Examining the Challenges of Translating Cultural Bound Expressions: The Case of Arab Professional Translators

Maha M. Aldhahi, Fawziah A. Alshehri


The translation of culture-bound expressions such as idioms, proverbs and similes can be a challenge even for professional translators, who are expected to have an excellent command of the languages they work with, at least theoretically. Therefore, in this paper we aim to examine the five categories of challenges and find out by conducting a survey of Arab professionals. In our survey, 56 Arabic translators in Saudi Arabia are asked to select the English and Arabic culture-bound expressions they know. Furthermore, this study is significant since it attempts to answer the question of whether translation CBIs with direct equivalent constitutes a problem when translating between English and Arabic or whether translation CBIs with no equivalent is translatable or not. Our initial results show that the translation of culture-bound expressions can indeed cause significant challenges for professional translators. Overall, our results suggest that testing the cultural knowledge for translators between Arabic and English is a possible task and therefore it is possible to improve a reliable translation product. Also, the findings propose that there is a pressing need to have a corpus of the most frequent uses of CBI in translator training programmes.


word for word translation, word translation type, cultural expressions

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