From delizioso to yummy shou taybeh!

You guessed it right! I’m not going to be exposing the obvious pizza-ish “Mankoushe”. But I am going to talk about a dish that we are all familiar with and most of us love: the Chicken Alfredo Pizza!

Keep in mind that Lebanese are the biggest target-oriented food translators. I’m going to rely on your memory to remember why. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you most probably didn’t read my previous article and to be honest, I don’t know what you’re still waiting for!

Wrong name, found fame

First, let’s take the name as an appetizer.

Chicken and pizza, the forbidden love

Alfredo: Sorry to be the one that breaks it to you, but this famous Italian sauce (also found in Fettucine Alfredo) doesn’t even exist in Italy! Mind blowing, no? I mean you can still find a handsome Alfredo just not a tasty one…

Chicken: I don’t know about you, but I can have chicken with any plate ever! Thank God I’m not Italian because, they would never consider adding chicken to a pizza topping for it is not considered as a flavor adding ingredient but a main one!

Cheesus crust!

As for the main course, the ingredients: 

Let’s start with the base, which in this case is the dough. Lebanese, especially moms, love adding milk to anything and everything. Because If they can’t make us drink it, they’re going to milk it! – pun intended. Therefore, unlike Italians we add milk to our fluffy dough.

And how can you ruin the pizza experience for an Italian more? Use the very non-Italian shredded mozzarella. I can still remember the face of my Italian friend when she saw the bag of shredded mozzarella cheese in the supermarket, and I quote her “My nonna must be rolling in her grave right now!”. 

The 7 deadly spices got him killed

After all, we got some ingredients right, such as the “te’leye” (i.e. fried garlic and onions), fresh mushrooms, spinach and heavy cream. But our loyalty to the original dish gets lost once again in our spices; from all shades of white pepper to the black ones and of course our famous sabaa bharat (i.e 7 spices).

And finally, the cherry on top, our abusive use of ketchup! Take it from me and don’t EVER add ketchup to your pizza in front of an Italian! The shame!

Now that you know what Lebanese translators have been cooking for us… which pizza do you prefer? The Italian pizza or the sliiightly less Italian one? 

Eat your words – LITERALLY!

Food is a language, therefore, it’s translatable!

Let your mouths eat, leave the talking to the eyes

Don’t we all feel a certain way when eating specific dishes?
For example, gratin is my awe dish, for it reminds me of the time I was punished for not eating it when young.

Kousa mahshi » is my happy dish, because it’s what my late grandmother always cooked for me.

Pomodoro pasta is my love dish for it is the dish that I always share with my loved one.

Each dish makes me feel something; therefore, eating it is a language. My favorite language, may I say!

Words in a pot, the translation broth

Tomayto, tomahto.

Translation, on the other hand, is what guarantees that any message in any language reaches all people around the globe.

And if cooking is a translation, then Lebanese are the biggest target-oriented translators, for they adapt and mold the foreign dish, until it suits their taste buds. 

However, this form of translation happens everywhere. For instance, « to please American audiences, cream and butter, two staples of traditional Indian cooking, have been cut from recipes to make food less heavy and more « light » and « low fat. ».

Confined, but always refined

Now that we’re all in confinement, and with most imported products going extinct in our supermarkets due to the economic crisis, I’m sure that all of you, little chefs-wanna-be, know what I’m talking about; unless you didn’t go the extra mile and stuck to baking cinnamon rolls.

From Turkish Shawarma with “extra toum (i.e. garlic)”, to Italian pasta “Kattir (i.e. lots of) shredded mozzarella”, and cookies with Tahini instead of softened butter; we’re doing it all wrong!

Can you guess what dish is the biggest victim of the Lebanese target-oriented translation and also the topic of my next article?

Hint: It is round, triangular, and square-shaped, all at the same time!

What to Expect When Majoring in Translation

Translation isn’t a walk in the park, as one might think. I would have loved to be told, by anyone before me, what to expect when I signed up for this major, so this is to help anyone wanting to choose translation as their career path.

You are not a dictionary

What does this word mean in X language?” is the hilarious question everyone will undoubtedly ask you when they find out you’re a translator. Anticipate this joke, you’ll hear it a lot.

Keep in mind that not knowing the equivalent of every word in every language does not lessen your ability as a translator.

Friend or foe?

Google Translate and co. are not your friends

I understand your propensity to use Google Translate when you feel like you’ve reached a dead end while translating. It’s useless, though, because the result is inaccurate. In the rare case that it is, then it is not up to par.

However, some people actually believe that it is useful, and that it will replace translators. They’ll “helpfully” suggest you turn to teaching once you get your diploma. Sarcasm aside, they have a point. Translation can open many doors for you, considering it ties in with many other domains of work.

Suitcases with wheels are the best way to avoid back pain!

Suitcases are your friends

You’ll invest in many dictionaries, so while you’re at it, invest in some suitcases as well, because come exam times, the need for them will escalate. You’ll want to take all the proper dictionaries, just in case, and they are heavy.

Take it from someone who had to carry at least three dictionaries to university every time an exam was due. Just invest in a suitcase, and if you already own one, dust it off.

Practice and translation go hand in hand

Translation is more than just relaying a message in another language. It requires knowledge, culture and mastering the languages you speak.

It’s not a problem if you’re not knowledgeable enough, or if you’re not as fluent as you’d like in a language. Practice is key. You’ll have the time to work on your skills, and you’ll have the unconditional support of your peers and instructors as well.

What you’ve just read is something I constantly faced during my studies. It’s a common experience, and it awaits you if you choose to follow in my footsteps. If not, then tell me about your experience! What are some things you’ve learned about your major that you weren’t aware of before?

Subtitles … A Bittersweet Experience

Who among us, whether a translator or not, has not said to himself: “Well, I could’ve done a better translation.”  Subtitling mistakes are so common that they have become legendary among translators and movie fans alike.

[Mind your language ]

[Mind your language ]

80 errors throughout one film!

This could be very annoying to viewers. Many of them reported that bad subtitles are very distracting sometimes. One audience member ounce counted at least 80 errors throughout a movie he watched and said: “Aside from a lot of mistranslations, the subtitles failed to show the original feel of the movie.” In such cases, you cannot but doubt the professionalism of the translator.

Lost in translation : Left side or the past of leave !

Lost in translation : Left side or the past of leave!

 Lost in too much translation

Mistranslations lead to a failure in transmitting the feel of the movie such as puns, jokes, idioms and homophones. However, detecting subtitling mistakes could be an extremely funny and entertaining task, only if you understand the original language of the movie. Men are organizing trips to the moon, we are on our way to finding a cure for cancer, but still, Arabic subtitles translate the word “nuts” literally instead of transmitting its intended meaning, which is “crazy”. This mistake has become very common to Arab viewers, specifically Lebanese ones, that they cannot help but laugh every time they stumble across this word.

Why in the world can’t we get Arabic subtitles with good quality?

Subtitling is not an easy job and it is not very well paid in relation to the difficulty and responsibility entailed, therefore you rarely find qualified translators working as subtitlers. In fact, subtitling wages reflect the attitude of employers towards subtitling as a profession and they have no problem hiring anyone to accomplish this task.

It is not like we are dismantling atoms, the solution is more simple than that!  Higher fees, good working conditions and more realistic deadlines for better subtitles.

I’m a translator… Not a walking dictionary

"Do you know the equivalent of " pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis" ? Credit:

Do you know the equivalent of pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis ?



“Oh you’re a translator! How many languages do you speak?’’ “Do you know the equivalent of <insert incredibly long and complicated word here>?’’ “Oh a translator, like an interpreter?”

Unfortunately, these are the questions that us translators have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. We also have to go through the long and agonizing process of explaining to people that our job is based on more than knowing the equivalent of a word that hasn’t been used since the 18th century.

I once stepped into an elevator with a forty-something man that lives in my building. He casually asked me what I was studying at university, and I always thought that he looked rather well educated. I informed him that I am currently studying translation. With a little smile on his lips, he confidently replied: “Translation? That’s easy you just use Google translate, you’ll have the text in 1 second!” I stepped out feeling rather hurt. I don’t think the man realized he just offended the entire translation community.

Unfortunately, these sad incidents do occur, and my frustration can be understood. This man just summed up my whole career with a machine that can do it faster with no delays or payment.

People need to understand that translation is a consuming process, and it will always demand a human touch. The criteria followed to assess whether a translator is skilled or not should not be based on the knowledge of numerous languages or big words. A successful translator is the one who knows how to mold languages and transmit the same ideas to a public that doesn’t speak a foreign language.

Translation is an activity reserved for the people who are passionate about languages and who spend countless sleepless nights doing what they love.