Epic Arabic 101 Fail: “Translating-Jihad” Arabic Translator Can’t Translate the Word “Translator”

By: Dawood (guest contributor) and Danios (Read the full piece at Loonwatch)

So-called “experts and acclaimed scholars of Islam” rely on Arabic 101 level translator for their “anti-Jihad” work.

Translating-Jihad, a new blog purporting to expose “Islamic totalitarianism and intolerance by translating it from Arabic into English”, has recently appeared online. The site has received glowing praise from such Islamophobic luminaries as Robert Spencer, Nonie Darwish, and Andrew Bostom. The site’s creator, Al-Mutarajjam (more regarding this choice of name later), boasts on one anti-Muslim website:

[M]y blog is already regularly read by experts on Islam such as Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, and Dr. Andrew Bostom, and nearly half of my translations have been featured on the highly-popular website jihadwatch.org

The controversial blog aims to become the premier translation wing of the so-called “anti-jihad” movement, and was created by someone who openly states that he works as a professional Arabic translator. As always, the anti-Islam bloggers seek to portray themselves as bona fide experts of the field. But is Al-Mutarajjam, the site’s creator, really an expert in the Arabic language?

The evidence suggests otherwise. His Arabic language abilities are consistent with the level of an Arabic 101 student. (Arabic 101 is the introductory class to the language.)  His “epic Arabic 101 fail” speaks to that: he chose his pseudonym to be “Al-Mutarajjam”.  When he chose this alias, he thought it meant “The Translator.” It doesn’t. It means: “The Translated.”

The word Al-Mutarajjam is the passive participle (ism maf3ul) and means the object translated (see Hans Wehr, p. 93)—not “translator” (which would be al-mutarjim). This is an issue of very basic Arabic grammar, something learned very early on in Arabic language study. To understand how truly basic this is, we see that it is one of the very first words learned in the near-standard text used in American universities to teach Arabic:Al-Kitaab fii Ta’allum al-‘Arabiyya.  That’s an Arabic 101 textbook.

The word “mutarjim” (translator) on p. 19 of standard Arabic 101 textbook (Al-Kitaab fii Ta’allum al-‘Arabiyya)

When this error was pointed out to the blog’s creator [by Dawood], he responded to this critique with “so what?” The “so what” is of course that it’s a huge mistake, understood best if we give an English equivalent. Just imagine if a Chinese immigrant applied to be a fifth grade English teacher in Texas and if he stated that “I was official translated at other school I work for.” Immediately the employer would know that this applicant has very poor English and would not be appropriate for the position of English teacher. If this is the case for an elementary school position, shouldn’t the standard be at least as high for the official “translation wing” for so-called “experts and acclaimed scholars of Islam”?

The difference between “the writer” and “the written” is clear, as is the difference between “the translator” and “the translated”. Calling yourself “the written” or “the translated” instead of “the writer” or “the translator” is almost something worthy of being featured on Engrish.com (a website that documents humorous English language gaffes in Asian countries). For someone attempting to portray himself as a competent Arabic translator, this is a huge mistake. It certainly calls into question the credentials of a person who has taken on such a lofty role as anti-Jihad translator extraordinaire.

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