Linguistic Equivalence is Not Sufficient: Saudi Translation Students’ Linguistic Knowledge Compared to their Sociocultural Knowledge of the English Language

Faisal M. Alqahtani


English as a foreign language (EFL) and translation studies have argued that linguistic equivalence is not sufficient to transfer intended cultural meanings of the target language (TL) text. Unlike previous studies, this study investigates and compares the knowledge level of the linguistic and sociocultural competencies of selected Saudi translation students (STSs) at King Saud University. A multiple-choice test questionnaire was developed and used to examine the respondents’ knowledge level of two areas of linguistic competence: grammatical functions and grammatical forms of key elements of English language tense and aspect, and two areas of sociocultural competence: knowledge of native speakers’ culture and the cultural dimension of the TL. The results were compared to determine any statistically significant differences. These results suggest that the respondents’ linguistic competence is more developed than their sociocultural competence, and their knowledge of the forms is more developed than that of the functions of key elements of English language tense and aspect.


Linguistic Competence, Sociocultural Competence, Sociolinguistic Competence, Cultural Competence, Cultural Translation

Full Text:



Abu-Joudeh, M., Assasfeh, S., Al-Shabou, Y., & Alshboul, S. (2013). Translating Arabic perfect verbs into English by Jordanian undergraduates. Journal of Language and Literature, 4(2), 44–53.

Al-Qahtani, F. (2003). Introducing the target culture to develop the sociolinguistic competence of EFL students: Views and attitudes of Saudi EFL teachers at selected male middle schools in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Unpublished doctoral thesis, The University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.

Azar, B. (2003). Fundamentals of English grammar. New Jersey: Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Regents/Prentice Hall.

Bassnett, S., & Lefevere, A. (1990). Translation, history, and culture. London: Pinter Publishers.

Bassnett, S. (2002). Translation studies (Third ed.). LONDON: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Bennett, M. J. (1997). How not to be a fluent fool: Understanding the cultural dimension of language. In A. E. Fantini (Ed.), New ways in teaching culture (pp. 16–21). Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Inc.

Bielak, J., & Pawlak, M. (2011). Teaching English tense and aspect with the help of cognitive grammar: An empirical study. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 1(3), 365–400.

Byram, M., & Risager, K. (1999). Language teachers, politics, and cultures. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Canale, M., & Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied Linguistics, 1, 1–47.

Celce-Murcia, M., Dornyei, Z., & Thurrell, S. (1995). Communicative competence: A pedagogically motivated model with content specifications. Issues in Applied Linguistics, 6, 5–35.

Eyckmans, J. (2017). Cultural competence in translation studies and its assessment. In J. Deconinck, P. Humblé, A. Sepp, & H. Stengers, Towards transcultural awareness in translation pedagogy (pp. 209–229). Berlin/Zürich: LIT Verlag.

First, E. (2019). Verbs. Retrieved from The Education First (EF) website:

Guo, H. (2012). A brief analysis of culture and translation. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 2(2), 343–347.

Hymes, D. H. (1972). On communicative competence. In J. Pride, & J. Holmes, Sociolinguistics: selected readings (pp. 269–293). Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Imai, T. (2008). A reconsideration of how to teach tense and aspect from the viewpoint of cognitive grammar. Bulletin of Seki Gakuen (瀬木学園紀要). Retrieved from

Jukko, R. (2016). Culture, translation, and intertextuality: An exploratory rereading of cultural-religious southern elements in William Faulkner’s Light in August and its translations in Finnish. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

Klopfenstein, P. A. (2017). Tense and aspect constructions among Arabic L1 learners of English. (Master’s thesis) Culminating Projects in English. 95. Retrieved from

Konishi, Y. (2016). Building communicative competence: An evaluation of the effectiveness of an intensive Japanese-language program. Doctoral Dissertations. 327. Retrieved from

Kramsch, C. (2000). Language and culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kramsch, C. (2014). The challenge of globalization for the teaching of foreign languages and cultures. Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 11(2), 249–254. Retrieved from

Marinetti, C. (2011). Cultural approaches. In Y. Gambier, & L. V. Doorslaer, Handbook of translation studies (Vol. 2, pp. 26–30). John Benjamins Publishing.

Marsh, D. (n.d.). Towards teaching a “Grammar of Culture.” In S. Anivan, Language teaching methodology for the nineties (pp. 178 –191). Singapore: SEAMEO Regional Language Centre.

Mattar, H. E. (2001). Is avoidance a reflection of mother tongue interference? The case for the English present perfect tense. International Journal of Arabic-English Studies, 2(1&2), 141–155.

Moran, P. (2001). Language-and-culture. In Teaching culture: Perspectives in practices (pp. 34–47). Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.

Nida, E. (1964). Principles of Correspondence. In L. Venuti, The Translation Studies Reader (pp. 126–140). London: Routledge.

Nida, E. (1994.). Sociolinguistics as a crucial factor in translating and interpreting (Manuscript).

Olk, H. M. (2009). Translation, cultural knowledge, and intercultural competence. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 1404–1634. Retrieved from

Pesola, C. A. (1991). Culture in the elementary school foreign language classroom. Foreign Language Annals, 24 (4), 331–346.

Spinelli, E., & Siskin, H. J. (1992). Selecting, presenting, and practicing vocabulary in a culturally-authentic context. Foreign Language Annals, 25, 305–315.

Sun, H. (2011). On cultural differences and translation methods. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 2 (1), 160–163.

Thomas, J. (1983). Cross-cultural pragmatic failure. Applied Linguistics, 20–39.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2022 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.