A study concludes translation is crucial to combat ‘the clash of ignorance’ between Arab-Euro societies

New Study reveals the critical importance of translation as an instrument to combat ‘the clash of ignorance’ between societies on the two shores of the Mediterranean.

Brussels, 27th June 2012 – Policies in favour of increasing translation of Arabic works to European languages are essential to the promotion of cultural relations between Arabs and Europeans, according to a pioneering report produced by the Anna Lindh Foundation.

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The Report, entitled ‘A Mapping of Translation in the Euro-Mediterranean region’ and carried out in partnership with Paris-based ‘Transeuropéennes’, reveals that in the European Union’s countries only 1 out of 1000 translated books comes from Arabic. In France, for example, Arabic is the source for less than 0.65% of translated books; in the last 25 years, there have been just 1.065 books translated from Arabic. From a comparative perspective, across the Mediterranean, 35.000 books in the last 25 years have been translated from European languages into Arabic, with the majority of works having English as the main source language.

Speaking at the official launch of the Report yesterday in Brussels, Mr. Andreu Claret, Executive Director of the Anna Lindh Foundation, said that “improving translations between Arabic and European languages is so crucial for overcoming the clash of ignorance existing in the Mediterranean region, that the European Union and the institutions of the Union for the Mediterranean should launch a long-term and sustainable programme on this issue”. 

Mr. Xavier Troussard, Head of the Culture Policy, Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue Unit of the European Union, added that “Promoting translations among European and other Mediterranean languages must be a central issue for any cultural policy in this region and for the EuroMed political dialogue”. 

The launch event was hosted at Bozar, the ‘Palais des Beaux-Arts’ of Brussels, where its Director, Mr. Paul Dujardin, welcomed the participants and Mrs Ghislaine Glasson Deschaumes, Director of Transeuropéennes, presented an overview of the project and its main outcomes and conclusions.

This unprecedented study, developed over two years of work, involved some 16 partners and focused on analysing the status of translation flows between different stakeholders, including authors, translators, editors, libraries, book stores, critics and funding organisations across the Euro-Mediterranean region, and particularly focused on translations between European languages and other Mediterranean languages such as Arabic, Hebrew and Turkish.

The mapping study demonstrated how the persistence of qualitative and quantitative inequalities in the ‘translation chain’ across the two shores of the Mediterranean is still based on a ‘centre-and-periphery’ logic that reinforces cultural hegemonies and the persistence of stereotypes. These disparities particularly appears in the production and dissemination of social and human sciences books, but is less present in the literary publications, especially the contemporary ones.

The conclusions and recommendations of the study will pave the ground for a new Euro-Mediterranean strategy aimed at promoting intercultural dialogue between societies and strengthening a common identity based on cultural diversity, and are addressed to stakeholders of the Euro-Mediterranean Cultural Strategy; those responsible for the cultural policies in the Member States of the Union for the Mediterranean; national or private programmes of support for translation.

Access the full version of the mapping study here

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