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Dr. Rawan Ghaly talks passion for translation and highlight of her career

As a renowned doctor in translation studies, Rawan Ghaly doesn’t see her job as someone that simply translates a word from one language to another. Translation, for Ghaly, is about bringing people together, allowing different cultures and dialects to understand one another.

“I feel that I try hard to overcome the Babel Tower myth. It is said that people in Babel wanted to build a high tower to reach the gods, yet the latter scattered their tower and as a punishment, they let every person speak a different language and not be able to communicate once again. I believe that as a translator first and then a doctor in translation studies, that my duty is to give my readers in the target language the chance to travel into the culture and life of the people of the source text. It is a free plane ticket to witness the unknown boundaries of another culture, yet another mentality,” she said.

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Ghaly has travelled the world studying languages. She lived for two months in Gemona del Friuli, a city in northern Italy, as the Italian embassy in Lebanon and the Italian Cultural Institute sent her on a scholarship to continue studying the Italian language. She then lived in Toledo, Spain for two months when she went on a scholarship granted by Saint Joseph University in Lebanon and The Spanish Embassy in Lebanon. She also lived in Nevşehir in Turkey after she received a scholarship from the Turkish government to study Turkish.

Ghaly is an incredibly gifted individual, a sought-after translator and doctor at only 28 years-of age. When writing her dissertation, she explained the original source of translation errors through cognitive psychology and neurophysiology. She had read many psychology and neurophysiology books and articles and forced herself to profoundly study the human brain. In the study, she found that the negative influence of both factors, the attention and the visual perception can cause severe damages to the messages of the source text arriving to the brain, hence, pushing the translator to commit certain types of errors. The theoretical part of her dissertation was followed by a practical study. In doing so, she has not only discovered the negative influence of those factors but also that when translators get used to the environment where they are working, they have the ability to reshape their attention, thus redirecting it to the complex sentences and words.

“The highlight of my career would certainly be obtaining my Ph.D. at a young age. I was the first 27-year-old researcher to have her Ph.D. at my faculty. The topic of my dissertation was one of its kind at our university and in Lebanon in general,” she said.

The Lebanese native currently speaks 6 languages: Arabic, French, English, Italian, Spanish and Turkish. To be a true translator, it is essential to be completely fluent in both the original language and the language you are translating to. In everyday writing and speaking, untranslatable words or idioms exist as every language has its own identity and culture, which is the key challenge that every translator faces while working: the fact of finding adequate equivalence, adapting or even trying to overcome the term by creating a new one. When faced with this challenge, Ghaly never gives up, and her vast knowledge in so many languages allows her to overcome such an obstacle.

“I believe that every single thing exists for a reason and that every term has got to have an equivalence or a proper translation. In fact, using the right tools and searching well will let you succeed,” she said.

On top of being a translator, Ghaly is a well-known pianist in Lebanon and a professor at Saint Joseph University where she teaches Italian. She enjoys teaching, as she is shaping the minds of future generations to follow in her prestigious footsteps.

“I always tell my students and future translators that even if they dream big, with hard work and persistence, they will be able to achieve their farthest dreams. I always tell them to believe in themselves. Translation and languages require the person to be patient as some hard texts require many hours to translate a single paragraph, but with hard work and a strong will, success will eventually come,” she advised.

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