Petra’s Poor English

It has been annoying me for some time now: the incredibly poor English skills of whoever is assigned to translate articles for Jordan’s national news agency: Petra. At first one might be misled to believe it’s a case of typos and a cocktail mix of commonly misspelled words or even the casual neglect of a proofreader. However a second, third and fourth look indicates an array of poor English grammar stemming mostly from literal translation. It is in my opinion an embarrassment given the fact that it not only represents the Jordanian governmentâ??s official message but is also a primary news source for the international community, quoted in articles all over the world.

Arabic and English are two languages that do not always get along when it comes to translation and when translating from Arabic to English one cannot depend on direct and/or literal translation. There is a sense of poetry behind both languages that needs to be incorporated during the translation process and the key to translating is to allow the reader of either language to fully comprehend what is being said and not merely the essence of what is being said.

“Amman Message in the Eyes of Others Conference Concludes”, is a recent headline. Another one was “Prime Minister Calls for Holding Responsibilities to Face Challenges”. What does that even mean? The first paragraph of the latter article reads as follows:

Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit called for holding responsibilities and awareness to deal with the challenges that the region is going through, stressing the ability of the Jordanian leadership and look to the future and its responsiveness.

Two weeks ago a group of brave locals that apprehended a man who shot at tourists in Amman. HM King Abdullah awarded them, and I quote Petra, the “military audacity medal”. Audacity meaning courage but in the same way the word bravado means courage. They couldn’t have used “Valor” or simply “Honor”?

Even worse than the translated articles are the photos in the photo gallary. Almost all of them have some form of poor English in their descriptions on a daily basis. A random one from today’s assortment includes: “free Meical campaign in Marj Al Hamam”.

Add to this the fact that the entire Petra website is highly dysfunctional. It includes broken links and surprisingly more articles in Arabic than in English. Usually the amount of articles in Arabic is double that of what is available in English, if not more.

Although my primary concern is with the language and the fact that it is a poor reflection on the country.


  • Q, lol what you said is truly a post hoc ergo proctor hoc…just because someone in charge of translating is not doing a great job doesn’t automatically point to wasta, that’s jumping to conclusions. we can more accuratly say the wrong person was hired for the job or is simply neglecting his or her duties.

  • Q, i didn’t say there is no wasta in Jordan and that everything is going great so stop acting like that fool.

    i said the fact that there is poor english translation on the petra news site isn’t necessarily linked or even indicative of wasta.

  • It’s indicative of an extreme case of poor candidate selection…I am very positive that there are a lot more qualified people to write, translate and maintain the site …why they haven’t been found, I have NO idea… what I do know though is that I wouldn’t consider Petra as a trustworthy source!

  • My first thought on reading your headline was, “They speak very good English in Petra (ruins in south Jordan).” Maybe the solution is to hire someone FROM Petra (ruins) to work at Petra (news agency). Or they could make the pay dependent on the quality of the translation (much like a souvenier shop owner’s profit).

  • I saw this one today that I thought you’d like.

    Cabinet approves granting FM licence to BBC

    AMMAN (Petra) â?? During its weekly meeting on Tuesday, the Cabinet approved a recommendation by the Socio-Economic Development Committee to grant the BBC a licence to broadcast its programmes on the FM frequency in the Greater Amman area and Ajloun. Following the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Ziad Fariz told reporters that the government would pay the second half of the compensation package to eligible citizens during the Holy Month of Ramadan. The government decided in April this year to disburse financial assistance to low- and medium- income citizens to make up for the increase in prices of fuel derivatives.

    Looks like a case of not using copy-paste correctly…

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