ANS Member Research: “To Translate or not to Translate: The Case of Arabic and Foreign Shop Names” by Reima Al-Jarf

Recently presented at the 2024 Annual Meeting of the American Name Society, Reima Al-Jarf’s work explores Arabic and foreign shop names in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. You can watch the presentation here:

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The translatability of shop names constitutes a problem for translation students. To find out the status of shop name translation in Saudi Arabia, a corpus of 500 shop names (clothing, accessories, beauty products, restaurants, cafes… etc.) was collected and analyzed to find out which shop names are translated, which are not, and which should be translated. Results showed that 24% of the shops have pure Arabic names, 25% have international brand names such as Starbucks, Burger King, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Monsoon, Zara, Sony which are not translated, i.e., used as they are. 39% have English names created by the shop owners such as أو ﺑ ﺮﯾ ﺸﻦ ﻓ ﻼﻓ ﻞ , ﺑﺮ اﻧﺪ ﺳﻨﺘﺮ , ﺑﯿﺒ ﻲ ﺷ ﻮ ب which were not translated. Some foreign shop names were transliterated using Arabic letters although such names have Arabic equivalents as in دﻛ ﺘ ﻮرﻧﯿ ﻮﺗ ﺮﯾ ﺸﻦ , ﻧﺎﺗ ﺸ ﺮ ا ل ﺗﺎﺗ ﺶ , ﻧﺴﻜﺎﻓﯿﮫ دوﻟ ﺲ ﻗ ﻮﺳﺘ ﻮ , أد ﻓﻨﺘ ﻮرا , ﺟﺎ رﻟﯿ ﺸﻮز ﻻو ﻧ ﺞ , أﻣ ﯿ ﺮﯾ ﻜﺎ ن إﯾ ﺠﻞ أ وﺗﻔﺘ ﺮز , ﻛﯿ ﺴﺮ ي ﻛﺎﻓﯿ ﮫ , إﺳ ﺒ ﺮﯾ ﺖ , أﻛﺴﺴﻮرﯾ ﺰ , ﺑﺎﯾ ﻠﯿ ﺲ , ﺑﺎر ﺑ ﻜﯿ ﻮﺗ ﻮﻧﺎﯾ ﺖ . Names in this category should be translated as they were difficult for the subjects to decode. However, subjects could decode ﻣﺎ ﻛﺪوﻧﺎﻟ ﺪ ر، ﺑﯿ ﺮﻏﺮ ﻛﯿﻨ ﺞ، ھﺎ ردﯾ ﺰ، ﻛﻮﺳﺘﺎ، ﺳﺎ رﺑ ﻜ ﺲ . . Shop workers believe that use of foreign names without translation is more prestigious, attracts shoppers’ attention more than Arabic names, and more customers can be reached. They also gave globalization factors that affect the preference for foreign words to Arabic equivalents and poor knowledge of Arabic equivalents, especially for new coinages. Guidelines for translating foreign and native shop names will be given based on the views of a sample of translation students and instructors.


Prof. Reima Al-Jarf is professor of English and translation studies. She has 700 publications and conference presentations in 70 countries. She reviews Ph.D. theses, promotion works, conference and grant proposals, and articles for numerous peer-reviewed international journals including Web of Science and Scopus journals. She presented at ANS and CNS twice.


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