I am a Saudi woman, living in a small town in the north of Saudi
Arabia. I work in all-female campus, surrounded by a 240 cm-high concrete wall,
as a teacher in Al-Jouf University for  practical
translation classes. In this hard-to-reach context, I usually discuss with my
students, young Saudi women, the sense of words in Arabic and English. These
discussions carry a sense of ongoing boundaries stirring culture and faith
isuues as well as family and tribal values (Aeb1,
Halal, Haram2).
During the classes of tutoring my students, correcting their translations and
discussing a sea of potential equivalents, I was fascinated by the relationship between p
translator and a text evolved. Despite their notorious heritage of inferiority,
both females and translations in my classroom were very defying. They were
pushing both linguistic and cultural limits of the translated texts to trouble
the male hegemony over Arabic language. A question that was raised in one of my
classes was: “Why don’t we translate the word ‘mankind’ to simply ‘men’ since
it explicitly excludes women?”. These kinds of debates with my young female
students made me fall in love with my quest to be a researcher in Translation
Studies. I realize that translation is not just the simple process of making
different sets of languages interchangeable. Equipping my students with the
skills to maximize their understanding in what is beyond Translation has always
been one of my passionate teaching goals. Hence, it is my tutoring experience
that has gradually shaped and continues to shape my interest in translation studies

 

My 4-year undergraduate program in English language and
Literature has been a continuous process of gaining cultural cognition beyond
the mere language learning. Meanwhile, I endeavor to practice what I have
learned by acting as an interpreter in a number of large-scale cultural
exchange activities. I have as well attended international conferences and
workshops that have expanded my horizon on Translation and Interpretation. In
2011, I was awarded with my Master degree in Translation and Interpreting from
Durham University in UK. Despite the difficult pregnancy and critical health
conditions I suffered during this period, I got a double merit! Apart from
passing my final Translation Project with flying colors-a merit, I also got a
bouncing baby boy as I was blessed with my little boy ‘Milad’ in the same year.
However, as a result of health issues, I was unable to attain good grades in
‘Translation Theories’. Ironically, it was through ‘Translation Theories’
module that I was first introduced to Feminist Translation Studies, and I was
very excited about it. This eagerness came from the fact that I am a Saudi
woman living in a hard-to-reach context. I am very interested in explore the
fast changing context of young Saudi females and trying to understand how they
are struggling to communicate their feminist message through literature.

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Recent studies have explored social themes on Saudi literatures,
mostly after the effects of Gulf
War3,
identifying societal transformations amongst Saudi culture along with many
related problems associated with constitutional rights, male dominated culture
and women’s state of affairs. The Saudi female literature reflects on these
changes as it explores the taboos that are encountered by Saudi women in
society. In addition to the societal patriarchy, Saudi female writers were as
well confronted with a literary one, where the male dominated literary realm
tried to expel them and even disfigured them by just allowing nicknamed female
writers to share in the space. I believe that conducting more research on the translations
of the written texts of females in hard-to-reach context, such as the Saudi context;
will be an important contribution to the corpus of Feminist Translation
Studies. The interdisciplinary nature of both Translation Studies and Feminism
enables researchers to tackle cultural and ideological changes more accurately.
This intersection will not simply shed the light on the patriarchal agendas in
one of the most gendered societies in the world, but it will also has the
potential of exploring how females in this region are coping with these
situations.

 

 

During my Master study, I attended the III International
Conference of Translating Voices, Translating Regions, which were held in
Durham city on March 2011. As a key guest speaker, Prof. Lawrence Venuti talked
passionately about his position in translation as a pro-foreignization and
anti-domestication. He also insisted on the translator’s educational role. I
successfully had the chance to meet Prof. Venuti during the coffee break where
he talked to me briefly about the importance of foreignization as a tool for educating
the readers about the foreign cultures. Meeting a pioneer in Translation
Theories was very inspiring to me. I think foreignization is similar in some
ways to the kidnapping technique. Both are used to draw the reader’s attention
to the suppressed voice. Studying literary texts written by Saudi female
writers and examining their translations will unfold areas for the researcher
where s/he can investigate how foreignization and domestication affect the
message through which Saudi females in hard-to-reach context are trying to
communicate. It has as well the potential of exploring the tale of ‘the
obedient woman’ in Saudi literature through the lens of the occident instead of
the oriental.

Moving from a hard-to-reach context of a small town in the north
of Saudi Arabia to the open and multicultural environment of the United Kingdom
was a life changing experience. The live comparison of gender roles in
different geographical locations made me aware of the veiled and unveiled
genderism in societies. I was transitioned from a dependent citizen who lived
in ‘only females’ space, were not allowed to move without a guardian’s
permission to a full and global citizen, immersed in cultural diversity where I
mixed with people from different cultural backgrounds, males, and females. My motherhood
experience, on the other hand, pushed me to learn more about masculinity. Since
my two children are boys, I wanted them to learn that equality is the only way
and that living in a society overflowing with rich patriarchal rituals could be
a good learning experience. I believe that exposing my children to different
cultural settings will enrich their sense of self.

 

I am convinced that the theortical knowledge and practical
skills provided by your Translation program will greatly complement my interest
in Translation Studies. This interest is based on my love and pleasure to work
with languages as well as my desire to be proficient in English for it is one
of the international languages that ties different nationalities together. With
this translation studies program – something highly related to what I have been
studying, will not simply my intellectual prospects and career opportunities
will be widely broadened, but I will also be able to further consolidate or
even sublime my bi-language skills by creating a meaningful and efficient
linkage between English and Arabic.

1 Aeb
???
is the Arabic word for shame. However, the shame culture in the Arabic context operates
from different dimesions where honor and extreme Islamic interpretations are implemented
to promote a gendered and anti-female beleifs. The word ‘ aeb’ is usually
used to tell females how to behave.

2 Halal
and Haram are Arabic words and they are religious labels which refer to
what is premissbile (halal) and what is not premissbile (haram) in Islam.

3 The Gulf
War from 1990 to 1991.