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Having worked for several foreign bosses, it fell to my lot to interpret a great deal to them. I use the word interpret, and not translate, deliberately. When you translate you try to stick to what is actually being said or written, but when you interpret, you convey the meaning, even if the words are not exact.
The Arabic language and the English language have two totally different mind sets. When translating one into the other, quite often it did not make sense. One of the greatest difficulties in translating Arabic into English, is the fact that Arabic sentences seem to run forever before petering out to a dying stop. English sentences are very tight, punctuation essential to the meaning and effect. So the best that could be done would be to cut up the Arabic into phrases that make sense, and turn the sentence into several, running into a paragraph.
But when talking, this does not matter. In speech there is a totally different challenge. Egyptians mostly seem incapable of pronouncing two English sounds, “th” and “p”. The former is usually pronounced “z”,and the latter “b”. But even that can be gotten used to and eventually understood, the one thing that can really cause a great deal of bafflement is the construction of the sentences. A very common mistake by Egyptians is when they want to say that they are interested in something they say instead “I am interesting”. My usual response, which, thank God is never understood, is : “No. Not really”.
English expressions on the other hand are extremely baffling to Egyptians, and are quite often misinterpreted, if not properly explained.
Where pronunciation is concerned, it sometimes made for really funny situations. I remember the drivers at the office invariably arguing about their “barking allowance”. This always conjured up pictures of said drivers sitting on their haunches looking up to the moon and howling their heads off. Also, when people take off around noon time and tell you they are going to “bray”! The most ear splitting sentence was spoken by a colleague at a pharmaceutical company where he was asking about a product called Paraplatin, it went “What is ze bublic brice of Barablatin” ! That, I can tell you, knocked me sideways. And when you ask a question and wait for the answer, then when you hurry them up they say “I am sinking”. For a bit you are not quite sure if your question floored them or they are “thinking” about the answer.