Aug 9, 2008

On Clunky Translations

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Even the best language dictionaries cannot replace the fluency people obtain when immersed in the culture of the language they wish to learn. The owner of the Portuguese restaurant meant well in his efforts to convey the number of seats in the restaurant, but the resulting translation is a bit rough.

Of course, I am as guilty as anyone else, like when I used the quasi-epithet moreno ("dark-skinned person") instead of marron ("brown") in a general conversation about colors with a rather, well, dark-skinned concierge the other day. She was kind enough in her correction of my faux pas, but a more sensitive person might have misinterpreted my mistake as an intentional racial comment.

Thus, it is always a smart idea to get a native speaker to translate or proofread any text that you wish to display in public. Here in Portugal there are efforts to cater to English-speaking tourists, but sometimes the translations can have unintended consequences. At a restaurant last night, the English menu said that the local dish known as Bacalhau à minhota will "make you jumping with anticipate."

I trust that this is not a gastrointestinal warning.

1 comment:

dr-exmedic said...

At least they actually got a translation, instead of a computer glitch.