Conceptualising the Translation Process in Dubai, UAE

What do we mean when we refer to the ‘translation process’ and where does it end? Generally, it’s assumed that the translation process ends when the translator has finished working on a text or when it is sent to and received by the client. In this conceptualization, a translation process is an act with a start and an end involving the agency of two specific social actors with specific intentions. The first, in the hands of the translator, is focused on a loyal translation of the text received. The second being the client who now has access to the content of the text.

In this model of the translation process, the translated work is not really thought of with an impact beyond the translator-recipient relationship. Put differently, this interpretation of the translation process is decidedly that of a commercial transaction. However, this conceptualization of the translation process assumes that the translated or target text does not have an impact or “life” beyond the transaction between the social actors. For this reason, a wider understanding of what we mean by the translation process is useful.

Understanding the Translation Process in Dubai

Defining the translation process differently, it is understood as the activity that takes place prior to the translated text entering a ‘receiving system’ (Heller, 2008, p. 16). Depending on the type of target text produced, different readers will encounter it. There may understanding and misunderstanding, discursive processes whereby the text’s content – key messages, for instance – form part of a dominant social reality or spark crisis and conflict (Foucault, 1972). Such processes are beyond the actors in the production of a translator – whether this is the translator, a novelist, a publisher or a researcher – and this is what we mean by an impact or “life” of a target text. In this conceptualization, the translation process is open-ended and can have indeterminate, unpredictable and unforeseeable sociocultural and political consequences and influences.

If we are prepared to accept the second conceptualization of the translation process, what are the implications for the translator? There is no simple answer. An option exists to decline translating works that could be provocative and controversial, but the translator risks becoming a censor and imposing limits on the original author’s right to freedom of expression. On the other hand, the translator could accept projects fully aware that the contents may have a wider impact, acknowledging that these can be unpredictable and indeterminate yet commit themselves to enable greater readership and dissemination of ideas even if they are unpalatable. The one thing that is clear for the translator is this: the way in which a text is utilized and functions is as much part of the translation process as is the use of techniques to construct the target from the source text.



Foucault, M. (1972). The Archaeology of Knowledge. London: Routledge.

Heller, L. (2008). Translations as Strangers. New Voices in Translation Studies 4: Special Conference Issue: ‘With/out Theory: The Role of Theory in Translation Studies Research, 15-25.



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