laughed out loud thinking back to all those times my professors told me I have to think in Spanish in order to express myself in Spanish, and I never could do it well. So, new tactic. I told Rania to read a paragraph to herself, and thenI took the paper away from her and told her to tell me what it said. At first she wanted the paper back--the crutch--but she soon was ableto tell me what the article said in her own English words. Now wewere on a roll! From that point on we mostly got stuck on trying tof igure out the best English vocabulary word for the Arabic word or expression, which also proved to be difficult but entertaining. It was another experience (of many) that has given me a greater appreciation for the talented people who know more than one language. Now if only I can put that into better practice myself...:-)


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