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Lingual Imperialism or rushed obedience??
Thread poster: Gillian Searl

Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:21
Member (2004)
German to English
Aug 11, 2002

I was translating a press release the other day when I came up with an abbreviation that I\'d never heard of before: DRT. The press release convienently explained that it stood for Document Related Technologies, which I\'d never heard of either so I googled to find out more and discovered something very interesting: The only sites listed were either in German, English translations of German sites or where the author was German. In other words no-one in the English-speaking world has a clue what DRT means!



So there are IT experts in Germany inventing terms in English and then using them in the hope that the rest of the world will catch up and find out what they mean by them!



We\'ve been discussing it on the German forum and there are a few other examples from Germany: everyone calls his mobile phone a \"handy\" and people interested in health talk about \"wellness\". Neither term is used by native English speakers.



So this makes it interesting for translators because the translation for DRT is DRT but no English-speaking person has a clue what it means. And even if you use Document Related Technologies not even an IT whizz will fully understand, although they might have a good guess.



So how do you deal with such things when translating? Do you have other examples in your languages? What would you do if you encountered such a term?



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Russell Gillis  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:21
Spanish to English
Just a correction... Aug 11, 2002

\"Wellness\" is used by native English speakers. It is often used in combination with health. The phrase \"health and wellness\" is quite common in North America.

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Marcus Malabad  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:21
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
borrowing badly: sounding hip would sometimes make you sound you need a lesson in English Aug 11, 2002

That how I\'d describe it, Gillian. I encounter this a myriad times in my translation of engineering/IT manuals. I know your dilemma: stick to the German - incomprehensible to the target English audience - or conceive of a new term that would risk offending the author (what?! this is English, so it should remain in English!).



To be honest, I just let it be if I sense that I will encounter a wall of Teutonic resistance to (God forbid!) me teaching them (client/author) a better phraseology. In most cases anyway these German-Anglo neologisms are in themselves self-explanatory that a English-speaker, while flummoxed at first reading, would probably surmise the correct or approximate meaning once he delves into the context.



Nonetheless, I\'ve been in combatant moods before when I vehemently insisted on educating the client that this is total bull and they should allow me, the English speaker, the leeway to express it in modern English, unalloyed by quasi-superior ideas of what English should be (from foreigners at that, what cheek!).



So, depends on your mood, Miss Gillian. Keep the German and perpetuate linguistic idiocies; or nascent neologisms that could in all probability find their way back into the source language of English. Highly improbable given Anglo-Brit attitudes towards foreign tongues. (could you think of a historical-linguistic instance where US/UK speakers have adopted an English neologism born outside Anglo-Saxon shores? the only thing I can think of is when I hear UK speakers speak parodyingly of \'le weekend\' with obvious sarcasm; or when US-born Hispanic speakers would adopt words like \'chequear\' whose provenance surely comes beyond the august blocks of Jersey and the Bronx)



Or, better still, if your linguistic pride is all a-bristlin\', conceive of a better term and stick to your guns, all the while resting on your impregnable foundation of native-speaker-hood.



Getting back to my heading above, I could only think of one motivation for this: vain attempts to sound chi-chi and hip. To German ears, they may indeed sound like the you\'re the Big Joe who knows all these hip-hop Fremdwoerter (all the while getting puzzled looks and sniggers from eavesdropping Americans and Brits).



Given where modern German is going these days, this seems to be ineluctable.



Swim against the current or thrash around until you\'re blue.



I would put on my lifejacket and wait for the dust to settle.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-08-11 10:55 ]

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-08-11 18:23 ]


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:21
Member (2004)
English to Italian
improper use of English in non-English speaking countries Aug 11, 2002

very common pehnomenon... they just make up some term which is supposed to be English but used in the wrong context for the wrong reasons. Happens all the time in Italian. The solution? Change it to proper English and forget about it! No English speaking person will have a clue what they are talking about, otherwise.



G


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Jacek Krankowski  Identity Verified
English to Polish
+ ...
Funny Aug 11, 2002

I was just going to post a question about where on earth this \"handy\" comes from in my German/Austrian friends\' English parlance. Thanks for shedding some light on this phenomenon.

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Lesley Clayton
France
Local time: 00:21
French to English
+ ...
I agree with Giovanni Aug 11, 2002

There are a few examples in French that make me either laugh or cringe: \'talkie-walkie\' makes me laugh, and \'footing\' makes me cringe (they mean \'jogging\'). But we English are guilty of this too, although I can\'t think of an example right now.

Another example: I know someone who works in Paris for a Swedish firm and everyone has to speak English at work. When speaking English to me, he used the word \'asap\'. I hadn\'t a clue what he meant until he explained it meant \'as soon as possible.\' In England we say \'a.s.a.p.\' Or have I been away too long?


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OlafK
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:21
English to German
+ ...
What about French words in German? Aug 12, 2002

Some French words have changed their sense completely or partially in German like \"Friseur\" (now usually spelled \"Frisör\") for \"coiffeur\" or \"Baiser\" which means \"meringue\" or the wonderful adjective \"salopp\". OK, these words weren\'t invented in Germany but to a French native speaker they might seem quite odd.

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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:21
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Or French/German words in Russian? Aug 12, 2002

Talking of \"Friseur\", the Russian for hairdresser is ïàðèêìàõåð (parikmakher), which presumably comes from the French peruque (a kind of wig) and German \"Macher\", i.e. a wig-maker.

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Alison Schwitzgebel
Germany
Local time: 00:21
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Wellness.... Aug 12, 2002

The problems with the word \"wellness\" is, for example, that the Germans like to go for things called a \"Wellness Weekend\" at a \"Wellness Hotel\" - neither of which I have ever heard of in English. I\'d call it a weekend at a beauty farm....



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Kevin Fulton
United States
Local time: 18:21
German to English
Just goofiness Aug 13, 2002

I run across \"Controlling\" in German where it would never be used in an AE context. I\'ve also been translating a series of bank meeting minutes which use \"English\" phrases which have to be turned into something that an English-speaking banker might actually understand. In part, this appears to stem from some innate inadequacy in the writer of the source language to express something concisely, so he/she uses something that\'s \"sort of\" English to get the idea across.

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John Kinory
Local time: 23:21
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Agree with Giovanni Aug 20, 2002

Quote:


On 2002-08-11 13:13, Verbum Ltd. wrote:

very common pehnomenon... they just make up some term which is supposed to be English but used in the wrong context for the wrong reasons. Happens all the time in Italian. The solution? Change it to proper English and forget about it! No English speaking person will have a clue what they are talking about, otherwise.





Indeed. This is partly from the desire to sound hip (as someone already said; though I can\'t reconcile that with the desire (???) to be chi-chi, which is almost the opposite: the wish to sound hip makes the speaker sound chi-chi); partly, no doubt, because many Germans suffer from the delusion that their English is better than that of native speakers.



So, I suggest you correct the sort-of-English and turn it into proper English. You are the professional translator and the expert on the target-language.



No, we don\'t say asap (except, perhaps, self-mockingly); we say ay-es-ay-pee, and even that is pretty pretentious.



Wellness may or may not be AE. In BE we say well-being.



Cheers,



John
[addsig]

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Rebecca Freed  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:21
French to English
+ ...
Techies love jargon and neologisms in any language. Aug 21, 2002

I would give some explanation for the term and follow with a parenthetical to the effect of (known in Germany as DRT or Document Related Technologies). As an editor what bothers me about that term is that it\'s so general as to be meaningless. I\'d look for a \"free\" translation that gets at a more specific meaning, provided the client agrees.



When I started editing technical manuscripts (in my native English) I\'d pull my hair over the writers\' excessive love for jargon. I remember asking what the word \"functionality\" was supposed to mean, and getting a lot of harrumphing in response.


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Jeremy Smith  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:21
French to English
+ ...
Meaningless jargon Aug 23, 2002

For any of you who aren\'t aware of it, I would recommend reading the Dilbert comic books. These take a sideswipe at corporate life in general.



On the website: http://www.dilbert.com/comics/dilbert/games/career/bin/ms.cgi - there is a tongue-in-cheek buzzword-filled mission statement statement generator. The result is an utterly meaningless load of old rubbish, but exactly the sort of thing we have to translate for corporate marketing documents.



Eg: \"It is our mission to collaboratively disseminate emerging meta-services such that we may continue to completely revolutionize timely products.\"


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OlafK
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:21
English to German
+ ...
This looks like a sentence from the job I just finished Aug 24, 2002

But you can\'t blame the Germans for that as well (the original subject of this thread). On the contrary, we have to translate that corporate crap (pardon my French ) which isn\'t proper English in the first place into something that resembles German.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-08-25 02:21 ]


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Marnen Laibow-Koser
United States
Local time: 18:21
German to English
+ ...
English xenoneologisms Dec 16, 2002

Quote:


On 2002-08-11 10:41, marcushm wrote:

could you think of a historical-linguistic instance where US/UK speakers have adopted an English neologism born outside Anglo-Saxon shores?




Walkman.



It comes from Japanese, where it\'s quite common to create \"English\" neologisms that English speakers have never heard of. \"Walkman\" has been adopted as an English word, and I daresay few English speakers realize its origin.


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