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Talking translation with Doctor Rawan Ghaly

Growing up in Beirut, Lebanon, Rawan Ghaly always loved languages. As a child, she was raised speaking Arabic, but with the school system in Lebanon being French, she had to learn a second language at only five-years-old. She was always first in her class, excelling at speaking multiple languages, even learning English for herself in the fourth grade, making herself trilingual by the mere age of 10. When she was only thirteen, she created a hobby of listening to Arabic songs and rendering their lyrics into English and French. She loved the act of translating the words, making the songs sound beautiful in all three languages. It was at that young age where her passion for translation was born.


Now, Ghaly is a celebrated translator and doctor of translation studies in Lebanon and abroad. She speaks regularly at conferences about her research, generating a lot of discussion about her vast professional and academic work. She has travelled the world doing what she loves, immersing herself in different cultures and languages.

“Being a doctor in translation studies is not as easy as some people think. People are always surprised to know that translators can be doctors for they believe that translation is only related to subtitling and dubbing. However, translation is much more than that. It is a bridge that overcomes all boundaries and reunites different cultures. I love many things about being a doctor in translation studies,” she said.

Despite having that passion for languages as a child, Ghaly did not always know she would pursue translation as a career. She discovered her calling, however, in 2006 after the general assembly of the United Nations. She was 15 years old at the time, watching the event in Dubai with her family, when the Italian representative was making his speech to the general assembly of the UN. The Lebanese television was broadcasting the speech, yet an interpreter was translating live. Being French educated, she grasped some Italian words and understood them and translated them before the interpreter. She knew in that moment that she wanted to be a translator. When she returned to Lebanon, she enrolled in the Italian language program at the Italian Cultural Institute in Lebanon and never looked back.


“The average day for a translator is to translate at least 1,500 to 2,000 words. However, sometimes it is not the case since some clients might need their translation urgently. This fact might push me sometimes to double my efforts to finish the work as soon as possible. However, being a doctor in translation studies pushes people to believe in your work more. In fact, from the first minute I shared on social media that I earned my Ph.D., I have received double the number of documents to be translated,” said Ghaly.

Ghaly currently speaks six languages. Her mother tongue is Arabic, and she also is fluent in French, English, Italian, Spanish and Turkish. she is grateful to have grown up in the French-based system of Lebanon, as it allowed her to pick up new languages by the time she was 10 years old. As a teen, she fell in love with Italy, and began learning Italian, which naturally also led her to pursue Spanish. She then felt like learning Turkish for no other reason than simply loving the language.

“Mainly, I tend to study and work with languages that are not often spoken in my country such as Italian and Turkish. I never work, for example, with Spanish translations as the language is spoken by many people in Lebanon, yet Italian and Turkish are spoken by few people and translations in those languages are in greater demand” said Ghaly.

Ghaly is looking forward to continuing her prestigious career in translation studies. She plans on participating in many conferences and attending international conventions in the United States and Europe.

By Annabelle Lee
Aug. 15th, 2019

Talking translation with Doctor Rawan Ghaly Reviewed by JaamZIN on 6:27:00 AM Rating: 5
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