By Sabir Hasan:
In the mid of the 20th century, Jamal Nebez said that ‘Translation is an Art’. Today, however, translation has become an independent scientific discipline after the translation scholar, James Holmes, laid the foundation of the Translation Studies represented in his now classic article ‘The Name and Nature of Translation Studies’, and presented in the Third International Congress of Applied Linguistics in Copenhagen in 1972. Today, translation has a great status in the global media, in introducing cultures and building bridges between different languages and nations. It is again through translation that the United Nations and European Union put forward a great deal of world politics. In this article, we shall discuss the role and status of translation in the Kurdish media. We specifically aim to answer the following questions:
- To what extent has the Kurdish media been successful in utilising the role of translation to enhance the media output?
- How is the quality of translation in the Kurdish media?
- Does ideology play any role in the translation like other aspects of society?
The role of translation in the Kurdish media
Having a quick glance at the Kurdish newspapers, magazines and Internet websites, we will soon realise that, despite having an amount of translated texts, the Kurdish media is really poor in generating the role of translation. First of all, the Kurdish media primarily depend on the Arab media as a source of news and information, and then the English world media, although the English media have a greater effect on the world. There are two factors behind this, namely:
- The information offered by the Arab media is more important for the Kurdish readership due to close geographical, political, social, economic and religious relationship between Kurds and Arabs.
- There are a greater number of Kurdish speakers of Arabic than of English.
As far as English-Kurdish translation is concerned, it can be argued that the three most effective Kurdish media agencies are: Wusha company, Xenxan media establishment and Rudaw company (Rudaw Newspaper). There are of course other media agencies that publish translated information but these are less significant in terms of the quantity as well as the quality of the translation.
The effect of translation is twofold, i.e. translation from world languages to the native language and vice versa – from the native language to foreign languages. The Kurdish media is really inactive in introducing the Kurdish issue, culture, politics, economy and social life to the outside world. Other nations have made great advances in this respect. Today, the United Stated exports its culture and civilisation to the outside world in various languages, which have great impact on the world. The United Kingdom exports its culture and civilisation to the outside world in various languages through the BBC. Similarly, Russia imposes it influence on the world in various languages though the Russia Today media agency. Finally, Aljazeera English has entered every home with its Islamic, Arabic identity. In the UK, for example, people have access to Aljazeera just as they do to the national channels such as ITV and Pick TV. The Kurdish media, however, is confined to the Kurdish language and within the frame of the Kurdistan borders.
The quality of translation in the Kurdish media
Some Kurdish media agencies do not have translation outputs at all: one of the reasons behind this can be a lack in professional translators. Some other agencies have translation in their outputs but a distortion of Kurdish language can be obviously seen in their translated products. They have introduced an abundance of foreign words into Kurdish that potentially can have negative impacts on the future of the Kurdish language. Some such words are: focus, mission, marketing, passive, oligarchy, business, account, etc. The reasons for this are:
- Non-professional translators embark on the translation tasks, for example, graduates with a degree in English language and literature take on translation jobs without having sufficient knowledge of the rules, theories, strategies and procedures of translation.
- Due to time and budget restrictions, and a lack of translators, the translation products get signed off without undergoing a revision. The lack of time, budget and translators has led some effective media agencies to provide edited extracts rather than translations of whole texts.
It is not logical to hold translators alone accountable for this, because they sometimes resort to using loan words out of choice. The use of loan words is in fact a characteristic of almost all languages, but in a reasonable quantity. After all, it is the linguists who should be held responsible to develop the Kurdish lexis and morphology. However, the individual efforts of some linguists and academicians in this respect should not be undermined.
Translation and ideology
Ideology plays a crucial role in most aspects of life – above all, political, economic and social aspects. But, does ideology play a role in translation as well? In fact, the role of ideology in translation starts even before the process of translation, i.e. when the translator or agency chooses to translate one text and not another. To analyse the role of ideology in translation and in the Kurdish media, we broadly classify the Kurdish media into three ideological orientations: the authority-affiliated media, the opposition media and the independent media. Surprisingly, the same ideology orientations are manifested in translation. When Michael Rubin, an American writer interested in the Kurdish politics, criticises the Kurdistan regional Government and describes it as a corrupt authority, the opposition media such Sbeiy, Kurdiu, Komalnews, and independent media such as Hawlati Newspaper, Awene Newspaper, Lvin Magazine and Kurdistanpost will translate his writings into Kurdish. However, when the British MP Robert Halfon praises the Kurdish authority writing Kurdistan can be a model for democracy in a troubled region, it is the authority-affiliated media such as Peyamner News Agency and Rudaw Newspaper that translate the article into Kurdish. During Dr. Barham Salih’s government cabinet, Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at Stanford University, published an article entitled Iraqi Kurdistan is blooming, and the first Kurdish media to translate the article was Xendan agency which is supported by the then PM. All these examples cannot be coincident, but the reflection of ideological hegemony behind the media orientations. To confirm this, the latest Rueters’ report on Kurdistan, which talks about the Kurdistan Natural Resources Minister’s involvement in corruption, has been translated by most of the independent and opposition media such as Hawlati Newspaper, Lvin Magazine, Kurdiu, Peyam and NRT TV. Whereas previously Rueters published a report talking about security and stability in Kurdistan that had attracted tourists, but that report was not covered by any of the above media agencies.
What can be concluded is that the media agencies, writers, intellectuals and translators should rise up against the weak effect of translation in the Kurdish media and in introducing the Kurdish culture, literature and the social events to the outside world. On the other hand, translation should be given more importance in introducing the Kurdish public to world cultures, developments, events and changes. While translators are urged to improve the quality of translation, linguists are especially held accountable to develop Kurdish lexis and lexicogrammar so that translators will not need to resort to loan words that are not familiar to the Kurdish readership. Finally, the influence of ideology on translation should be reduced, and translation should not be turned into subject material for political and ideological struggles: instead, translation should be commissioned to enrich language, culture, intellectuality and media.
Sabir Hasan is a former lecturer at the University of Human Development/ Kurdistan, and current PhD student at the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, the University of Leeds.