“I see translation as an attempt to produce a text that is so transparent that it doesn’t seem translated. A good translation is like a sheet of glass. You only notice it’s there when there are imperfections: scratches, bubbles. Ideally there should be none at all. It should never call attention to itself ”. (Norman Shapiro, quoted in Venuti 1999: 21)
The origins of translation go back to ancient times and are rooted in the history of human civilization. The history of translation is closely linked to that of humanity as a whole because, through translation, the various civilizations and cultures had an opportunity to get to know each other and weave relationships. Thanks to a movement to translate works belonging to ancient Indian, Persian and Greek civilizations into the Arabic language, Islamic civilization experienced a ‘ Golden Age’ at the time of the Abbasid Empire. This translation movement in turn laid the foundations for moving beyond the medieval age thus giving birth to European civilizations.
Translation is the meeting point and passage way between different languages, cultures and literatures, it is the link between past and present; the imaginary line that draws together what is far and what is near. As creator and modeler of traditions, the role of translation is of fundamental importance in social systems. A shared heritage of the whole of humanity, translations have always crossed all languages, transporting texts and messages between different worlds.
- The definition of translation
To translate is to express into another language (the target language) what was written in the original idiom (the source language), while maintaining the semantic and stylistic features of the text that is conveyed. Any process understood to be an expressive activity is, in one way or in another, translation, just as any manifestation of emotions, thoughts and feelings can be translated into gestures and physical movements. Any oral or written expression is a translation and every translation is an attempt to understand. Charles Pierce states that interlingual translation is a dynamic comparison of two worlds that ends up highlighting and problematizing the differences, sometimes irreconcilable ones, between languages and cultures; the translatability becomes another way of defining the parameter of the difference between two cultural realities in a given historical moment.
In principIe, the translator’s work is that of transferring the meaning or connotation of words from one language to another. Ibn Mandūr says in Lisān Al Arab,that to translate a speech means to carry it from one language to another . But translation, in reality, is also expressed in other ways :
– The first is based on the translation within the same language, for example the translation from a dialect to the official language, or the communication between experts and non specialists in a given field, or the translation from the spoken language to a written or gestural one, as in the case of hearing impaired , or even when a text is adapted to the language level and style of a foreign audience  .
– The second is that what remains implicit is expressed differently in two languages and this may create a language interference. It is the effect of the mother tongue on the production of an acquired second language and may relate to any aspect of the language itself: grammar, vocabulary, phonology, spelling, etc . .
– The third mode is when the translator conveys a message from one semantic system to another, for example, when the linguistic symbols of a story are translated into the semantic codes of theater or cinema .
In relation to these three modes, Roman Jakobson, in his book On Linguistic Aspect of Translation, distinguishes three types of translation:
– intra-linguistic translation or reformulation is the ‘interpretation of verbal signs by means of other signs of the same language ;
– interlinguistic translation or translation proper is the interpretation of verbal signs by means of another language ;
– intersemiotic translation or transmutation is the ‘ interpretation of verbal signs by means of non-verbal systems .
Translation as a link between two languages does not hold a rigid linguistic position. Since there is a dialectical relationship between language and the outside world, there is one between one language and another as well: the difficulties encountered in translating from one language to another should therefore take into account both the history of communication between these two languages and the characteristics of those languages. Therefore, the possibility of translating from one language to another should consider the system of these languages and analize it from a linguistic point of view. Taha Abderrahman, in his 1995 book Philology of Philosophy and Translation distinguished three types of translations: 1. A-tarjama at-tahsîliyya, literal and terminological translation , in which the meaning of words is acquired through explanation and summary ; 2. A-tarjama at-tawsîliyya transmission translation , which conveys meaning to the reader in a simple and clear way ; 3. Atarjama at-ta’sîliyya, free translation which manipulates the translated text to make it original and is based on deeply rooting the translated text into the receiving culture so it can become part of it. Translation, therefore , is not the transmission of the meaning of the words, but is the transmission of the overall sense. Each language has its own very special character that differentiates it from any other. Languages are not by any means totally interchangeable sets of words: in many cases there is no exact equivalent for every word in different languages. For this reason the concepts expressed by the words of different languages cannot be exactly the same . Therefore, in the translation one must first analyze the concepts, then present the idea in its original cultural context and finally look for the most suitable meaning in the receiving language. This requires various and types of translation .
- Types of translation
Since Antiquity people have known about the fundamental differences in the translation process. Already Cicero, in the I century BC , distinguished two types of translation: literal translation (words as lexical units are translated one at a time, namely, or word by word translation ) and free translation (the translation of meaning, reproducing the original content without preserving the same form as the source text ). This is the modality followed in translating the Bible from Greek to Latin, by St.. Jeromein the fourth century AD, supported by Cicero, through a word by word literal translation. On the other hand, the Latin poet Horace, who was born well before St. Jerome , had a very different view because he considered translation as transmission of meaning and not as a word for word translation . This dichotomy between literal translation and free translation is also known in the history of the Arabic language . El Jāhit states that a translator must be able to convey the meaning of what he is translating clearly and must have a deep knowledge of the language and the culture from which he is translating (the source language) in order to grasp the meaning that lies behind words. Newmark distinguishes two types of translation: the semantic translation , which is based on fidelity to the original text, and communicative translation , which is based on the translation of the meaning of the text so that it sounds like the ‘ original’  . Eugene Nida, on the other hand, proposes two types of equivalence: formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence . The first focuses attention on the message itself, both in form and content , the second aims to reproduce in the target language the natural equivalence closest to the message expressed in the source language  . The French writers Vinay and Darbelnet instead distinguish between direct translation and indirect translation .
- Direct translation is literal translation and does not entail actual translation operationsand can be divided into three types:
– Borrowed terms: a word that one language takes on loan from another language. This comes from a deficiency in the target language, is the easiest way to translate, and is used by some translators to convey a particular style or local color. For example the use of the words “sauna” , ” kebab” and ” intifada ” (the latter being a term that has been part of the Italian and French lexicon since the first Palestinian uprising of 1987 ); the same goes for the words “tragedy” and “comedy” that Arabs have borrowed from the Greek language , as well as the words “email” “telephone” acquired from the Western lexicon.
– Cast: borrowing a foreign phrase with a literal translation of its elements, for example the expression ” good week end ” translated into Arabic with “nihāyat usbū ‘saīda”.
– Literal translation: word-by -word translation. It designates the translation step leading to a correct and idiomatic texts without the translator having to worry about nothing other than language requirements, for example, “the public does not believe that the invaders can triumph ” is literally translated with “la yaatakidu a-rra’ya al- ā ma anna lruzāta yastatīūna al-intisār “.
A literal translation can be considered a perfect translation when the work is satisfactory and respects the structures of the target language . Sometimes a literal translation can produce a different content compared to the original text and thus the translator runs into trouble conveying the text’s meaning . Other times a literal translation cannot be rendered for structural reasons because the grammar of the text (morphology and syntax) either does not match the target language or corresponds to something, but in a different grammar category. In this case the translator resorts to indirect translation.
- Indirect translation is the translation of the meaning of a text and is divided into four types :
– Transposition: a process by which a meaning changes grammatical category, without changing the meaning and without changing the content of the message. Transposition can be found even within a single language: in Arabic we say ” finish your work before leaving” in two ways: “akmil amalaka Kabla an tadhaba” or “akmil amalaka Kabla dahābika” , replacing the verb of the first sentence with the noun of the second. In this case you can add a word or delete another one to get the clearest meaning.
– Modulation : variation obtained by changing the point of view and the categories of thought. This technique is used when the translator sees that using direct translation results in a grammatically correct sentence, but is not adequate for the spirit and idioms in the target language . In this case the message must be changed , for example the Italian phrase ” I am no longer hungry ” is translated “Shabiato” which literally means “I am full “, instead of “lama aud jāian” ; or “ buona festa ” is translated as “kul ām wa antum bikhayr ” which literally means “be well every year” . It should be noted that modulation can be optional or mandatory, and a distinction can be made between the modulation of words and modulation of grammar rules.
– Equivalence: process that accounts for the same situation by using an entirely different expression. It is used by the translator when the direct translation does not yield the correct meaning: for example the English expression ” you ‘ re welcome ” is translated into Italian with “nothing” and not with “sei il benvenuto” (literally ‘you are the welcomed one’) and in Arabic with “l – afo” or “la shokra ala wājib” and not as “ala rahbi wa syati ” .
– Adaptation : use of a recognized equivalence between two situations. This type of translation renders a text into the target language with reference to a similar position in a target language that serves the purpose. As in the case of translating a text that contains play on words or proverbs such as “he who seeks finds,” translated as “man jadda wajada” which literally means “he who labors finds” .
So it is clear that translation is not an easy thing, it requires effort and a deep knowledge of two cultures, two civilizations; thus, in translating we face several problems that shall be considered in the next section.
- The difficulties of translation and the problem of meaning
Some of the difficulties that a translator may face include:
– The intrinsic character of a language that differentiates it from other every other language , its particular grammar and the specific meaning of its words.
– The ambiguity of the original text and and consequent difficulty a translator encounters in conveying a different language into their own, when the translator comes closer to the content of the original text , he/she risks sacrificing the aesthetics of the style , or vice versa.
A good translation requires , therefore, a certain fidelity in conveying the idea in an honest way and an equality between the language of the source text and the target language. In addition there are some words that do not have an equivalent term in the target language , for example “am” and “khal” , “amma” and “khala” , which in Italian must be translated with the addition of the adjective ” maternal uncle ” and ” maternal aunt , “paternal uncle” and “paternal aunt”, and t grammar categories, for example the dual gender “al-mutanna”, which does not exist in Italian, in which only has the plural. Translations still encounter the problems of of certain terms, such as “to relax a muscle” is translated by some “tafkik”  , from others “tashrīh” and by others “takīd “ ; or ” privatization ” sometimes translated as ” khaskhasa ”  , or “takhs ī s” ; or even the word “context ” which some translate “a tan- ā ss” , others “A- nassiya “ , and still others ” tan ā di a.nussūss ”  . Not to mention the various problems in the translation of metaphors . The Arabic language is a language of patterns, part of the meaning of an Arabic word is understood from its context, each pattern corresponds to a certain meaning ; therefore the translator must take into account both the morphological and the lexical sense : ” a’yun”  is plural of “eye” , which in the singular is “ayn basira”, while “uyūn” is plural of “ source ” which in the singular is “ayn al mā ‘” ; “Ibād” plural of “abd” means “servants of god” and is also a personal name , while “abīd” plural of “abd”refers to slaves. Even the use of metaphor  reflects a social and cultural experience that can be grasped from the precise context in which it was written. For example, this passage by the poet Ismail Sabri:
“Taraktu l-baba hatta Kalla matnī fa lamma kalla matni kallamatni
Fakalat ya Ismailo sabr. fakulto Laha ya Asmae ‘Ila Sabri ” 
” I knocked on the door until my hand got tired,
and when my hand got tired (the woman) spoke to me saying:
” Ismail, be patient”
I said: ” Asma, my patience has run out”
Umberto Eco says: “to understand a text – and even more so to translate it – you need to speculate about the possible world it represents ” . To translate a text you have to read it carefully and understand all its words, and the shadow of its meaning, including the meaning and cultural and intellectual denotations that are behind the words; good understanding and the ability to express oneself are the wings with which the translator flies. The more a translator understands the meaning of the text, the closer the translation comes to what the writer wants to convey and the spirit of the text. El-Jahit states that the first step in the translation process is to give each word its literal meaning, then look for the suitable synonym between the two languages: the source and the target language . The first, according to El-Jahit, is an easy step compared to the subsequent ones, such as the translation of metaphors and contextualization; through the reconstruction of the elements of the sentence you arrive finally at an understandable and clear sentence. Translation requires complete mastery of both languages : grammar, patterns and lexical structure. But also the knowledge of the social, cultural and historical life of the text to be translated . The combination of all this knowledge makes it easier to understand the context and the deeper meaning behind the words of a text .
Translation is the transmission of the culture and civilization of the source language, it is a bridge between different languages. The translator is the invisible messenger who spreads culture and brings together different worlds and civilizations; whether his or her translation be literal or free, the translator makes an enormous effort that makes it possible for many writers to be read and known in other languages, presenting new ideas, thoughts and values that were previously unknown in the target language.
Translated by Pina Piccolo from the Italian version written by Zineb Saaid and reviewed Eleonora Gianello. The Dreaming Machine thanks the website Frontiere News for the introduction to the author.
  علماني صالح، الترجمة الأدبية مهمة شاقة ولكنها ممتعة، تحت إشراف، الامام مجاب وعبد العزيز محمد، الترجمة واشكالية المثاقفة، منتدى العلاقات العربية الدولية، قطر، 2014،
 المثاقفة، منتدى العلاقات العربية الدولية، قطر، 2014، https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOTW24nnu68
 Dizionario enciclopedia della lingua araba
 الحمصي محمد نبيل النحاس، مشكلات الترجمة: دراسة تطبيقية، مجلة جامعة الملك سعود، م. 16. اللغات والترجمة، 2004. https://www.academia.edu/2007156
 اولحيان إبراهيم، الترجمة: المثاقفة وسؤال الهوية الثقافية، تحت إشراف، الامام مجاب وعبد العزيز محمد، الترجمة واشكالية المثاقفة، منتدى العلاقات العربية الدولية، قطر
  الحمصي محمد نبيل النحاس، نفس المرجع السابق.
 Cicero (106 B.C.. – 43 BC) and St. Jerome(347 AD – 420 AD) defend the need to totally bend the foreign texts to literary, rhetorical and cultural needs of Latin. Thus it must not be a woerd by word translation but it must reproduce the meaning of the original text while fully respecting the translator’s language. fendono la necessità di piegare integralmente il testo straniero alle esigenze letterarie, retoriche e culturali del latino. Non bisogna dunque tradurre parola per parola ma riprodurre il senso dell’originale nel pieno rispetto della lingua del traduttore. https://www.tesionline.it/appunti/letterature-comparate/la-traduzione-per-gli-antichi-cicerone-e-san-girolamo/572/13
 لا يعتقد الرأي العام أن الغزاة سينتصرون
موران جورج، علم اللغة والترجمة، ترجمة احمد زكريا إبراهيم واحمد فؤاد عفيفي، المكتبة الأعلى للثقافة، القاهرة، 2002، ص. 69. محمد نبيل الحمصي، نفس المرجع السابق.
 على الرحب والسعة
شفيق فريد ماهر، من إشكالات الترجمة الأدبية وخصوصيتها الثقافية، تحت إشراف، الامام مجاب وعبد العزيز محمد، الترجمة واشكالية المثاقفة، منتدى العلاقات العربية الدولية، قطر، 2014، ص.205
 تنادي النصوص”
 طلعت الشايب، نفس المرجع السابق
 “أعين” ج عين وتعني “العين الباصرة”. “عيون” ج عين تعني “عين الماء”
 “عباد” جمع عبد وهو اسم علم يدل على شخص “عبيد” ج عبد ويدل على “مملوك”.
 الحمصي، نفس المرجع السابق
 طرقت الباب حتى كل متني فلما كل متني كلمتني
طرقت الباب حتى كل متني فلما كل متني كلمتني
 الغانمي سعيد، الترجمة صنفا أدبيا، ، تحت إشراف، الامام مجاب وعبد العزيز محمد، الترجمة واشكالية المثاقفة، منتدى العلاقات العربية الدولية، قطر، 2014، ص.234.
علماني صالح، نفس المرجع السابق، ص. 139.
.الشايب طلعت، نفس المرجع السابق.
Cover image: photo by en nico.