Webinar - The Reality and Horizons of Translation between Arabic and Turkish

Webinar The Reality and Horizons of Translation between Arabic and Turkish

The media team of the Sheikh Hamad Award for Translation and International Understanding started a series of translation seminars for the eighth season of the Award. The first webinar, entitled "The Reality and Horizons of Translation between Arabic and Turkish", took place on Saturday, March 26, 2022, with the participation of a number of Turkish academics and translators.

Turkey's experience in translation between Turkish and Arabic

The webinar started with the intervention of Prof. Yakup Cevelek, Professor of Arabic Language at the Faculty of Islamic Sciences at Ankara University, Yıldırım Bayezid. He discussed in his paper Turkey’s experience in translation into Arabic, as well as the nature and history of official and individual efforts, by reviewing the history of translation in the pre-Ottoman period, when most translations from Arabic into Turkish served practical purposes, like the manuals prepared for educators, warriors, lawyers, or physicians. The translation of religious, literary, philosophical and mystical works also prevailed. He added that the translation movement became more active with the support of Muhammad Ali Pasha in Egypt aiming at modernizing and strengthening the military and bureaucratic field in the state.

Dr. Cevilik spoke also about TEDA program, which has been implemented by the Turkish Ministry of Culture since 2005. It is a translation and publishing support program based on the translation, publication and promotion of classical and contemporary works of Turkish culture, arts and literature into languages, through publishing houses. Between 2005 and 2021, it sponsored 3,495 translations from approximately 725 publishers in 85 different countries, and published in 60 different languages. Out of these, 402 Turkish literary and cultural works have been translated into Arabic in 15 different Arab countries.

Personal experience in the translation process between Arabic and Turkish

Dr. Mehmet Hakki Suçin, Head of the Arabic Language Department at Gazi University, spoke about his long experience in the field of translation between Arabic and Turkish. He mentioned his academic path as a writer of publications on translation studies, both theoretically and practically, as well as on the translation history. He mentioned his own translations from Arabic classical literature, especially the Seven Mu’allaqat, a poetic translation for the first time in Turkish ; the translation of Hay bin Yaqzan by Ibn Tufail and Tawq al-Hamamah by Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi. He also talked about his experience as a supervisor of literary translation workshops within the Turkish Ministry of Culture, translation workshops of the meanings of the Holy Qur’an within the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs, and interpretation workshops for translators in the field of health, mental health and immigration.

Dr. Suçin said that his translation of the Seven Commentaries was ranked among the 50 best books in Turkey in 2020. Moreover, Turkish poets and critics such as Haydar Ergolan, Omer Erdem, Burgo Alkan, Suad Baran, Enver Topaloglu and others wrote about 15 articles about it. They also analysed the Mu’allaqat through his translation. On top of that, interviews were conducted in this regard, which indicates the extent to which the Turkish reader is interested in it.

With regard to his translations into Arabic, Dr. Suçin said that he had recently translated an anthology of the poetry of Yunus Emre, who lived in central Anatolia between the middle of the thirteenth century to the first quarter of the fourteenth century, and who wrote his poems in Turkish instead of the prevailing Persian at the time.  The anthology included more than fifty poems.

Dr. Suçin has translated thirty-five books of Arabic literature, of various authors, such as Yahya Haqqi, Gibran Khalil Gibran, Nizar Qabbani, Muhammad Bennis, Nuri Al-Jarrah, Ghassan Kanafani, Naguib Mahfouz, Adania Shibli and others. He said that Adania Shibli’s novel “Minor detail” has been printed three times within five months, which is a unique and unprecedented case for Arabic literature in Turkey.

Dr. Suçin also talked about his 157 translations of stories and poetry published in Turkish literary periodicals during the past years, as well as translations made specifically for literary festivals held every year in Turkish cities, especially Istanbul, Izmir, Eskişehir, Gaziantep and the town of Sapanca.

Fields of translation in the Turkish language

Dr. Murat Özcan detailed in his paper the areas of translation between Turkish and Arabic throughout history. He indicated that translation began with personal efforts. In the first period, we see the translation of the works of Abdülhak Hâmid, Namık Kemal and Ziya Pacha, all in the literature field. During the Republic era in Turkey, some books were translated in the field of biography and autobiography, such as the writer Qadriya Hussein. Then, from the beginning of the Republic era until the present day, we note that many translations have been carried out in the field of literature as well, such as Aziz Nesin, Nâzım Hikmet, Yaşar Kemal, Elif Shafak, Ahmet Ümit, Okay Tiryakioğlu and Orhan Pamuk after receiving the Nobel Prize. He added that the novel is the most translated type of literature, and after that comes the short story, theatre, thoughts and poetry. We know that Mehmet Akif Ersoy, Nâzim Hikmet, and Orhan Veli are the poets translated into Arabic. Also, Turkish cinema is living its golden era in the recent decades, as Arab viewers are watching many Turkish series, and they know many artists from Turkey. They watch soap operas and movies subtitled in classical Arabic or dubbed in colloquial Arabic. Moreover, tThanks to the TEDA project, various fields have been translated into Arabic. TEDA enabled to open Turkish literature to outside Turkey thanks to the financial support provided to translators and publishers in order to translate Turkish literature.

He elaborated on the TEDA project in the Arabic language that he accomplished with Professor Gürkan Dağbaşi from Ankara University Hacı Bayram Veli, enabling the translation of more than 224 works in literature, thought, culture and education. He referred to the translation of children's literature from Turkish into Arabic

As for translation from Arabic into Turkish, its history goes back to a long past. The conversion of the Turks to the Islamic religion plays a major role in this matter. An important group of religious translations were carried out, such as the translation of the Qur'an, the noble hadith, and jurisprudence, in addition to works in philosophy, history, geography and medicine.

The interest in Arabic literature in Turkey is very limited compared to other literatures. Islamic-oriented publishing houses have been more interested in translating Arabic literature than large publishing houses with a nationwide distribution network. The selection is at most subject to the ideological orientation of the publishing house. Publishing houses may also consider profit rate in their choice. For example, one of the publishing houses in Turkey obtained the right to translate and publish all of Naguib Mahfouz's novels.

Regarding modern Arabic literature, Naguib Mahfouz's award of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988 was a turning point in translating Arabic literature into Turkish. Before Naguib Mahfouz, the writers whose works have been translated are: George Zeidan, Gibran Khalil Gibran, Najib al-Kilani, Tawfiq al-Hakim, Nawal al-Saadawi, al-Tayyib al-Salih and Ghassan Kanafani. The number of translations from Arabic literature into Turkish reached 407 works.

Obstacles facing the Turkish translator into Arabic

The fourth intervention of the academic researcher, Sara Bayram - International University of Islamic Sciences - PhD program - Linguistic Studies, dealt with the obstacles facing the Turkish translator into Arabic. She shed light on the logical difference between the two languages, and that this is due to their different families, as the Arabic language is a Semitic language and belongs to the Afro-Asiatic languages, while the Turkish language belongs to the Ural-Altaic language family, which dates back to Central Asia. These differences make the translation process between them difficult and hinder the smooth output of an accurate and correct translation by the translator. Among the most notable differences mentioned were:

The Arabic language is an etymological language, meaning that the word generates new connotations by derivation while retaining the root of the word, while the Turkish language is an appending adhesive language, meaning that its grammatical connotations change and reproduce by adding suffixes to the root. Moreover, there is a difference in the way the sentence is formed in the two languages, the order of the sentence in the Arabic language is (verb + subject + object) while in the Turkish language (subject + object + verb). The Arabic language differentiates between masculine and feminine, which is not the case in Turkish. On top of that, the huge linguistic stock in the Arabic language compared to the Turkish language, as well as the large number of prepositions, metaphors and proverbs. Which poses a great difficulty because of the different cultures. The large number of dialects that exist among the Arabic-speaking peoples, and the different interpretations among them.

In conclusion, Dr. Hanan Al-Fayyad, the media advisor for the award, reviewed the award’s objectives, vision, and the mechanism for distributing the annual financial value, in addition to the award categories. She pointed out the importance of the Turkish language as a second main language in addition to English, and the selection of five new languages ​​in the achievement category, namely: Bahasa Indonesia, Kazakh, Romanian, Swahili, and Vietnamese. Dr. Al-Fayyad invited those interested to visit the Award website (www.hta.qa/en ) in order to download the nomination forms and get additional information.