Translating Arabic Poems Effect to English and Vice Versa

Subject: Linguistics
Pages: 10
Words: 2865
Reading time:
11 min
Study level: PhD


Present day society continues to enjoy poems. During the historical past, the poems were confined to the local languages. However, the world’s populations combined to form one global community. With the advent of information technology, one can easily retreat a popular poem from the internet. There can be different poem translations of one poem. Some of the popular poems have been translated into different languages. With English as the global language, many nations contribute their popular and epic poems to the global community.

In terms of poem rhyme, the first two lines of the poem Trees (Kilmer, 2004) go “I think I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree”. The first line’s see rhymes with the second line’s tree. The third and fourth line of the same poem goes “A tree whose hungry mouth is prest against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;” The 3rd line’s prested rhymes with the 4th line’s breast. The 5th and sixth lines of the poem go “A tree that looks at God all day, and lifts her leafy arms to pray”. The 5th line’s day rhymes with the 6th line’s pray. Translating the rhyming words to the French or German language will surely delete the rhymes. The French words forsee and tree do not rhyme. Likewise, the French words for day and pray do not rhyme. This is the very essence of poem translation difficulty. The poetry translator needs the required talent to successfully produce quality translations. The translators can face several difficulties that stall the intricate process of poetry translation. Several methods were employed to resolve the translation deficiencies. The deficiencies generate poor-quality translation.

Further, there is a big probability that different poem translators will come up with diverse translations of the poems, including Shakespeare’s masterpieces, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Black, 1990) and Macbeth (Calandra, 1979). A 10-year-old child would use one’s young world culture to interpret the masterpiece. The teenage student would contribute a different insight when interpreting the same masterpiece. The college professor of Shakespearean literature may produce a more philosophical interpretation of the Shakespearean story, Rome and Juliet (Carey, 1979). The poem translator, living at the same time and place as William Shakespeare, can have a more realistic translation of the different Shakespeare masterpiece, King Lear (Lowers, 1968). Different poem translation strategies have diverse effects on resolving the translation difficulties.

Significance of the study

The study is significant. The study results will provide the literature teachers with additional knowledge to help them in teaching translated poems. The teacher will know if there is a significant difference between the respondents’ age in terms of analyzing the poem translation process. In addition, the study results will introduce to the researcher additional knowledge such as the present significant difference between the respondents’ age in terms of analysis of the translation of the poems. Further, the study results will persuade the English teachers to exert more effort to increase their understanding of the poem translators’ translation of the Arabic poem or English poem. The population’s reading of the research results persuades them to exert more effort to understand the reasons behind the divergence in the interpretation of the poems from Arabic to English and vice versa. The non-English persons and non-Arabic persons will understand and appreciate the foreign poem, Arabic or English poems, in their original state by being encouraged by the research results. Further, the literature teachers will use the study to add to their current understanding of poem translation. Other researchers will use the current study as a jump-off point for their own poem translation research.

Local of the research

The research focuses on the interpretation of the translated poems. The study will focus on respondents from one London County. The respondents are randomly selected from the entire county’s population. The research is conducted for three days. The research focuses on respondents appearing randomly on 4 Mondays, 4 Wednesdays, and 4 Fridays. The county is located within London’s busy communities.

Problem statement of the Study

The study focuses on the effect of several factors on the understanding of the translated poems among the residents of London County. The study focuses on the translation of poems from Arabic to English and English poems to Arabic. The study determines if there is a significant difference in terms of the poem translators’ translation. Likewise, the study determines if there is a significant difference in terms of the poem translators’ translation of the original English poem to the Arabic version.


  1. There is no significant difference in the Arabic poem readers’ determination of poem translation quality.
  2. There is no significant difference on the English poem readers’ determination of poem translation quality.

Limitations of the Study

The study is limited to the respondents of a small county in London. Consequently, the results of the survey do not perfectly reflect the preference of the residents living in another county. The survey focuses on the translation of Arabic poems to the English language. Likewise, the study focuses on the translation of English poems to Arabic. To save on research expenses, the study is conducted within 4 consecutive weeks.

Definition of Terms

Analysis of variance – is used when studying the variances among groups within a population.

Percentage – represents the relationship between each group and the total population. Translation – changing the original language to a different language. Respondents – represent the individual chosen to fill the survey questionnaires. Population – represents all the people represented by the respondents. Arabic – one of the world’s languages in terms of population usage. English – one of the world’s languages in terms of population usage.

Review of Literature

Francis Jones reiterates poetry incorporates culture. Translating the poems from one language to another can advantageously bring fame to the poet within the bigger international mainstream (Jones 2011). Translating the poems brings fame to the poets in new communities. The research respondents will affirm or disprove the poem’s translation quality. Translation will bring the poem’s assertion from its current local language to the bigger international stage. Tymoczko explained how the translators work when translating the Irish language epic poetry into the international language, English. Starting in 1999, the translation played a significant role in promoting the Irish cultural identity to the global stage. Likewise, poetry translation can offer countless benefits to the recipient culture. The Chinese scholar, Mao Dun opined “the translation of foreign poetry can be a means of revitalizing our own poetry” (Jones 2011; 7). Not to be outdone, United Kingdom’s poet and translator Dick Davis insists the poems’ verse translation contributed to the major enrichment of the English poetry. During the 1960s and 1970s, United Kingdom’s poet Ted Hughes and many of his colleagues appreciated the Central and Eastern European poets, including the Serbian poet Vasko Popa and the Hungarian poet Janos Pilinszky. The poets’ translations represented a crucial introduction of directness and the powerful use of metaphor in English poetry. The poets’ comprehension of a poem often persuades them to translate the poem to another language.

Raffel Burton (1988) emphasized the specific constraints of language play a pivotal role in the successful translation of a popular poem to another language. After translating a poem, it is highly probable that the poets keep different groups of poem images at the same time when the poem is read in two different languages at the same time. Consequently, awkwardness often crops up. In addition, two poem translators may give diverse poem translations. The diverse language and culture of the two poets greatly contribute to the translation divergence. For example, there are glaring differences between the Japanese language and the English language. The Japanese sentences often disappear into thin air. The use of particles that end each Japanese sentence creates doubt among the Japanese poem translators. Offering two different translations of a popular or epic poem may precipitate an inaccurate rendition of the original poem. The Arabic poem creator’s culture may be different from the British poem translator’s culture. In addition, the stress, accent, or quantity prevailing on all European poems may be absent or differ from the stress, accent, and quantity of the Arabian language.

In some occasions, John Lawrence (2001) theorized poem translation is a transgression of the original poem’s essence. The literal translation of each word into another language usually creates shameful havoc. Consequently, the poorly translated poem must not pretend to have a semblance of literary value. Lovers of English literature and poetry may shudder in a horrifying manner at the low-quality translation of their epic English poems. The literal translation of the poem can produce a skeleton of the original poem’s completeness. The translated poem has no flesh and bones upon them. No breath of life had been breathed into the translated poems. Consequently, it is possible to move from literal translation to literary translation is possible.

In terms of Arabic translation, Slam Jayyusi (1977) pointed one can theorize that poetry, previously catering to the ears of Kings and princes, could t incorporate the folk elements just like in other poetry outputs. Some of the prior Arabic poems contained traditional eulogies. The eulogies upheld and raised the current position of the caliph, dignitary, and prince. The Arabic poems, excluding the poems of Hafiz, detoured from its traditional concepts through the neo-classical path to confirm the classical expressions and attitudes. Avant-Garde Arabic poetry displays a greater awareness of the vitality and significance of Arabic folklore. Such poetry style is a conscious focus to include the Arabic culture’s precious folk expressions, proverbs, attitudes, and traditions. Lastly, the increasing trend towards social consciousness, as well as the importance of the ordinary Arabic citizens, broke the hindrances between the strict poem formalism of the neo-Classical tradition and the more mobile and more spontaneous folklore elements. To understand Arabic poem theory, Stefan Speri (1989) insists the translation of English poems to Arabic must incorporate one or more of the Arabic schools’ concepts. First, the San’a, is a poem style made of basic and straightforward diction that crop up from the creative endeavor (jahd fanni) underlying all art. The term is linked to Dayf’s view of Arabic poetry as a craft (sina a) that is covered by rules, constraints, and conventions that the poet must implement to create artistic creation. Second, the Tasni is an Arabic poem school that has another style. The basic properties of the poetic craft focus on the methodical emphasis of rhetorical devices implemented for the pursuit of elegance as well as embellishment. Arabic poets, like Abu Tammam, showed poetic masterpieces of profound insight that mark the crowning achievement of medieval Arabic poetry. Third, Tasannu is another popular Arabic poetic school or concept. The school focuses on the use of excessive constraints. Likewise, the school places importance on affection as well as the complex nature of the Arabic poems’ topics. The poems of Mihyar al- Daylami (panegyrics) and Ma’arri (Luzumiyyat) fall under the Tasannu poetic school category.

In addition, Said Faiq (2004) mentioned many factors that influence the translation from the Arabic poem to the English language. To be successful in the translation process, the translator must resolve contradictory consequences and attitudes. The translation must include historical aspects of the original Arabic poem. The translation should focus on the political color of the Arabic poem. The translation must center on the Arabic poet’s self-expression. In addition, the translator must not forget the Arabic culture of the original poem. Lastly, the Arabic poem’s translator must not forget the power relations and hierarchic lines between the dominated communities and the hegemonic societies. During the 1980s, the tensions of Egyptian society greatly influenced the creation and translation of Egypt’s Arabic poem translation methodologies.

The poem’s readers have their own interpretation of the translated poems. The Japanese reader will incorporate Japanese culture into the Japanese translation of English or Arabic poems. The Chinese reader will use one’s Chinese upbringing to understand the Chinese translation of the Arabic or English poems. The South African will bring out one’s ethnic South African culture when reading the South African translation of the same Arabic or English poems.

Research Methodology

This chapter focuses on the methods and procedures conducted during the study. The chapter discusses the population, respondents, sampling procedures, instruments in gathering the statistical data. Stephen Elias (2009) proposed the research uses diverse resources in making a complete research. One of the resource types is classified as primary data. The primary resources may include statutes or laws. Another group of primary resources is composed of speeches of presidents and other very important persons. Another group of primary resources is composed of surveys. This research focuses on the use of the survey type of primary resource.

Further, the other type of resource is secondary data. John Hamilton (2005) stated the secondary resources include all books related to the research topic. The related literature portion of the research includes all the secondary resources. Both the secondary resources and the primary resources are combined to generate a convincing and reliable research conclusion. The secondary resources include all books focusing on the topic of poem translation.

Research design. Catherine Hakim (2000) insists the current research implements the descriptive correlation design. The researcher considers the design as the most appropriate because it is directed towards determining the nature of the situation as it exists at the time of the research. Correlation methodology is used to discover if there is a possible relationship between two or more variables. The research respondents are randomly selected students picked in one London County. The respondents represent 60 percent of the total population. The respondents’ percentage data is very important because it indicates what the entire population generally prefers. Cost constraints force the researcher to survey only 60 percent of the entire population. The instrument. Norman Denzin (2009) stated the research instrument is the standard survey questionnaire. Part one of the questionnaire deals with the personal profile of the chosen respondents. In terms of their personal profile, the respondents are made to fill up the questionnaire. The respondents are not required to indicate their names or addresses. Instead, the respondents are required to fill the gender blanks of the survey questionnaire. Likewise, the respondents are required to indicate their age on the survey form. Third, the respondents are required to indicate their occupation on the survey form. Lastly, the respondents are required to indicate their highest educational attainment on the survey questionnaire. Part two of the same questionnaire represents the respondents’ answers to the survey questions. In terms of the survey questions, the respondents are made to grade the translation of an original Arabic or English poem. The respondents are made to score the translation from 1 to 5. In terms of interpretation, the number 1 has the lowest value and the number 5 has the highest value.

Statistical Treatment. The results of the gathered data are presented in three separate sections. The first section implements the percentage statistical tool. The percentage tool is implemented by dividing the group result over the total population. For example, if 10 students out of the 200 students are males, then the percentage tool shows that the males represent five percent of the total population (10 /200). Consequently, the 190 female respondents represent 95 percent of the total population (190/200). In terms of ranking, the female respondents rank higher than the male respondents. First, a percentage report indicates the percentage of each age group in relation to the entire respondent group. Second, a percentage report indicates the percentage of each gender group in relation to the entire respondent group. Third, a percentage report indicates the percentage of each workgroup in relation to the entire respondent group. Lastly, a percentage report indicates the percentage of each educational attainment group in relation to the entire respondent group.

Next, the analysis of variance statistical tool is used. The Analysis of Variance or ANOVA tool is described as the statistical method that tests the equality of three or more population means by scrutinizing the sample variances. The analysis of variance is used in several statistical processes. The statistical method derives its name from the researcher’s focus on analyzing diverse types of data variation. Normally, research variations focus on the respondents’ age, gender, occupation, ethnicity, religion, community, and compensation. The analysis of variance is implemented to determine if there is a significant difference between the respondent’s age, gender, work, or educational attainment profiles in relation to the readers’ determination of the poem interpretations.


The highly sophisticated nature of the language of poetry tends to hinder the ability of translators to perfectly translate the poems. Translating the English poems to the Arabic language should focus on keeping the original message intact. In the same way, translating the Arabic poems to English must be done to echo the original poem’s original concepts. The poem translators and theorists have employed a number of strategies to ensure the poem’s purity is not infiltrated by unwarranted words or sentences. Despite all their painstaking efforts, the poem translator’s cultural and other backgrounds significantly influence poem translation strategies. Consequently, different translators craft diverse translations to the same original poem. Indeed, diverse poem translation strategies have different effects on resolving the difficulties of translating poetry.


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