Lost in Translation – to English?

Translation to English

You don’t speak English, but you have to attend conferences and read documents in English for work. What do you do? Rely on translation? Wrong! Translation is a fine short-term solution, but what many people don’t realize is just how much meaning and information is lost when translating from one language to another.

For example, look what got lost in translation for these multinational companies:

– An advertising campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water in Italy translated tonic into toilet.

– A car manufacturer’s promotion in Belgium stated that its car had a body by Fisher. But as translated into Flemish, it read, corpse by Fisher.

– A Japanese company sold knives in the United States with this warning: Caution: Blade extremely sharp. Keep out of children.

– When an importer translated Made in Turkey into French, he wrote, Fabrique en Dinde. Dinde means turkey in French, but it’s the bird, not the country! The country is Turquie.

Every language has a unique grammar system as well as thousands of word meanings and connotations. Just think how many times you ask for clarification when speaking your own language! Now imagine how much you miss when you rely on an interpreter to translate English into your language.

Translation is an art. Even the best translators aren’t a guarantee you’ll understand a language’s nuances. For example, books and poetry that are extremely popular in their original language can be harshly criticized in other languages simply because of bad translations.

Take, for example, famous 18th-century Scottish poet Robert Burns. His poems have been translated into many languages, and he is popular all over the world – except in Japan. Scholars discovered recently that the words that make his poems beautiful in English were completely lost in the Japanese versions. One famous verse came out sounding like this: “Good luck to your honest friendly face, Great King of the sausages.” What? No wonder no one liked Burns in Japan!

What happened to Burns in Japanese could happen to you, too, if you rely on an interpreter not only to translate from English into your language, but to communicate what you say into English!

Though it can be a challenging task, the only way to truly understand and communicate in English is to do it yourself. If you persist on the path of English learning, you’ll be rewarded with a whole new approach to expressing yourself.

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