Adapting the ICT Manual in Arabic

Arabic version of Making IT Our Own: Information & Communication Technology Training of Trainers Manual is almost ready for prime-time. Most of the translation work is complete. We are now in the process of reviewing and adapting it until WLP can put its seal of approval on the final work.

Translating a manual, a challenging information and communication technology (ICT) manual at that, would be a difficult job in itself. However, if you take into account a language like Arabic (spoken by 530 million people and the official language of 25 countries according to Wikipedia’s entry on Arabic Language) with many dialects and variants, the task of adaptation becomes an even bigger challenge. Translation begins to look like a cakewalk in comparison.

ICTs in Education (cc)  pmorgan

ICTs in Education (cc) pmorgan

Our struggle to find the right word for Access is a perfect example. Accessing ICT Tools is the first training session within the manual which is the basic guide to technology such as word processing, spreadsheets, email, and the web. For translating Access, we started with three words:

  • المدخل (Entrance)
  • الوصول (Approach)
  • الولوج (Access)

After checking with a few of our technology workshop participants (on Facebook fittingly), we finalized الولوج (Access) for the title. However, when we sent around the final manual for review, we heard from a couple of our partners that the word الولوج has multiple meanings (intended and unintended), and one of the unintended meanings is a popular double entendre. And that meant the end of that word. We decided to go with المدخل (Entrance), except that it meant going through the entire manual with a fine toothcomb to change all occurences of الولوج to المدخل or الوصول.

Language is such an interesting, living, breathing thing with its own intricacies and permutations that evolve over time. One word that is clear and safe in one country/culture can be something totally different in another. But if anyone has this imprinted on their brains from experience, it should be WLP. We pride ourselves in the culture-specific adaptations of our seminal manual Leading to Choices: A Leadership Training Handbook for Women. Available in 18 languages and growing!

الولوج / المدخل is just one of the many, many, many words and phrases we (it is mostly Layali, I as co-author, only get second-hand work and reflected glory on this one) have been grappling with over the past few months. Now you know why we consider translation easy and adaptation hard. But the good news is that the Arabic ICT manual is almost ready for publication.

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1 Response to Adapting the ICT Manual in Arabic

  1. layali says:

    Thank you, Usha, for shedding light on some of the complications we’ve had in the adaptation process. Another challenge that is noteworthy is the gendered nature of the Arabic language.

    While verbs in English are generally understood to refer to a person of any gender or a group of people of single or mixed gender, in Arabic, verbs vary according to the gender of the person and vary by the number of people in a group. In the case of a group of mixed gender, the general practice is to use the masculine plural form. Arab activists and women’s organizations that wish to write in gender-neutral language often use the feminine/masculine format, which would be too cumbersome and distracting in this manual. For example, to say “They presented their project” you would have to say: “عرضن/عرضوا مشروعهن/مشروعهم”.

    Since the manual’s goal to increase women’s technological skills, we chose to use feminine verbs and nouns to address both women and men. It might be uncommon, but it sure is innovative.

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