Jost Zetzsche Tool Kit

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Blind faith in the printed word

The English is clear enough to lorry drivers - but the Welsh reads "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated."
The above image is courtesy this post.

This has brought about a lot of head scratching, as one can very well imagine.

The official entrusted with the task of getting the English message translated into Welsh sent an email to a translator incorporating the message to be translated. The translator was away as the mail went to his id and an automatic reply to the effect, "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated" was generated and received by the concerned official. And the credulous official thought that this was the actual translation and this resulted in the above sign board. What is more incredible is the fact that nobody had spotted this howler till the last minute.

A similar thing happened recently in 1989, when I was working in IDPL. Our C&MD got Christmas & New Year Greetings from France, wishing him "Joyeux Noël" and "Bonne Année" respectively. The greetings were in big print and the signatures below were just scrawls. Contrary to his usual practice of sending them to me, the French translator, for translation of the French original into English and the English reply into French before dispatching them, he thought that he could just send the replies in English as he guessed that they were routine season's greetings.

Fortunately I happened to pass by when the replies were being sent to him for signing. I just threw a cursory glance at them and was dumbfounded to note that the letters started as follows.

Dear Joyeux Noël or Dear Bonne Année!!!!

If only the letters had gone out, they would have caused a lot of merriment at IDPL's expense.

Once my client's daughter corrected my French to English translation on the sole strength of her being a French learner. I had to tactfully tell the client that the lady was quite wrong.

Dondu N. Raghavan

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