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Dinha T. Gorgis & Aladdin Al-Kharabsheh: Translation of Arabic Collocations into English


two claims by testing two groups of students far from the atmosphere of final examinations. This is why the translation of Arabic collocations into English was the only area to be tested. Other reasons had to do with ease of checking students' output against the authors' optimal translations, the relative ease of processing the figures obtained and straightforward comparison between (sub)groups.

Three Arabic lexical items, each of which contextualized in ten sentences which exhibited ten different collocations or sense relations, were given to two groups of 4th year students, viz. A & B, for translation into English. The former included 31 subjects, assigned the task of using any general-purpose bilingual or monolingual dictionary, and the latter 40 subjects, assigned the task of using their minds only. The translation product of each group was split into three categories, viz. A1, A2 and A3 vs. B1, B2 and B3, according to the grades they had obtained in previous examinations to ensure fair comparisons across (sub)groups in terms of a convenient level of competence. Thus, we could safely talk about top, intermediate and average students. The resulting figures of (sub)group translations were tabulated according to the number of sense equivalents given to each of the 30 sentences. Having processed the first set of figures, it was found out that dictionary-free subjects are tentatively slightly better because they used fewer senses, on average, than the dictionary-based subjects. Yet on a closer inspection, the figures calculated on the basis of which (sub)group approximated the optimal translation equivalents revealed that the dictionary-free subjects are doubly poor. Although the results are disappointing on both sides, since deviation from the optimal translation as shown in the Appendix is enormous, the dictionary-based subjects are far better, a finding that runs counter to the first author's speculation, on the one hand, and to Rangelova/Echeandia's results, on the other hand.

Better results could have been obtained were the students involved in conscious-raising activities before the tests had taken place and/or instructed to use specialized dictionaries as those mentioned at the outset of this paper. We, therefore, believe that our tested students were mainly engaged in search of meaning and meanwhile preoccupied with producing correct syntax and spelling rather than looking for collocation or any sense relation equivalents. This should not mean that we expected them to give us 30 English collocations for 30 Arabic ones. At the time we doubted that the term 'collocation' had ever come across their minds, a one-to-one collocational correspondence was not our ultimate objective because we are fully aware that collocations in any two languages do not necessarily match. In fact, priority was given to testing their knowledge of Arabic collocations in the first place, which is evidently poor. For this reason, we were equally satisfied with their closest English translations of sense relations to those provided by the two authors.


Abu-Ssaydeh, Abdul-Fattah (2007): "Collocations and the Arabic-English dictionary. Ideas

for better dictionaries". International Journal of Arabic-English Studies (IJAES) 8: 69–90. Abu-Ssaydeh, Abdul-Fattah (forthcoming): An Arabic-English bilingual collocational

dictionary. Aitchison, Jean (1994): Words in the mind. An introduction to the mental lexicon. Oxford. Al-Hamly, Mashael/Farghal, Mohammed (2008): "Collocations and colligations in EFL

writing. An empirical study". Language and Linguistics 21: 121–128. Al-Jarf, Reima Saad (2001): "Electronic dictionaries in translation classrooms in Saudi

Arabia". Linguistica Communicatio 10: 127–134. Al-Sibai, Dina (2009): Testing Saudi English collocational competence and its development.

King Saud University. http://docs.ksu.edu.sa/PDF/Articles06/Article060208.pdf (accessed January 14, 2009). Baalbaki, Rohi (1995): Al-Mawrid. A modern Arabic-English dictionary. 7th edn. Beirut.

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