RIYADH — Saudi Arabia has announced plans to set up an autonomous international translation center with a mandate to translate references, textbooks, international literature and scientific materials to be used by individuals as well as local and international institutions.

The proposed center will also help bridge the gap between Arab and Western cultures, boost the process of Arabization and also address the problems of shortage of translators and interpreters.

This was disclosed by Dr. Faisal M. Al-Mohanna, dean of College of Languages and Translation (COLT), here on Thursday. Dr. Al-Mohanna said that “there was a pressing need for translation of references, textbooks and international knowledge materials besides the demand for oral translation from the public and private sectors.” “And, hence, the proposed translation center will go a long way in solving this problem,” he added.

In fact, a UN study has found that for every one million Arabs in the world, only one foreign language book is translated into Arabic each year. It further said that “an estimated 250 million Arabic speakers in the world enjoy a growing number of news and entertainment media today, but this wealth of new information includes very little non-Arab literature.” In fact, the number of books translated into Arabic in the last 1,000 years is equal to what is translated into Spanish in a single year.

Against this background, Dr. Al-Mohanna said the proposed translation center could play a very useful role in translating materials from/to other major international languages. In fact, the need for translation and interpretation had also gained importance in the context of the growing number of expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia and also in the context of international conferences that take place in the Kingdom.

Also, the center will help engage in dialogue with non-Muslims in different countries to clarify any misconceptions about Islam. Asked about the expansion plan of COLT, the dean said that the college will be shifted to its new building, the first educational facility of its kind in the region with e-classrooms equipped with all multimedia tools including audio-visual teaching aids, Internet and Intranet facilities.

The smart classrooms are part of an ambitious project, conceived by COLT a few years back. The college, currently, has a cumulative enrolment of over 4,000 students including female students, pursuing courses in 10 languages.

Of these 30 percent are studying English language alone, he said. The other languages include French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Turkish, Persian, Japanese and Hebrew.

According to Dr. Al-Mohanna, COLT has never been reluctant to introduce new languages, if there is a need or demand. To a question about new languages, he said that “the plans are afoot to start teaching of Urdu language and translation in cooperation with Pakistan Embassy.”

“Moreover, we seek international recognition for our courses, methods of teaching, curriculum designing or for many other areas, where we are now applying international benchmarks,” said the COLT’s chief.

He pointed out that COLT had also planned to start M.A. programs in English and French language and translation from next academic session.

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