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Translator loses peace deal?
Thread poster: Jack Doughty

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:06
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Russian to English
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Sep 8, 2008

This isn't altogether off-topic but I couldn't think where else to put it.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/2700177/Bad-French-prolongs-Russia-Georgia-conflict.html


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Stuart Dowell  Identity Verified
Poland
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Very funny if not so serious Sep 8, 2008

It seems like a case of people blaming the translator(s) to cover their own failures and disappointments.

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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:06
Partial member (2003)
Spanish to English
Ouch! Sep 8, 2008

And I'm especially interested in hearing what translators into/out of French make of this comment in the article:


French has long been replaced by English as the language of diplomacy, and is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the international community.


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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Spain
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French to Italian
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I am afraid it is true Sep 8, 2008

Nikki Graham wrote:

And I'm especially interested in hearing what translators into/out of French make of this comment in the article:


French has long been replaced by English as the language of diplomacy, and is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the international community.


I translate from French, and have to say that jobs from French are more and more decreasing, unfortunately...

[Edited at 2008-09-08 08:51]


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LittleBalu
Germany
Local time: 11:06
English to German
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Not funny at all Sep 8, 2008

stuart dowell wrote:

Very funny if not so serious

It seems like a case of people blaming the translator(s) to cover their own failures and disappointments.






I don't think this is funny at all - it's frightening.

Thanks for sharing this with us, Jack.


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 11:06
English to Hungarian
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diplomacy Sep 8, 2008

I'm told that blaimng the interpreter is a known trick for getting out of sticky diplomatic situations. Taking the blame for errors they never made seems to be pretty much par for the course for interpreters working for diplomats.
For all we know, this could have been a case of extending that principle to written translation.

By the way, these two paragraphs seem to contradict each other:


One reason for the continuation of the conflict now appears to be a passage in the Russian translation of the agreement that speaks of security "for" South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The English version speaks of security "in" the two areas.

The difference is crucial, because Russia continues to keep its tanks and armed troops "in" Georgian territory. The international community, in turn, wants security "for" South Ossetia and Abkhazia without the Russian army staying in Georgia.


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xxxPeter Manda
Local time: 05:06
German to English
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what is the article Sep 8, 2008

is the article a news report, an editorial, a social commentary, an opinion, or pure speculation? it's not clear simply because we are given speculation as to the source of the trouble without the ability to compare primary sources.

regardless, my reading of the metatext is that the translator gets blamed for the failure of diplomatic channels to implement (let alone negotiate) terms. it's the age old story, though; the translator is always the first to have his head chopped off when negotiations fail - such as when the mongols invaded iran; the interpreter was blamed for the Shah's failed insight of the dire circumstances facing his nature.

in that historical context, the story is macabrly (is that a word?) funny, indeed.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
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News report Sep 8, 2008

The story is presented in the newspaper simply as a news report on one of the pages headed "World News", though you may well feel it strays into the field of comment.

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xxxMilena Bosco  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 11:06
English to Italian
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Thank you Jack Sep 8, 2008

This was a very interesting article to read.

I remeber how surprised I was as a student when I found out that nearly all algebra, math and mechanics texts from USSR were only available in French. I was also surprised by the great qualities of the translations (made in the 70's), which were rigorous and precise.

A few years later I was working for the New York Times and I could personally asses the poor professional level of a Russian-French translator. Translating entails a high responsibility, and not all translators seem to be aware of this.

Very sad story. I do not think it is funny, but I take it as a further demonstration that ethics and values are going down the drain at the moment. Let's hope for some enlightment.

Have a nice day,

Milena


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:06
French to English
For French-speakers Sep 8, 2008

Same basic idea, from Le Monde
http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2008/09/06/un-probleme-de-traduction-a-l-origine-d-incomprehensions-entre-russes-et-georgiens_1092413_3214.html

French might well be "irrelevant" to the international community, but the way I see it, that works in my favour. The fewer non-French native speakers there are who understand French, the better it is for me. Especially since French companies are doing so well in several sectors at the moment (e.g. privatised utility services and related areas).


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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:06
Member (2003)
French to Italian
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For Charlie Sep 8, 2008

Yes but even if people translating from French are decreasing, jobs from French into Italian are decreasing as well.

May be French companies passe their translations through English and then from English into the other languages?

I noticed this trend nowadays.

[Edited at 2008-09-08 10:34]


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:06
French to English
Highly likely Sep 8, 2008

Angioletta Garbarino wrote:
May be French companies passes their translations through English and then from English into the other languages?


Maybe not even the second part of that. Just from French into English, point.

My experience is hardly universal, I admit, but I translate a couple of corporate newsletters from French into English, with instructions to "keep it simple" since every other subsidiary worldwide reads the English version.

And I know for a fact one of my few direct clients, a large French company with subsidiaries in Spain, Italy, the UK, Greece, the Czech Republic, Holland, etc. and with a German parent company only really works in English. They translate internal documents into English and that is it. I am given to understand that this approach is not unusual.

I also have first hand experience of two French companies, in the process of negotiating a services contract, to be carried out in a French-speaking country, requiring draft versions of the agreement, suggested amendments, etc. to be translated into English too. And neither had foreign parent companies. As far as I could tell, no English speakers, indeed, no non-French speakers, were involved. But both have a policy that English is the working language. So....


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
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Thanks for the version from Le Monde Sep 8, 2008

Thank you, Charlie, for posting that. I was wondering what the preposition was in French.

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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
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The letter of the law Sep 8, 2008

FarkasAndras wrote:

One reason for the continuation of the conflict now appears to be a passage in the Russian translation of the agreement that speaks of security "for" South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The English version speaks of security "in" the two areas.

The difference is crucial, because Russia continues to keep its tanks and armed troops "in" Georgian territory. The international community, in turn, wants security "for" South Ossetia and Abkhazia without the Russian army staying in Georgia.


... has always been a bone of contention in court, easy to transpose into any other conflict.

Thanks, Jack!


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:06
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Spanish to English
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Not a very advisable tack Sep 8, 2008

Angioletta Garbarino wrote:

May be French companies passe their translations through English and then from English into the other languages?


We translate concepts, not words. And those concepts have to take shape in accordance with the mechanics that determine the consistency of the target language. A concept like "Insiderrecht" can't simply be left at "Insider Law"; one has to understand the concept of insider trading in order to transmit the idea. Imagine if the version in a pivot language did not transmit that, how could that figure correctly in a third language?

An incident in the UN led to a practice developed among interpreters working in pivot languages to "footnote" those moments that would escalate tension for linguistic reasons. It seemed that the Russian delegate had been instructed to pronounce a partial introductory sentence and pause before delivering an enumeration. In the pivot language (French; the English interpreter had lost his voice), that sentence could not be delivered adequately until the enumeration had begun, but the delegate had been instructed to begin the enumeration only when that sentence had been interpreted. The result was, that the transmitter felt he been censored, the receivers in French were waiting for an enumeration that never came, and the receivers in English were sure that they had heard a sentence that was not translated.


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