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Cultural Pitfalls in Islamic Subtitling


Abstract: This research explores the challenges of translating cultural references in Islamic TV programs from Arabic into English. Subtitling is a constrained type of translation due to the space and time limitations on the screen. Apart from this challenge, the subtitler has to deal with cultural pitfalls that cannot be separated from a stormy global background that includes political and ideological tensions between the Muslim World and the West. This study investigates these difficulties, attempts to suggest solutions to them and identify the basic qualifications of competent subtitlers of this kind of programs. The ultimate purpose is to help establish healthy communication between Muslim and Western countries through translation which is an act of cultural mediation. To achieve this, three real-life examples and their subtitles have been selected from Iqraa TV programs and analyzed using Christiane Nord’s functional model. Results show three types of cultural pitfalls typical of Islamic TV programs, i. e., Qur’anic allusions, Sunnah allusions and politicized issues. Instrumental translation has been found to be effective in overcoming these cultural pitfalls, while documentary translation proved to be ineffective due to the space limitations and its lack of clarity. Creativity, flexibility, and cultural sensitivity are indispensable for the subtitler to bridge the communication gaps between the source and target cultures.
Keywords: Translation / Pitfalls / subtitler / Islamic TV programs / due to the space

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