Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Americana in Arabic

Juan Cole, at the Dept. of History at the University of Michigan, is developing a non-profit project to translate classic works of American thought and history into Arabic. Such editions rarely appear; when they do, they are often abridged or not long available before going out of print. A poor distribution system for Arabic books and the scarcity of public libraries compounds the problem, the project website reports. The project authors write:
We have therefore begun a project to translate important books by great Americans and about America into Arabic, and to subsidize their publication so that they can be bought inexpensively. We are also subventing their distribution. We seek funding from the general public as well as from foundations. [...] Among our main goals, which we think are distinctive, is the formation of a large corpus of Americana in Middle Eastern languages, maintaining them in print and available inexpensively, and ensuring continued distribution and availability.
Interested persons may join an e-mail announcement list.

نحن الشعبThe image shown is the cover of a bilingual edition of The Declaration of Independent and the Constitution of the United States, published by the Cato Institute. Many nations have certification standards for translators and intepreters whose work involves legal documents. Who is responsible for translating the foundational texts of government? When we consider the vasty oceans of legal ink spilled by pols, pundits, and attorneys as various interests dispute the compacted meaning of, say, the privacy clause, we have to wonder what standards are in place to ensure that the vagaries of translation don't proliferate constitutional confusions.

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