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A star amongst Omani translators


By Baraah Al Mujaini

For centuries, translation has played a critical role in bonding cultures and connecting people from around the world by breaking the barriers of communication in different fields.

The same is true in Oman where translators perform a crucial role considering the country's huge expat population who don't speak Arabic. As a melting pot of different cultures, everyone understands each other and society can function effectively because of the effective role translators play.

The translation industry has also flourished in Oman. From being launched as a major at Sultan Qaboos University in the 90s, there are numerous BA Translation programmes offered throughout the country nowadays.

One of the most celebrated translators in the Sultanate today is Aiman al Owisi who was not only awarded for some of his translation works but because of his superb work has become one of the go-to persons to translate high-calibre literary works.

Aiman started his translation journey in his fourth year in college. Back then, he was the head of the English and Translation Society at SQU that was founded in 1996. The first work he attempted to translate was a literary work, which is quite harsh to translate especially for a student. Aiman expressed the intensive desire that possessed him to read Russian literature during the post-graduation period.

Surprisingly, a Russian literary work was proposed for him to translate by Dar Alrafidain publishing house. He eagerly accepted to translate the book named “The Spy” for the great Russian Novelist Maxim Gorky. The strenuous task of translation needs accuracy and patience; therefore, Aiman visited Russia in 2017 as an attempt to dig deep into the Russian culture and lifestyle. The visit has facilitated the task of translating the book since he went to visit the novelist’s home, observing his acquisition, photos, and books. While translating the book, Aiman was visualizing all that he has captured from his visit to Russia, bearing in mind all the details he has to manifest in his translation to achieve accuracy in translation and loyalty to the Russian culture.

Simultaneously, Aiman was also requested to translate another work titled “A History of Modern Oman” by Jeremy Jones and Nicholas Ridout. This book has a distinguished value to Aiman, as it was the first book publicized as his translation. This book codified Oman’s history and events from 1749 until the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century. The success of this book and the compliments he has received regarding the quality of the translation was a stimulus for him to start translating other books.

Worth mentioning, Aiman has recently won besides the Omani translator Rahma AlHabsi, the Cultural Creativity Award 2021 (session 12) for the best-published translation (from foreign language to Arabic) for the book “A History of Modern Oman” and Rahma’s translated work “Arabic Zanzibar State”. The event was organized by The Omani Society for Writers and Literates.

Translating “A History of Modern Oman” creates a chance for Aiman to translate another book titled “Oman, Culture, and Diplomacy” also by Jeremy Jones and Nicholas Ridout. As the former book referred repeatedly to the latter book, Aiman was curious to read and opt to translate it. Since the book reflects Oman’s culture and its role in shaping modern Omani diplomacy.

Aiman has also shed the light on the difficulties that challenge the translator in the process of translating literary works, as it requires a comprehensive understanding. Literary works are characterized by using a considerable amount of metaphors, similes, humor, irony, and lots of implicit meanings, which complicate the task for the translator. He does believe that a literary translator must have a sense of creativity that enables him/her to translate the source text loyally, precisely, and professionally.

Aiman remarks on the significant role of machine translation, as they have paved the way for the industry of translation to evolve. Yet, since the process of translation is not just transferring mere linguistic units from one language into another; the machines cannot replace the role of human translators, especially, if there are religious, cultural, and social concepts codified within the text. The translation machine, nevertheless, facilitates the task of translating and accelerates the pace. Professional translators can assign the source text in one of the translation machines programs, and then attempt to refine and rectify the whole text. Aiman has pointed out to the new translation techniques and tools that lately have emerged noticeably in this field which signifies the importance and development of translation around the world. One of these tools is known as CAT (Computer-Assisted Translation) tools, which Aiman had conducted some workshops about at SQU.

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