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Alice Guthrie studied ‘Arabic and Translation’ at the University of Exeter which led her into a career in freelance literary translation. I spoke to Alice in order to find out about her study of Arabic and her freelancing.
Firstly, do you have any language tips for students of the Arabic language?
Don’t be afraid of ‘immersing yourself’ in the culture, dialects and people that you meet when in an Arab country. In addition, work hard on perfecting your pronunciation particularly the difficult sounds that don’t exist in English as this allows you to communicate the Arabic language far better especially with natives.
What advice would you give to an Arabist thinking of pursuing a career into literary translation?
Ask yourself ‘Do you have an aptitude for translation?’, ‘Do you enjoy writing?’ and ‘Are you patient?” as work can be hard to find. However, ‘literary translation can sometimes feel like you’re getting paid as a student’ because you continue to develop your language skills after graduating. Nevertheless, try taking part in Mentor scheme’s as well as finding translation work on ‘Literature across frontiers’ as this can help you to gain an insight into work that’s available. For example, I recently met a translator called Emily Danby who was mentored by Marilyn Booth, leading to Danby’s translation of the novel ‘Cinnamon’ by Samar Yazbek from Arabic to English. Mentoring schemes are not just excellent in terms of gaining training but it can also lead directly to work in translation.
Finally, what is your favorite phrase in Arabic?
It means movement is a blessing and reminds me of the importance of being active in life.
If you would like to find out more about Alice Guthrie’s work then you may wish to read ‘Emerging Arab voices’.
Written by Assma Youssef
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham