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Proverbs and Translation

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Proverbs are extracts of life experiences, and they can explain much of life. Below are some proverbs taken to explain some aspects of the translation process:

(1) A barber learns to shave by shaving fools

Just like the case in every profession, novices should be given their first opportunities by handling petite translation cases. On the one hand, a translation trainer may begin with his/her trainees by using fabricated texts. Unlike authentic texts that may be written by big shots in the different areas, literary and non-literary fabricated texts which may be written by the trainer himself lend themselves easily for translation. On the other hand, junior translators are supposed to do translations at any rate and cost for whoever wants a translation. A word of warning is necessary here: the translation should be carried out only after ensuring fully that no serious damages will be inflicted upon the client.

(2) A burnt child dreads the fire

Translation trainers should be very much careful not to upset, reproach, or punish their trainees. By being not mindful of this pedagogical and psychological axiom, trainers will negatively affect their trainees by turning them more and more introvert and passive in the translation classroom. First lessons should be of the encouraging sort, and students must be rewarded on their achievements whatever the degree of success may be.

(3) A chip of the old block

It has very often been observed that the family has a role in the making and shaping of translators. Just as the genes are responsible for passing a particular quality onto the child from its parents, memes are also responsible for transferring aspects of cultural evolution. The meme consists of any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that gets transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind of the family, or more, to another (the child). Examples include thoughts, ideas, theories, practices, habits, songs, dances and moods and terms such as race, culture, and ethnicity. Most important of these in our special case are the ideas, thoughts, habits and practices of translation. These memes get more and more refined with the passage of time. It is worth pointing out that during what was called the golden era of translation, culminating in the House of Wisdom, family translators played a great role in the development of Arab and Islamic civilization. This can have relevance to private and government translation agencies by discovering and trying to promote the talents of those children.

(4) A clean carpet often hides a dirty board

To err is human, Pope says. And translations are full of errors of different sorts. They pass unnoticed because the language of translation is semi perfect. But these errors never escape an eagle-eyed critic who is well-trained and proficient in the two languages. So, unless the translator is very much trusted and tried, do not let yourself be cheated on by surfacely decorated, embellished and ornamented translation. Translation frauds like “This book is translated by a committee of university professors”, seen on some books translated into Arabic, must be expected and dealt with properly by not buying the book. Finally, all that glitters is not gold.

(5) A hungry stomach has no ears

Whether on the level of individuals or nations, it is uneasy to alleviate or tame the hunger for translations. It has been noticed that translations at such times found their way easily into the target cultures. But they go through a very complicated process of acculturation and examination when the hunger for knowledge and translation no longer exists. To use Venuti’s terms, foreignizing is expected at the first phase, while domesticating is done at the second phase.

(6) Beggars must not be choosers

Let those unindependent translators whose needs for money are much greater than anything else understand that they cannot choose their material for translation. They can only have the right to choose when they become independent or senior translators, in case they work for a translation agency or bureau.

(7) Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow

Novice translators must translate immediately at any cost and result and not to put off things for tomorrow. It very often happens that such translators do not practice translation in the hope that their translations may become better at some time in the future. They are definitely right in this, but on condition that they practice today.

(8) By others’ faults wise men learn

Translation trainees can learn translating by two things: practicing translation and studying parallel texts and translation critiques. We have already talked about the urgency of translating, and the second thing that should be emphasized here is parallel texts in which STs and TTs are put together in one book or two books. Parallel texts have the advantages of teaching trainees the meanings of words, the structuring of sentences and expressions and the methods of translating. These texts are now fashionable, and one can easily find poetry collections and novels that provide original texts with their translations. In addition to this, it is of maximum importance that trainees follow and read translations critiques to see and understand the advantages and disadvantages in translated materials. Such critiques offer invaluable explanations and alternatives, and trainees can learn a lot from the ups and downs of other translators.

(9) Cut your coat according to your cloth

It is no use for novices to try in their formative years to translate tough names and subjects. While tough authors tend to employ the highest of their competencies, tough subjects uneasily lend themselves to interpretation and translation. Both tough authors and subjects need time to decipher their codes.

(10) Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill

During the learning and training period, junior translators do need to make a mountain out of a molehill. They have the right to brag to their colleagues and friends about what they are learning and doing. This is part of the human nature, and has always been observed in the behaviour of skillful and distinguished people.

(11) Every sin carries its own punishment

Yes. But while small sins are inexplicable and unforgiven, and deserve the appropriate punishment, big sins committed in the translation of complex units and structures are excusable and pardoned. The problem is that some trainees commit different sorts of sins, and there may be a time when the trainer, reviser and or teacher is unable to distinguish between big and small errors. So trainees are advised to avoid committing the small sins!

(12) If you want a thing well done, do it yourself

Senior translators who have established themselves in the market must not entrust their tasks to junior translators, especially when the translation material and client are serious and important.

(13) It is easy to despise what you cannot get

Destruction is easier than building, and criticism is easier than production. Finding faults with other people’s work has been noted to be carried out in great cases and situations at relative ease and speed. However, critics, revisers and translation trainers who are unable to display options and alternatives are in matter of fact mere quibblers. They surely deserve the charge of being jealous of the success of other people.

(14) Jack of all trades and master of none

Any aspiring translator who aims at recognition and success in his or her work must specialize in one area or two.

(15) Little and often fill the purse

Junior translators must practice and learn at gradual and steady paces. They must not take one big dose on one day and stop for a month. Gradualness also means carrying out translations piece by piece. This will ensure accuracy, organization and relaxation.

(16) One is never too old to learn

This is an instruction for all, junior and senior translators alike. There is always something new to learn, or old to be remembered. Translation conferences, workshops and forums offer a great deal to learn from them. There is also the opportunity to learn and share new ideas and thoughts with other people.

(17) Prevention is better than cure

Advance preparation and practice will surely save translators from any translation difficulties and challenges they may face.

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