Translation and interpretation are important fields that aim to help people in different cultures and countries understand each other by breaking language barriers. Translators need a combination of education and experience to develop the skills they need to translate a wide range of texts accurately and effectively1. This requires a deep understanding of both the source and target languages, the ability to convey meaning and tone, knowledge of cultural differences, awareness of regional dialects, understanding of translation conventions, and good research skills2. This article presents the four commonly used tracks for translator training in Middle Eastern countries: formal education, on-the-job training, certification programs, and continued professional development.
Translators in the Middle East are often trained through formal education. Many universities offer translation programs at the undergraduate or graduate level, which typically include classroom instruction and experience working with clients or employers. Some of them may also offer internships or job placements. Many translators have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in translation, interpreting, linguistics, or a related field. Through formal education, students can acquire a strong foundation in translation theory and practice and a broad knowledge of the languages they are studying. A student might take courses in translation theory, interpreting, language structure, and technical translation, and also gain expertise through internships or other practical learning experiences. For example, Qatar University in Qatar offers a minor degree in translation within its Department of English Language and Literature3. Students from language-oriented major degrees can take courses in four terms in two academic years. These courses include principles and strategies of translation, translation theories, media translation, specialized translation, intercultural communication, and three elective courses students can choose from. Upon completing their studies, students receive a minor degree in translation that enables them to apply for translation positions in the language pair they specialize in.
In addition to formal education, translators may also broaden their experience through on-the-job training. This can include working as an intern or apprentice for a translation agency or company, where they can translate different types of texts under the guidance of seasoned professionals. As they gain experience, translators may specialize in a specific subject area, such as legal or medical translation, and receive additional training. On-the-job training is a great way to learn the skills needed for translation. Many companies in the Middle East offer hands-on opportunities to translators. They can include shadowing experienced translators, attending workshops or seminars, or participating in language exchange programs where translators can practice their skills with native speakers. This might be beneficial for prospective or practicing translators who do not have a degree in translation and interpretation but possess a high level of proficiency in a language pair. By receiving on-the-job training, they are able to develop the necessary skills and knowledge required to produce high quality translations.
In addition to the formal education and experience mentioned above, professional organizations also offer certification programs for translators. They often involve a thorough examination process that tests translators on their language skills, subject-matter knowledge, and translation ability. By earning certification from a reputable organization, translators can show potential clients and employers that they have the knowledge and skills needed to provide high-quality translation services. Certification programs allow translators to demonstrate their proficiency in their language pair(s). While they typically require applicants to pass written examinations that assess their knowledge of translation theory and practice, some may also require applicants to submit samples of their work for evaluation. For example, organizations such as Traajim in Saudi Arabia offer certification programs for translators in the Middle East. They are often designed to address participants’ on-the-job needs and provide official certificates. Many employers are willing to use these certificates as evidence that a candidate has the skills and knowledge required to perform well on the job.
Continued professional development is another important aspect of translator training. Because the field of translation is constantly changing, translators must stay updated on the latest developments to provide the most accurate and effective translations possible. This can involve attending conferences and workshops on translation topics, reading relevant books and journals, participating in online communities for translators, and joining professional organizations. Many organizations in the Middle East offer these types of opportunities for translators. Some example events organized in the region include the Abu Dhabi International Translation Conference in the United Arab Emirates, the International Conference on Interpreting and Translation Studies in Egypt, and the International Conference on Language, Literature, and Culture in Kuwait.
Overall, there are different ways to gain the necessary skills and knowledge for translation in Middle Eastern countries. Formal education requirements may vary by country, but on-the-job training, professional development programs, and certification programs provide valuable learning experiences for aspiring translators. By developing their knowledge and skills through these channels, translators can provide accurate and effective translations that help facilitate communication and understanding between people of different languages and cultures in the Middle East and beyond.
Dr. Amal Alaboud is an assistant professor of Translation Studies in the Foreign Languages Department at Taif University, Saudi Arabia. She received her MA from Salford University and her PhD in Translation Studies from SUNY at Binghamton.
1) Elisabet Tiselius and Adelina Hild, “Expertise and Competence in Translation and Interpreting,” in The Handbook of Translation and Cognition (John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2017), 423–44, https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119241485.ch23.
1) Juliane House, “Translation Quality Assessment: Past and Present,” in Translation: A Multidisciplinary Approach, ed. Juliane House, Palgrave Advances in Language and Linguistics (London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2014), 241–64, https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137025487_13.
3) Qatar University, “Minor Programs,” 2022, https://www.qu.edu.qa/artssciences/departments/dell-home/minor-programs.