Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mis-Translations: VIRGIN: Muslims and Christians

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                 
Middle Eastern Belly Dancer

On Fareed Zakaria's Sunday morning program of GPS (GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE)  this morning,  Fareed had a Muslim woman on who was skilled in Arabic.  She has brought out something most people haven't realized.  The translation of virgin has been incorrect.  The word,  which is a gift for good behavior for Muslims in the after-life,  is not Virgins, but Raisins Virgin= عذراء;   Raisins=زبيب  
Now, Fareed Zakaria was born in  Mumbai, India, and may be a Muslim.  Fareed Rafiq Zakaria is an Indian-born American journalist and author. He is the host of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS and writes a weekly column for The Washington Post.  He's Harvard educated.  He didn't mention what he thought of the outcome of his guest's analyzing the word, Virgin, but his father was an Islamic scholar, so I believe he must be a Muslim and was not offended.   

Being curious, I looked up the word Virgin in our Hebrew Dictionary, and it is betooliah or batool,
Young Israeli girl did blessing over Shabbat candles
and has taken off her scarf now.  
Our Hebrew word for "Young Lady" is bakhoorah, which is very similar to Virgin. גברת צעירה, and this Hebrew is saying young lady using Geveret instead of Bakhoorah.  So there are at least 2 words for lady.
Only in my dictionary , young lady it start with a B (Bet) .  This is the google translator.
Virgin in Hebrew is בתולה  betooliah or batool.  

The pronunciation of betoolia and bakhoorah  are slightly similar.  Look at (young lady) and if it started with a B as it does in my dictionary, not geveret-the ending is the same as Virgin.
Almost all girls now serve in the IDF at age 18. 

Israeli girls are known for their beauty.  The religious girls
do not bathe in the sun on a mixed beach, though.  
It makes you wonder how competent the translators were and what they were depending on.  Jewish commentators have said for many years that the word, Virgin, really was young lady in Hebrew.

Fareed's guest was quite emphatic that there were no 72 virgins awaiting people who die for the cause and need rewarding.  Perhaps that should slow down ISIS, hmmm?

It would take a lady to argue against 72 virgins.  We'd much rather the reward be 72 raisins any day.  Anyway, in these days, they should have  run out of 72 virgins per man quickly.  They'll have to resort to 72 raisins.

When translating from one language to another, it really is important to be an Anthropologist as well as a Linguist.  I marvel at people who are bi-lingual or even tri-lingual or more.  I had a teacher in Israel who knew 26 languages.  How deeply or at what grade level that would be, I do not know.  It could be just to say hello in 23 languages or it could be to read literature in 23 languages.  Some languages are related to each other.  That makes the transition easier, like Spanish and Italian.  Some people can barely handle one language-English.

Reading Hebrew is difficult even though it only has 22 letters, and English has 26.  Hebrew only as vowels that are the Aleph, Ayin, and Vuv  which becomes an oo or an oh sound.  You just have to KNOW the word to read it.  Sight reading is more important that sounding it out many a time.

Arabic and Hebrew have many similarities.  They should find the transition from one to another quite a bit easier than us who are not native readers.  Arabic and Hebrew are both taught in Israel's school system.  The lucky students do help each other in their homework.  I never had a friend who could help me with my Latin studies, and my husband and I both floundered with out Hebrew homework assignments as we were new Olim, and I had quit learning after the primer book in 1st grade!  We had to hire a tutor for our 10 months 6 days a week school in Haifa as middle-aged adults.  My husband could read prayers, but forget the newspaper!

I've come to the conclusion that you either have a talent for languages or you don't.  Obviously, there have been some un-talented translators in the past.

Reference: Fareed Zakariah, May 22, 2016 program
google translator 


  1. i don t know she create this translations . i don t knows Arabic language . languages always born from the cultures . and every cultures have different life style . India have long distance from middle east culture . western pakistan and pashtuns areas just 1000 kilometers distance from gulf countries . Hebrew , Arabic, Urdu, Farsi , Dari , Pashtu languages. these are sisters languages . for European people Hebrews language is strange language but for Urdu speaking and for pashtu speaking and for farsi speaking people its very easy to learn , for example our people go for works in gulf country they learn Arabic language just in 3 months and after 6 months they speaks fluently , because these all are sisters languages . in 17 century many people in recent pakistan and many pashtuns were understand they write many books in Hebrew language so think about this ?
    virgin is English create word .. i don t know in Arabic but i know there is no word in Pashtu and in Urdu language , because cultures are different from west . in Pashtu we called " Peghla " meaning the girl in home and not married , but word meaning is " Peghala means young , and in Urdu language, the word is "Ansa " meaning the girl in home and not married and the girl like a sister of all , so she is "Ansa "

    1. Your post is so interesting! Thank you, Khan, for the information. Gee, I studied Hebrew in a special school in Israel 6 days a week with homework till bedtime with the tutor for 10 months and then had to take a 3 hour test. It was hard for me. However, my brother went to Hebrew school as a child and could read the Torah by age 13 when he was bar-mitzvahed (became a man according to our custom-at least in the synagogue.) He has a natural talent for languages, and also has 2 PhD's, but not in languages. He's just smart. The older you are, the harder it is to learn a new language. Interesting about not having a word for "Virgin." So you speak Urdu, Pashto, English, and I think a few other languages, too. Am I right? Urdu is common in India.

  2. and in Pashtun language , the Hebrew language is " Ebrani" language .
    western speaks the word Hebrew and we speaks " Ebrani "

  3. Pashto is very close to Hebrew (Ebrani) then. We say Eevreet. In Hebrew, the B and V are the same letter. Sometimes we make the B sound and sometimes the V sound. When you are learning, the B has a . in it, so you know it is a B. English calls it Hebrew. The letter B is בית.
    We have 2 letters with the V sound. The one that uses the Bet is Vet and the other is a Vuv, also used as a vowel of oo and oh. Like Arabic, Hebrew reads and writes from right to left.