The Arab thinker Azmi Bishara, Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, inaugurated a seminar on “Problems of Arabic Terminology in Social and Human Sciences” on Sunday in Doha. This seminar comes within the context of the Center’s effort to create an Arabic history dictionary on which the Doha Historical Dictionary of Arabic has been working for years. Azmi Bishara discussed the general framework that is supposed to be addressed by specialized participants over a day of dialogue.
During such seminar that was dedicated to celebration the Day of Arabic Language, Dr. Bishara stressed that translation of terminology is not only a linguistic issue, but it is also a research issue as it is conditional on a historical research in the cultural context of the production of terminology. He raised some controversial questions facing those who work in the field of translation into Arabic, for example the issue of importing and Arabizing terminology. He also illustrated that the problematic issue of Arabic terminology relates more to the development of Arabic social sciences than to Arabic language itself.
Arabization of Terms Depends on the Development of Social Knowledge in the Arab World
In this context, Dr. Azmi Bishara explained that translating terminology into Arabic is conditional on the development of social knowledge in the Arab world. The issue is not mechanical or automatic as concepts reflect our ideas and our research. Also, translation is conditional on the development of language. In order to clarify this idea, Dr. Bishara gave examples proving that the Arabic culture is rich with terminology reflecting cultural production and can suit the terminology for which translators are looking for Arabic synonyms nowadays. Anyway, he stressed the fact that terminology is a product of a process of cultural and intellectual development, and that the vocabulary is not as important as the concept it reflects, the matter which resulted in long processes of research and development.
Dr. Azmi Bishara believed that agreement on terminology is a necessary process, because translating concepts is related to the agreement on certain terms, regardless of how they are translated and, of course, the agreement on their meaning. In fact. The absence of agreement led to various problems as the absence of one Arab state and one Arab cultural project distracts the translation process and impedes its accumulation, as if every researcher or translator is forced to start from scratch. Such problem relates not only to translation but also to social and human sciences in general. Without agreement, the Arab reader will find different vocabulary for the same term, the matter which hinders cultural communication and interaction.
Anyway, in his brief lecture at the opening of the conference, Dr. Bishara makes a distinction between concepts and terminology. The absence of agreement on concepts is a natural and logical disagreement, because each concept expresses a specific theoretical perception. On the other hand, there should be no disagreement on terminology.
Agreement on the Word and Concept
Azmi Bishara, Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, gave several examples of disagreement on several terms in Arabic translation circles. For example, Arabic literature does not have one standard translation for the word “community”. As for “secularism”, there is an agreement on the word without clear agreement on its meaning. This discussion applies to many other terms.
Lastly, Dr. Bishara indicated that interaction and dialogue between researchers and specialists in these areas can solve such issues and pave the way to establish an agreement. He also stressed that the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies held this seminar to take part in achieving such purpose.