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Equivalence of Translation: English and Arabic Essay

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Updated: Feb 7th, 2022


The world of the 21st century has an incredible property of cultural paradoxicality. On the one hand, modern sociologists, culturologists, and mass media regularly inform the world about globalization that unites whole nations into one single space and erases the limits of differences. Globalization creates a world characterized by friendliness, tolerance, and respect for all members of society. On the other hand, the geopolitical crisis has contributed to some countries’ stricter isolation, especially in southwest Asia. The result of such cultural separation is a unique way of developing not only local populations but also linguistic forms.

In such a paradoxical situation, the full and unambiguous transmission of information is one of the media’s critical problems. It is essential that texts, messages, or sounds that reach people in the same country in the same language reflect the same ideas in translation. This is especially true in 2020 when the entire planet is affected by a coronavirus pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) becomes the voice of communication, informing people about the principles and rules of conduct for health. If one refers to the organization’s Coronavirus web page in the United States, one will find the following text fragment in Appendix A. The accessibility and ease of presentation of the information enable all citizens who know English and have access to the Web to acquire the necessary knowledge in a timely and complete manner. At the same time, WHO provides an opportunity to switch to the Arabic version of the site, the corresponding text snippet of which is provided in Appendix B. The material is expected to overlap despite linguistic differences. This essay examines 20 English biological terms with a specific focus on COVID-19 and explores the type of equivalence in Arabic to verify the translation.

Equivalence in COVID-19 Texts

It is essential to understand that translation activities are not aimed at designing text messages by the perception of individual cultures. Indeed, the adaptability and flexibility properties of translation play an important role, but translators’ primary mission is to preserve the content, functions, stylistic, communicative, and artistic values of the original (Nuraisiah, 2018). In other words, a professional translator always strives to achieve practical information equivalence of the translation with the original. If this goal is achieved, the perception of the translated section in the target language will be comparatively equal to that of the original (Bednarova-Gibova & Zakutna, 2018). However, it is safe to say that the target text will never be an exact copy of the original since there are differences in socio-political views and terms.

Professionals in the field of translation often turn to an in-depth study of the idea of equivalence. Some of them say that the main factor of translation is to open up the communication barrier boundaries so that the professional translator of the text brings in styles and symbols of the target environment (Zou, 2016). However, by definition, this approach does not quite satisfy what is meant by equivalence (Alfaori, 2017). The change in the structure and ideology of the text for a new format entails a real blurring of internal content, the informative essence of the text itself, and the substitution of objectivity for subjectivity.


For the current study, a fragment of English text reflecting general coronavirus knowledge was used. The WHO web page provides question-and-answer-style information that helps users get only the material they want and not be confronted with topics that are not of interest to them. The WHO is the world’s leading broadcaster, as it exercises its authority and responsibility to control the spread of infections and epidemics. The organization provides the ability to translate the text into Arabic using a button. The web page structure is maintained, as information continues to be provided in the form of answers to questions asked. However, after careful consideration, it is clear that the Arabic text is approximately half as short as English. Both texts are shown in Appendixes A and B.


For the implementation of this study, a fragment of the English text was examined to find thematic terms. Given the extremely narrow focus of the problem, the text fragment is replete with biological words, some of which may not be understood by people without biological knowledge. Once again, these terms were highlighted in yellow for ease of reference. A summary table of terms is then compiled, which presents the original words and their translations, and defines the type of equivalence.

Analysis and Discussion

# Terms Equivalence
English Arabic Qualitative Quantitative
1 coronaviruses فيروسات كورونا referential 1 to 1E
2 viruses فيروسات referential 1 to 1E
3 respiratory التنفسية referential 1 to 1E
4 diseases أمراضاً referential 1 to 1E
5 infectious بالعدوى connotative 1 to 1E
6 symptoms أعراض referential 1 to 1E
7 sore throat الأعراض التنفسية text-normative 1 to part of 1E
8 hospital السريرية connotative 1 to 1E
9 spreads تنتقل textual 1 to part of 1E
10 fever والحمّى referential 1 to many E
11 dry cough والسعال connotative 1 to 1E
12 difficulty breathing وصعوبة التنفس referential 1 to 1E
13 prevent الوقاية referential 1 to many E
14 cure علاج referential 1 to 1E
15 close contact بالاتصال عن قُرب مع dynamic 1 to part of 1E
16 vaccines لقاح referential 1 to 1E
17 healthcare provider العاملون الصحيون connotative 1 to part of 1E
18 patients للمريض referential 1 to 1E
19 cases of COVID-19 الحالات dynamic 1 to part of 1E
20 origin in animals من قطط formal 0 E

In analyzing the data presented in the table, it is not difficult to conclude that most terms reveal surprising similarities based on referential equivalence. Different native speakers most likely wrote different versions of the site, but a high degree of semantic similarity indicates the validity of the translation. If one looks at graphical visualization, in Figure 1, more than half of the terms use referential equivalence, although other types are also present. The situation is similar for quantitative typology as well — most terms have a quantitative typology “1 to 1E”. This means that for such terms, there is a single and unambiguous meaning in the targeting language. However, Figure 3 shows that not all referential terms have the type “1 to 1E”. This effect can be caused by the fact that some words, such as “fever” and “prevent,” have ambiguous translations into Arabic. In general, the current tendency for a rather significant equivalence of a term is due to the text’s narrow specialization. Scientific terms are usually unambiguous, strict, and uniform across cultures.

Fraction of terms by types of qualitative equivalence
Figure 1. Fraction of terms by types of qualitative equivalence
Fraction of terms by types of quantitative equivalence
Figure 2. Fraction of terms by types of quantitative equivalence
The matching percentage "1 to 1E" and "R": quite a lot, but not full coverage
Figure 3. The matching percentage “1 to 1E” and “R”: quite a lot, but not full coverage


To sum up, it should be noted that language equivalency is necessary in today’s world, as its observance allows for equal and fair communication of information to speakers of alternative languages. This is especially important in times of planetary events such as the coronavirus pandemic. Current research has shown a reasonably strong correlation between English and Arabic, which are written in the same parts of the text because the terms are highly equivalent. It was shown that there is a tendency for terms to be unambiguous and uniform, which is justified by the scientific themes of the texts. As for recommendations for translating words into Arabic, it would be appropriate to assess the general context of the sentence and to understand the different structures of languages. Thus, first, the language has the opposite orientation (from right to left); second, nouns precede adjectives; and thirdly, nouns may be feminine and masculine.


Alfaori, N. A. D. M. (2017). Sino-US English Teaching, 14(2), 86-97. Web.

Bednarova-Gibova, K., & Zakutna, S. (2018). [PDF document]. Web.

Nuraisiah, S. (2018). Equivalence in translation: Levels, problems and categories [PDF document]. Web.

Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19). (2020). World Health Organization. Web.

Zou, S. (Ed.). (2016). Proceedings of the 2016 6th international conference on management, education, information, and control (MEICI 2016). Atlantis Press.

أسئلة متكررة بشأن فيروسات كورونا المستجدة. (2020). World Health Organization. Web.

Appendix A

English Version of the Site

(“Q&A on coronaviruses,” 2020)

“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19. COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. COVID-19 is now a pandemic affecting many countries globally. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Other symptoms that are less common and may affect some patients include aches and pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but only have very mild symptoms.

Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing hospital treatment. Around 1 out of every 5 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart and lung problems, diabetes, or cancer, are at higher risk of developing serious illness. However, anyone can catch COVID-19 and become seriously ill. People of all ages who experience fever and/or cough associated with difficulty breathing/shortness of breath, chest pain/pressure, or loss of speech or movement should seek medical attention immediately. If possible, it is recommended to call the healthcare provider or facility first, so the patient can be directed to the right clinic. People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease spreads primarily from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are expelled when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, or speaks. These droplets are relatively heavy, do not travel far and quickly sink to the ground. People can catch COVID-19 if they breathe in these droplets from a person infected with the virus. This is why it is important to stay at least 1 meter away from others. These droplets can land on objects and surfaces around the person such as tables, doorknobs and handrails. People can become infected by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. This is why it is important to wash your hands regularly with soap and water or clean with alcohol-based hand rub.

WHO is assessing ongoing research on the ways that COVID-19 is spread and will continue to share updated findings. Practicing hand and respiratory hygiene is important at ALL times and is the best way to protect others and yourself. When possible maintain at least a 1 meter distance between yourself and others. This is especially important if you are standing by someone who is coughing or sneezing. Since some infected persons may not yet be exhibiting symptoms or their symptoms may be mild, maintaining a physical distance with everyone is a good idea if you are in an area where COVID-19 is circulating.

If you have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, you may be infected. Close contact means that you live with or have been in settings of less than 1 metre from those who have the disease. In these cases, it is best to stay at home. […]. Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO website and through your national and local public health authority. Most countries around the world have seen cases of COVID-19 and many are experiencing outbreaks. Authorities in China and some other countries have succeeded in slowing their outbreaks. However, the situation is unpredictable so check regularly for the latest news.

While some western, traditional or home remedies may provide comfort and alleviate symptoms of mild COVID-19, there are no medicines that have been shown to prevent or cure the disease. WHO does not recommend self-medication with any medicines, including antibiotics, as a prevention or cure for COVID-19. However, there are several ongoing clinical trials of both western and traditional medicines. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19 and will continue to provide updated information as soon research results become available.

COVID-19 is spread through human-to-human transmission. We already know a lot about other viruses in the coronavirus family and most of these types of viruses have an origin in animals. The COVID-19 virus (also called SARS-CoV-2) is a new virus in humans. The possible animal source of COVID-19 has not yet been confirmed but research is ongoing. WHO continues to monitor the latest research on this and other COVID-19 topics and will update, as new findings are available.”

Appendix B

Arabic Version of the Site

أسئلة متكررة بشأن فيروسات كورونا المستجدة,” 2020”

ما هو فيروس كورونا؟”

فيروسات كورونا فصيلة واسعة الانتشار معروفة بأنها تسبب أمراضاً تتراوح من نزلات البرد الشائعة إلى الاعتلالات الأشد وطأة مثل متلازمة الشرق الأوسط التنفسية (MERS) ومتلازمة الالتهاب الرئوي الحاد الوخيم (السارس).

هل يمكن أن يُصاب البشر بالعدوى بفيروس كورونا مستجد من مصدر حيواني؟

خلصت التحريات المفصّلة إلى أن فيروس كورونا المسبب لمتلازمة الالتهاب الرئوي الحاد الوخيم (السارس) قد انتقلت من قطط الزباد إلى البشر في الصين عام 2002، فيما انتقل فيروس كورونا المسبب لمتلازمة الشرق الأوسط التنفسية (Mers) من الإبل إلى البشر في المملكة العربية السعودية في عام 2012. وهناك العديد من سلالات فيروس كورونا الأخرى المعروفة التي تسري بين الحيوانات دون أن تنتقل العدوى منها إلى البشر حتى الآن. ومن المرجح أن يتم الكشف عن سلالات جديدة من الفيروس مع تحسّن وسائل الترصّد حول العالم.

ما هي أعراض الإصابة بفيروس كورونا؟

تتوقف الأعراض على نوع الفيروس، لكن أكثرها شيوعاً ما يلي: الأعراض التنفسية، والحمّى، والسعال، وضيق النفس وصعوبة التنفس. وفي الحالات الأشد وطأة، قد تسبب العدوى الالتهاب الرئوي والمتلازمة التنفسية الحادة الوخيمة والفشل الكلوي وحتى الوفاة.

هل يوجد لقاح ضد فيروس كورونا المستجد؟

عندما يظهر مرض جديد فلا يتوفر له أي لقاح ما لم يتم تصنيعه أولاً. وقد يستغرق الأمر عدة سنوات قبل التوصل إلى تصنيع لقاح ضد الفيروس.

هل يمكن أن تنتقل فيروسات كورونا من شخص إلى آخر؟

نعم، يمكن أن تنتقل بعض سلالات الفيروس من شخص إلى آخر، بالاتصال عن قُرب مع الشخص المصاب عادةً، كما يحدث في سياق الأسرة أو العمل أو في مراكز الرعاية الصحية مثلاً.

هل يوجد علاج ضد فيروس كورونا المستجد؟

لا يوجد علاج محدد للمرض الذي يسببه فيروس كورونا المستجد. غير أن العديد من أعراضه يمكن معالجتها، وبالتالي يعتمد العلاج على الحالة السريرية للمريض. وقد تكون الرعاية الداعمة للأشخاص المصابين بالعدوى ناجعة للغاية.

هل العاملون الصحيون عرضة للإصابة بفيروس كورونا الجديد؟

نعم، يمكن أن يُصاب العاملون الصحيون بهذا الفيروس نظراً لاقترابهم من المرضى أكثر من عامة الناس، لذلك توصي المنظمة هؤلاء العاملين باستخدام وسائل الوقاية المناسبة من العدوى وتدابير المكافحة اللازمة.

ما هي توصيات المنظمة للبلدان؟

تشجع المنظمة جميع البلدان على تعزيز ترصّد حالات العدوى التنفسية الحادة الوخيمة (SARI) وتوخي الدقة في استعراض أي أنماط غير اعتيادية لهذه الحالات أو حالات الالتهاب الرئوي، وإبلاغ المنظمة بأي حالات إصابة بفيروس كورونا المستجد، سواء كانت هذه الحالات مؤكدة أم مشتبهاً بها.

كما تُشجّع البلدان على مواصلة تعزيز تأهبها للطوارئ الصحية وفقاً للوائح الصحية الدولية (2005).

أين يمكن الحصول على مزيد من المعلومات عن السلالات المعروفة لفيروس كورونا؟

للمزيد من المعلومات عن فيروس كورونا المسبب لمتلازمة الشرق الأوسط التنفسية اضغط هنا

للمزيد من المعلومات عن فيروس كورونا المسبب لمتلازمة الالتهاب الرئوي الحاد الوخيم (السارس) اضغط هنا

ما هو فيروس كورونا المستجد؟

يتمثل فيروس كورونا الجديد في سلالة جديدة من فيروس كورونا لم تُكشف إصابة البشر بها سابقاً.”

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