The misery of translation

Oh, good gods. Bureaucratic language breaks my braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaane.

“Répondant au souhait du client de soumettre au [government department] ses réflexions quant à la nécessité de fournir à la population du [locality] l’accès, à proximité, à une unité des naissances où les soins à la mère et au nouveau-né s’inscrivent dans une perspective familiale, …” and that’s just the introductory clause.

Every sentence is a million miles long and stuffed full of bureaucratic terms that have no good equivalent in English, all used in senses that have no relevance to their normal meanings and cannot be found in any dictionary, not even the immense one used by the Gov’t Translation Bureau.

This document is horribly written and whoever wrote it should be smacked and be forced to renounce the use of subordinate clauses for a year. This document is *bad *and they should feel bad. I hate them and I hate everyone related to them.

Obviously I have been forced to translate it as penance for my sins.

points and laughs

No but seriously that sucks. Here, have a cup of tea.

You think French bureaucratese is bad? (You should, by the way; just looking at that sentence made my brain hurt. I’m just exercising rhetorical flourish. Work with me here.) That shit got nothin’ on Russian bureaucratese. Try putting the subordinate clause between the noun and its preceding modifying adjective sometime.

Nonetheless, as a fellow translator, I feel your pain, m’man. Hope you’re getting a decent rate for the job.


You poor thing.

I write/edit for a few international aid agencies. Most things leave here pretty clean, but you can imagine some of the monstrosities that flow through here — multi-author works (i.e., collaborations that try and appease everyone) in which none of the authors are native English speakers (or even as their second language). Needless to say, I do a lot of cleaning. Then there’s the fun ones.

I recently sent a two hundred page book into production. The project manager wanted, among other things, the entire document written in the passive voice.

We translate into several languages (Spanish, French, Arabic, etc.), and I really thought to send the translators a note of apology.

Here’s a much simpler thread to take your mind off it.

(Yes, I’m pimping my own thread. Whatcha gonna do about it? :stuck_out_tongue:

Amen, brother!

Ha! I can assure you, Hebrew bureaucratese can be just as bad as Russian or French. Some of that shit’s in Aramaic, for fuck’s sake.

I feel your pain. I translate or edit some bureaucratese, a ton of international development stuff and the odd legal contract but nothing, repeat nothing, plumbs the depths of art critics bibbling on about nothing for 30+ pages in flowery, bombastic Spanish.

The ones [del]I like[/del] the student likes are those documents where everything must be impersonalized, sometimes leading to such levels of stupidity as a single-author document written completely in the first person plural. Or having to refer to oneself in the third person, à la Caesar, Mr. Caius Iulius.

I come from a background in which it is extremely important to label “observed facts,” “working hypothesis,” “guesses” and “opinions” clearly. This fixation with making opinions sound as fact, fact as observed by aliens from Pluto and guesses sound as if they sprouted fully grown from the head of Zeus after Hera smacked him for sleeping around gives me hives!

Fie to all that! Babelfish it and go skiing.

Ugh. Yes, that would be just about the only thing worse. Or advertising nonsense. Instead of writing sweet f.a. and making it sound smart and scientific, they’re writing sweet f.a. and making it sound highfalutin.

I’m going to be thinking,

all day long now.

Moved from The BBQ Pit to Mundane Pointless Stuff I Must Share, with no offense intended to the OP.

Pit Moderator

You think you got it bad ? I got to translate snippy, to the point English into French bureaucratese. And marketese, which is the same, only more emphatic but with less substance. Whenever I don’t try to concatenate thirty separate clauses into one twisty, treacherous, convoluted grammar equivalent of a thirty car pileup, the client complains it “reeks of translation”. What’s a terse guy to do ?

I once did some technical writing for a Large Private Multinational Corporation (which I will call LPMC). Certainly, LPMC had as much bureaucracy as many governments, and delays in the project due to forms, approvals, signatures, and other administrative/bureaucratic necessities were common.

Still, for all that, LPMC had a few cardinal rules that its technical writers had to follow. One of them was “write as if everything you draft will be translated.” This meant (among other things) short sentences, avoiding the passive voice where possible, choosing one term for something and always sticking to it, and using simple vocabulary. Using English idioms was also a no-no.

I guess it was because LPMC was a private corporation that it was aware that time was money: my time spent drafting, the translator’s time spent translating, and ultimately, the end user’s time spent understanding. The less of our time spent prepraring the documentation, the more money LPMC saved. And, if the user could understand the instructions for a complicated piece of technology easily, then LPMC might end up selling more of that technology to that user and others besides.

It just seems such a sensible approach, and I’d suggest that governments requiring bilingual documents, such as Matt deals with, would do well to learn this lesson.

There is not a circle in hell deep enough for the likes of you, sir. :smiley: And by :smiley: I mean “Sorry; I do try to have a sense of humor about my chosen profession, but that just sticks in my craw, y’know?”

You poor, dear boy. Have a cookie to go with the cuppa tea **Inner Stickler **brought you and tell us more about your sins. :wink:

Frankly, with a document that awful, Babelfish can only be an improvement.

I’d suggest you take refuge in translating it to Esperanto, but I don’t want to damage Esperanto. :slight_smile:

Preferably in great detail.

As someone said, regarding Jesus dying for our sins, how dare we make his sacrifice meaningless by not committing any. Someone arriving from Toronto shortly for New Year’s will give me the opportunity to go and do likewise. :smiley:

I just finished the piece. Ye gods. They had an especially creepy way of referring to the individual professionals they had on retainer as “des ressources” (e.g. “dans le cas de la non-disponibilité d’une ressource”). Oh, why not just go all out and call them “drones” or “carbon units.”