Problems of Equivalence in Translating Cognate Accusative Encountered by Saudi EFL Learners

Intisar Hassan Abdul Magid Mohammad


Arabic is the most widely spoken Semitic language and has seen phases of change from the Quranic form to the more popular Modern Standard Arabic that is used for communication today. It shares some of its features with other languages in the family, and the use of the Cognate Accusative is one such characteristic. For this reason, Arabic is known as a Cognate Language like other languages of this family. However, English is of the Indo-European family and naturally has a different set of rules and preferences. Training learners in language forms that differ in style and value discourse elements differently can be a daunting task as what sounds natural in one can be frowned at in the other. With students inclined to literally translate between such languages as in the case of KSA, the change of form can be quite difficult to understand. Where no equivalence exists between two languages, the translator’s need to establish it for obvious reasons is one of the most problematic and challenging endeavours in translation theory. Teachers of language and translation in KSA are concerned with learning problems that arise due to lexical and grammatical non-equivalence between Arabic and English which often leads to confusion and incorrect output during translation process. The current study aimed at investigating one of the Arabic grammatical structures which has no equivalent in English (Cognate Accusative). The Cognate Accusative or using the same verb root twice in a construction is valued in Arabic discourse as it serves usually one or more of three purposes: Adding emphasis, explaining the type, and explaining the number. However, this is absent in English as the construction is seen as unnatural and hence, incorrect. Following analytical methods, the study targeted two objectives: One, testing the learners’ ability to translate the Cognate Accusative; and two, to gather an understanding of the strategies they adopted in the process. The study is likely to be of great value in a foreign language learning environment as is the case in the KSA. We used written tests to collect the data, followed by detailed interviews to elicit information on the translation strategies used. Participants were female undergraduate students (N=35) at Hurimilla College of Science and Humanities, Shaqra University, KSA, of which fifteen were randomly interviewed consequently. The data collected was analysed using SPSSR. The findings showed that this structure is indeed confusing for students with 37% of them using literal translation, and 12.29% producing incorrect versions or sometimes avoiding translating them. Personal interviews revealed that the reason of these results can be directly attributed to the absence of these categories in English, and non-equivalence between Arabic and English.


Equivalence, Translation, Saudi EFL Learners

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