In 2020, EAP received a generous grant from the Barakat Trust to translate Remote Capture: Digitising Documentary Heritage in Challenging Locations into Arabic as part of outreach within the Middle East and North Africa regions. Nouran Ibrahim Abdelraouf did all the hard work of translating the book and now that it is available online via the EAP website, we thought it would be the right time to ask her a few questions that we could share on our blog.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, how did you get started in translation work?
Well, I've always been passionate about languages, especially English. My mother is an English literature major and has always been a bookworm, something which she's definitely passed on to me! So, growing up, I've always been surrounded by books in both Arabic and English and a general passion for language and reading, and in school, both English and Arabic languages were my favorite subjects. I then went on to join the English department in the Faculty of Al-Alsun (Languages), Ain Shams University, where I currently work as an assistant lecturer. Then I specialised in translation and interpreting between Arabic and English and defended my MA thesis titled "Euphemism in Translation: A Socio-cognitive Critical Analysis of the US War on Terror Discourse and its Translation in Arabic Media" in 2015. I started my career in translation work online while I was still a Junior and started interpreting work during studying for my translation and interpreting diploma.
Am I right in thinking you like to focus on translating material related to culture and heritage? What made you decide to focus on this?
I think this is somehow true. There is a sense of accomplishment that comes from being the mediator between different cultures. Being an Egyptian myself, I come from a country that is just layer over layer over layer of different cultures and a huge heritage. I take pride in knowing more about my Egyptian heritage and helping with presenting parts of it to the rest of the world. This applies to all other different cultural materials that I've worked on through translating or interpreting. Such materials are almost always challenging, since culture specificity is inherent to their nature, meanwhile it is something that is usually very challenging to contextualise in the target language. This is why this kind of work needs lots of research and passion, not to mention a great deal of patience and persistence to reach a suitable rendition. Having said that, it is a particularly rewarding experience when you eventually get it right. I do work on different subjects as well, but topics of culture and heritage are definitely among my favorite subjects to both read and work on.
What were your immediate thoughts when you were invited to collaborate on Remote Capture?
I was really intrigued to be collaborating with one of the British Library's programmes, and I thought the nature of the book itself was quite challenging. When I spoke to a friend working in the field, she told me that there were many entities and individuals in Egypt who would be particularly interested in the grants offered by EAP, and consequently in an Arabic translation of Remote Capture, since it serves as a practical manual on how to get started with a heritage digitisation project and how to get an EAP grant. I think the same applies to other Arabic-speaking countries; it's an area of the world that has various cultures and heritages and is probably in need for more resources to be able to document them, so I was very enthusiastic about starting to work on the Arabic translation of Remote Capture that would somehow facilitate this.
What aspect of the book did you enjoy working on?
I would rather speak about enjoyable and fulfilling moments related to my work on Remote Capture. I had many of these whenever there was a particularly challenging, technical term that I struggled to first understand, and second translate. It wasn't always easy, but was definitely rewarding when it eventually materialised. I also enjoyed having a final product after such hard work that went on for quite some time given the volume of the project, and after working with the graphic designer and having so many discussions on how the final product should look like. Also, the moment when the translation finally went online and I could share its link with my family and friends was a big one for me; it just makes all the sleepless nights and anxiety over making the deadline worthwhile. I also have to mention that I am enjoying answering the questions of this interview!
Were there any challenges, if so, what were they?
Well, there were both technical and personal challenges. As for the technical challenges, they involved the translation of highly technical and specialised terms from English into Arabic. The chapter on cameras and their settings was a particularly difficult one. I had to go on reading and reading and reading on cameras, their settings and how they work, to make sure I am conveying the correct information. I also had to make a lot of decisions in regards to whether to use the more technical terms in English (more in use) or Arabic (less in use). This took some time and thinking to reach a successful compromise that wouldn't sacrifice either the intended meaning in the original text or its acceptability in the translated text. When I say: "technical terms", I am referring to both the parts that have to do with modern equipment as well as with the field of documenting heritage. There is a scarcity in Arabic resources, online at least, that discuss both subjects, and so I had to spend a long time researching before reaching a few resources that were helpful. As for the personal challenges, they mainly had to do with time management. This past semester I was studying 6 PhD subjects with three exams in each throughout the term, not to mention the weekly assignments, in addition to teaching 3 different classes. So I had many things to juggle throughout the project's time, and I am definitely not the best at time management, but I guess all's well that ends well! It was very rewarding to see all the hard work manifested in the book in its final form online.
You also lecture on translation and interpreting studies at Ain Shams University. You must be incredibly busy, what do you do to relax and unwind?
Ah, the good old unwinding! I haven't done much of it lately. But generally speaking, I like reading, watching movies and series, travelling (though I haven't travelled in over a year now with all what's going on) and I write occasionally. When I have the time and materials, I like to do mosaic work and decoupage. I also love crocheting and I've just learned how to embroider. Generally, handcrafts help you unwind and relax, and they are my favorite form of meditation, I wish I had more time on my hands to do more of them. Also, last year, a tortoiseshell cat appeared mysteriously on our porch, DEMANDING to be fed as well as loved, we adopted her and soon enough she got pregnant and in August gave birth to 6 kittens, 3 of which are still with us, so we now care for the mum and dad as well as their three baby boys. Being around them is definitely one of my favorite pastimes!
What is your next project?
I am supposed to start working on the translation of the new issue of Rawi Magazine, Egypt's Heritage Review soon. I can't disclose its subject quite yet, but I am sure it will be as interesting and enriching as the previous issue. I am also hoping to focus more on my PhD and to get some work done on my dissertation.
Is there someone you would like to acknowledge or thank in relation to your work on Remote Capture?
I would definitely like to acknowledge my mother, Enas Yehia Lotfy, to whom I owe everything, and who has always been there with encouragement and support, especially whenever I was freaking out about the deadline! I would also like to thank my friends for their incessant support as well our discussions that definitely helped me with several challenging aspects of the translation. I can't forget to mention Ragaee Abdallah, who did all the hard work of Remote Capture's Arabic version graphics. It's been very pleasant to work with him, and I have to thank him for his flexibility and most of all for his patience in spite of all the changes and edits I kept asking him to make. Finally, I would like to thank Jody Butterworth, who is one of Remote Capture's editors and my point of contact with EAP for her constant support and flexibility. Working with her is definitely one of the highlights of the project for me.