The Emirates Publishers Association (EPA) has delivered a panel discussion themed ‘Preserving Culture in The Era of Mass Translation and E-Publishing’ at the 25th edition of São Paulo International Book Fair. 

Speakers Tamer Saeed, managing director of Kalimat Group; Dr Alyazia Khalifa, founder of Al Fulk Translation and Publishing; and Iman Ben Chaibah, founder of Sail Publishing, highlighted the key role of translation in the exchange of cultures with a focus on the challenges Arabic language faces in the translations space.

The session also shed light on the strong role played by the UAE to boost the Arabic library with publications in various languages.

Substantiating the positive impact and value of translations in furthering cross-cultural understanding and communication, Dr Khalifa cited the example of how the Europeans came out of the Dark Ages transferring Arab knowledge and science into their languages.

She also pointed out that the translations industry in the Arab world focuses heavily on English, which is the world’s first most spoken language due to several economic and demographic factors, which are the same factors that make Arabic being ranked the world’s third most spoken language.

In response to a question about the value of classic literature, Dr Alyazia said: “When we transfer children's literature into Arabic, we resort to classic literature due to impact and presence in human memory, in addition to its contents and methods that make classics readable in different times because they are not linked to one period or one place.

For his part, Tamer remarked: “When talking about translation into Arabic, we talk about several kinds, most notably scientific and literary translations. In the former, translators face almost no challenges, especially when translating scientific texts from English, but translating a literary works is a whole different game, especially when it comes to staying true to the spirit of the original text, maintaining accuracy of meaning and the ability to build a clear picture of the source culture of the work.” 

Tamer referred to translation being a complex skill that is honed over several years, saying: “To produce a near-perfect translation, the translator must be fluent in both the source and target language. They must also have a fair bit of understanding of the two cultures in question and the ability to transfer the meanings from one cultural context to another.”

Regarding the UAE’s role in supporting the Arabic translations industry, Tamer said: “The UAE spares no effort in this regard. For example, the Sharjah International Book Fair’s ‘Translations Grant’ launched in 2011 with the support of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, has been funding several important translation projects. The value of the grant if USD 4,000 for general titles and USD 1,500 for children’s books.”
Highlighting her experience in Sail Publishing, Iman Bin Chaibah said: “The idea of establishing the publishing house came in response to feedback from readers of Sail’s e-magazine who started inquiring about the possibility of publishing their works in English.

“This made us realise that the UAE’s publishing market needs more avenues for Arabic works to be translated into English, which would introduce readers who prefer to read in the English language, and usually read works of European and American publishing houses, the option of reading works from another culture.” 

Chaibah also highlighted the benefits of print-on-demand, especially to support the translations industry, saying: “Print-on-demand is a solution developed by global publishing industry to avoid the losses incurred from arbitrary print runs. Matching supply of copies of books to their demand is indeed a successful solution, which can be further enhanced with the option to publish electronically.”  

The panel was followed by a series of meetings organised by EPA between Emirati and Brazilian publishers.

Founded in 2009, EPA is dedicated to serving and developing the local publishing sector as well as to advancing the role of Emirati publishers through training and mentoring programmes that help raise their efficiency. EPA represents the interests of professionals in the UAE’s publishing industry by working on advancing their rights and improving the conditions of the profession and its related laws in coordination and cooperation with competent authorities in the UAE and beyond.