By Nadia El-Awady**
July 3, 2005
In keeping with the section’s recent spate of successes, IslamOnline.net Health & Science writer Dr. Ehab Abdelrahim was recently named “Linguist of the Year” for his article The Language of Scientific Research.
The honorary title was given this year to 13 linguists from around the world, including Noam Chomsky and the president of the International Federation of Translators, among others, by Inttranet (INTerpreter and TRAnslator NETwork), which currently includes in its membership more than 600 professional interpreters and translators in 45 countries.
Malcolm Duff, director general of Inttranet, told IslamOnline.net that Abdelrahim was chosen as a Linguist of the Year by the network because “his article stated some of the specific reasons for the increasingly vast digital divide not only between Western countries and the Middle East, but between the rich and poor in the Middle East itself.”
Abdelrahim’s article, published on IslamOnline.net in November 2004, looks into the role publication in the Arabic language can play in developing scientific interest and knowledge in the region.
“The most important message I wanted to convey is that the Arabic language is capable of being the language of teaching science and medicine in the Arab world,” said Abdelrahim in an interview with IslamOnline.net. “We will assume no pioneer status in science unless we return back to teaching sciences in the Arabic language,” he said. Abdelrahim, an Egyptian physician currently working as head of the Authorship & Translation Department at the Arabization Center for Medical Science (ACMLS) in Kuwait, believes, however, that this does not mean that Arabs should abandon learning other languages, as they are an important means for being updated on the world’s wealth of scientific knowledge.
Linguist of the Year nominees are chosen by the editorial board of Inttranet’s news section, Inttranews. The list of candidates is sent to the network’s 600 members who vote for their first choice. The top 13 candidates are then announced based on this vote.
The Importance of Knowledge
Duff referred to the proverb “Ignorance is the source of all evils” as an important basis for the conflict and lack of development the Arab world is currently facing. Language, he believes, can play an important role in changing this. “Our point of view is that education, science and culture go hand in hand, and that language in its written form is the primary means for maintaining all three, and the primary means for overcoming ignorance,” he said.
“Appreciating one’s own culture and that of others is one of our paths to freedom, but without education, there can be no such appreciation; without science, there can be no proper understanding of our relationship with the world in which we live. And without culture, there can be no past, present and future perspective for that knowledge,” Duff explained.
Duff concurred with Abdelrahim’s comments in the IOL article that it is “inadmissible that some states in the Middle East are among the richest nations, yet the illiteracy rate is one of the highest in the world, research papers are not translated into Arabic, nor is science in schools taught in Arabic.” Duff contrasted this with Japan, which translates research papers in all fields into Japanese, “enabling access for Japanese citizens everywhere to every kind of knowledge,” he said.
The Role of Translators
Abdelrahim told IslamOnline.net that Arab translators can play a critical role in bridging the knowledge gap. Arab translators, however, lack the proper financial incentives, he said, and the publishing market in general is very weak compared to other nations. And even though Arab translators are able to continue their work under the harsh conditions facing the literary and scientific fields of the Arab world, they continue to lack the modern tools, for example advanced computer-aided translation tools, for translating specialized branches of knowledge.
Inttranet’s director general agrees with Abdelrahim that Arab translators and interpreters face several challenges. “Despite the linguistic and technical quality of many of our Arab colleagues, they have great difficulty in finding work in countries that do not support the translation industry, and therefore tend to charge ridiculously low rates for their work – which degrades the image of translators in general, and Arabic translators in particular,” he said.
Abdelrahim’s nomination as Linguist of the Year marks IOL’s Health & Science department’s third recognition in the past few months by international organizations. The World Health Organization honored IOL’s Health & Science staff last June 28 as a “Partner in Health” for their efforts in disseminating health awareness during a large reception for Arab media and television celebrities. IOL’s Health & Science managing editor, Nadia El-Awady, was also the winner of the first prize of the Water Supply and Sanitation Council’s Media Award which was presented to her during the Global WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene for All) Forum in Dakar, Senegal in November 2004.
** Nadia El-Awady is IslamOnline.net’s Health & Science Page editor. She has a bachelor’s degree in medicine from Cairo University and is currently studying for a masters degree in journalism and mass communications at the American University in Cairo. You can reach her at: ScienceTech@islam-online.net