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Nada Bayamin

Practicum 461

Difficulties in Translating ‘A rose for Emily’

Translation is not an easy task. When I decided to translate a short

story,’ A rose for Emily’ by William Faulkner, from English to Arabic I knew it
wasn’t going to be a word-for-word translation. I have to translate ideas,
emotions, views, opinions, images and culture. Since translating from one
language to another of a different origin, there is more to the translation
than just translating vocabularies .And this is applied to English-Arabic
translation. While the English language is Germanic, the Arabic language is
Semitic. Therefore, the morphological and syntactic structure is totally
different. However, when the translating started, problems started to occur.
There was getting to know the background of the story, the structure of the
sentence (syntax), the structure of the word (morphology), lexicons. Not to
forget to be faithful to the author’s writing.

One of the difficulties I had was not having a good background of The
American Civil War. I had to read about the Confederate and the Union and
also the Southerners and Northerners.

Then there was the grammatical structure of the English language .The
grammatical of a sentence in English is SUBJECT + VERB + OBJECT while in
Arabic it is VERB + SUBJECT + OBJECT. For example, in English these

• Miss Emily Grierson died is translated to Arabic to ‫توفيت النسة إميلي‬

• The druggist looked down at her is translated to ‫نظر الصيدلي إليها‬
Therefore, the verbs ‫ توفيت‬and ‫ نظر‬precedes the subjects ‫النسة إميلي جريرسون‬
and ‫ الصيدلي‬in the Arabic language respectively. While in English they follow
the subjects.
Also, the switching of positions is not limited to the VERB/SUBJECT position of
a sentence. In English the ADJECTIVE precedes the NOUN while in Arabic it is
the opposite. For example:

• a small fat woman is translated to ‫امرأة صغيره و بدينه‬

• a big dark ready man is translated to
In both translated sentences the nouns ‫ امرأة‬and ‫ رجل‬are preceding the

The most difficult part was translating the sentences within the
sentences like:
Colonel Sartoris, the mayor--he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on
the streets without an apron-remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her
father on into perpetuity.
The sentence: he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets
without an apron is just adding information about Colonel Satoris, so it had to be
part of the Arabic sentence by adding it as a description or an adjective like
,‫أن الكولونيلسارتوريز محافظ البلدة المنشئ لقرار يمنع بظهور أي امرأة زنجية في الشارع دون مئزرها‬
‫كان أيضا يلغي ضرائب النسة إميلي‬.

The morphological change was not as difficult as it was complex. An

Arabic verb could provide the tense, the gender or the number of the subject
and object like this word: ‫قهرتهم‬. It provides the tense which is past the
gender of the subject which is female and single while the number of the
object is plural. The original sentence is SHE vanquished them.

With all these difficulties, the most was the vocabularies. I thought having two electronic
dictionaries with Oxford English-English dictionary, Al Munjed Arabic-Arabic dictionaries and
Al Mawrid English-Arabic dictionary would help me. However, there are words that –as far as I
found out - have no equivalentin Arabic like Fleshless and cuckolded. Also the words that
describe the house; I had to ask an architecture about spires and cupolas, pick, riggers and mules
to get an idea about them. Nevertheless, what was surprisingly helpful is Babylon. It is a
translating website that provided me with accurate and clear translation of these words: acrid pall
-which was only explain in Al Mawrid with no equivalent - bays, buggy, cotton gins, ebony,
livery, noblesse oblige, silhouette, spraddled, stable, Yankee and other words.

What I found also helpful is searching for the word in Google Image Search. It gives a
clear picture. However what I found helps the most is the knowledge. When you already know
about something you can explain it but when you don’t; reading is a necessity. Most of all what I
learned by experience is that translation is a science.