Beyond Translating French into English: Experiences of a Non-Native Translator


  • Harriett Namukwaya University of Alberta



Uganda, Translation, non-native translator, challenges of translation, linguistic competence, intercultural competence and knowledge transfer


This paper documents a non-native translator’s experience in an academic setting, focusing on the challenges of translating different kinds of texts from French into English at the Institute of Languages, Makerere University. Makerere Institute of Languages (MIL) is composed of four clusters: Foreign Languages, African Languages, Communication Skills and Secretarial Studies, Service Courses and Soft Skills (Wagaba 97). The services offered include teaching language skills and culture to university students and the general public; communication skills to people who want to improve in English, French, German, Arabic, Swahili and local languages; and translation and interpretation in the languages mentioned above. These services are offered at this institute because there is no other well-recognised institution in Uganda that engages in translation or interpretation, yet there is always a big demand for them. The emphasis in this study is on teachers of French who also render translation services to a wide range of clients at the Institute of Languages. The main focus is on the experiences and opinions of non-native translators. The aim is to highlight the challenges a non-native translator encounters in the process of translating different categories of documents from French into English for purposes of validation of francophone students’ academic documents and their placement in Uganda universities, verification of academic qualification of teachers from francophone countries who come to Uganda in search of teaching jobs, and mutual understanding at international conferences held in Uganda whose delegates come from francophone countries. Selected texts will be critically examined to illustrate the specific challenges a non-native speaker encounters while translating from and into a language or languages which are not his/her first language or mother tongue. The paper deals with the following questions: What does the process of translating involve? What are the challenges encountered? Does every fluent French language teacher qualify to be a competent translator? What factors determine ‘competence’ in translation? What are the limitations faced in an academic setting? The discussion is based on the premise that competence in translation requires linguistic and intercultural competence, among other competencies. The outcome contributes to the understanding that translation in any setting is ultimately a human activity, which enables human beings to exchange information and enhance knowledge transfer regardless of cultural and linguistic differences.


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Author Biography

Harriett Namukwaya, University of Alberta

I am Harriet K. Namukwaya, teacher of French in the department of European and Oriental Languages at the School of Languages, Literature and Communication, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. My areas of specialization are linguistics, communication skills in French and Translation (French/English and vice versa). Besides teaching English and French to all levels of language learners, my core skills include the teaching of communication skills, supervision of research projects, conducting research and undertaking editorial work. I am currently the general secretary for l’Association des Professeurs de Français en Ouganda-APFO (French teachers’ Association of Teachers of French in Uganda) and pursuing a Master of Arts in French Applied Linguistics in the department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta. My research interests are in the area of foreign language teaching in a multicultural context and intercultural communicative competence.