RIYADH: The first Saudi Translation Forum recently concluded in Riyadh, wherein translation experts, both local and international, gathered for the two-day event to examine the main issues and challenges facing the global translation industry.
The forum was held under the patronage of Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, minister of culture, and organized by the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission at the Ministry of Education.
The forum was inaugurated by the commission’s CEO Dr. Mohammed Hasan Alwan, who, in his opening speech, emphasized the importance of translation and the need to modernize the industry.
He pointed to the efforts of the commission to take the Saudi translation sector to the highest level of professionalism.
“We are proud to have hosted the first successful edition of the Translation Forum. It has been a true honor to bring together some of the top experts in the translation sector to discuss ways we can work together to advance the sector. Saudi Arabia has one of the biggest translation and publishing markets in the region, and we are exerting all efforts to grow the sector even more through nurturing and encouraging local writers and translators, forging international collaborations, and developing a supportive regulatory framework,” said Alwan.
Speaking to Arab News on challenges facing the global translation community, Prof. Brian James Baer, president of the American Translation and Interpretation Association and an expert at the forum, said: “One of the big problems that we are facing is stagnant income for translators, and in a broader sense, a lack of understanding of what translation is. People don’t understand what is involved in translation.
“Many think that translation is simply linguistic matching, and they don’t understand that language is asymmetrical, and you need to manage this asymmetry. So, it is always going to be a very creative decision-making process,” he said, confirming what other speakers at the forum noted regarding the creativity involved in translation and the current limits of machine translation, especially of literary works.
“I believe that we all have an investment in what I call translation literacy so that everyone understands better what is involved. Publishers should give translators credible visibility, allow them to improve notes, and in general, we should teach translation in foreign languages departments.”
On the impact of new technology, Baer said that digitization and globalization have exponentially increased the volume of texts that are translated.
“We need to use technology wisely and understand that it will create new job opportunities for translators editing and revising both human and machine-translated texts,” he said.
The forum hosted engaging panel discussions and interactive workshops that presented new tools and techniques in the fields of literary translation, news translation, political translation, and language interpretation.
Discussions highlighted international best practices in using translation technologies and computer-assisted translation tools.
It explored the role of translation in bridging cultures and the regulations governing the industry.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Barakati, one of the panelists, said that language and translation play a “crucial role” in shaping society and culture, while Prof. Martha Lucia Pulido Correa commented that Europeans owe much to Islam because of the translation efforts that bridged linguistic gaps between the two cultures.
In a panel discussion titled “The Role of Translation in Sports,” professionals in sports translation agreed that this field has a bright future in Saudi Arabia.
In terms of publicity and marketing, speakers stressed the importance of having interpreters in football clubs, highlighting the diversity of the players and how this helps clubs gain popularity internationally.
During the session titled “Audiovisual Translation: Profession/Hobby,” academics and audiovisual translation experts stressed the necessity of cross-sector collaboration for the industry’s success.
As part of the forum, the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission organized the Kingdom’s first audiovisual translation challenge for students, amateurs, and professionals in the field.
During the two-day “Motivation Challenge,” teams of two to three members competed in translating short film clips discussing Saudi culture and history from Arabic into English, French, Spanish, and Korean. Prizes ranged from SR5,500 ($1,466) to SR20,000 for winners in two tracks: amateurs/students and professionals.
The forum hosted 10 workshops to develop attendees’ skills in a number of areas, including the applications of media and news translation, transition project management, conference interpreting, and strategies of critical multimodal discourse analysis of audiovisual texts.
An accompanying exhibition was a part of the forum to foster ties between associations.