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Off topic: Campaign against bad language
Thread poster: Gary Smith

Gary Smith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:49
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sep 13, 2009

Fed up of seeing badly-written signs and texts all around? Doesn’t it make you mad when you see bad grammar and spelling mistakes that an eight-year-old wouldn’t make?
And we’re not talking about hastily-written posters here. We’re talking about texts funded by government (“Old mosque. Actually, it is a church.”), or multi-nationals that have more than enough money to pay qualified linguists rather than teach people how to misuse apostrophes, tenses and capital letters (“i’m lovin’ it,” or Telefonica’s missing accent).

So how about getting together to point out the culprits right here? A little pressure may go a long way in changing their attitudes towards language. (Linked-In itself seems to have learnt the lesson the hard way recently…)

I’ll start with this little masterpiece by the Alboraya city council, simply because I saw it by my home:

“The town council of Alboraya has decided to realize a correct management to endow our coasts of quality services, trying to get up the maximum satisfaction of ours users. Connoisseur of the numerous impacts that could damage their coasts, it compromises inside the possibilities necessaries to slow down the pollution and prevent it in the origin,...etc., etc.”

Come back, readers! I’ll stop there, though the torture goes on for many paragraphs. I imagine they’ll be getting up the maximum users’ noses rather than their satisfaction. No doubt the British connoisseur tourists will be wondering where the English version is.
Feel free to show us all the other culprits of bad language who think they can skimp on translators.


[Editado a las 2009-09-14 07:58 GMT]


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The Misha
Local time: 00:49
Russian to English
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Don Quixote's laurels keeping you awake? Sep 14, 2009

It's like fighting the windmills. Useless. Occasionally funny, but useless nonetheless.

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:49
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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Complain at the Alboraya Consumer Office!! Sep 14, 2009

I will when I see similar things in my area.

We must definitely complain. If nobody complains and we just try to make some fuss over the Web... will they care? They certainly won't! They rarely care about citizens anyway.

So in my opinion the way to go is to use the mechanisms Councils themselves have for complaints of any kind: go and complain officially in writing at the Council's Consumer Office (the OMIC) if Alboraya has it, or to the Consumer Office of the Generalitat Valenciana. They must chase the matter for you and issue a report about it. If you can prove that you are correct, they ask the "offending" office to correct the problem. And in any case, an official record of the complaint will exist, something that will not happen in an Internet campaign.

Please keep us posted about how it went filing your complaint, how well they accepted it, what did the OMIC say about it all, what did the offending section of the Council say about it, etc. It will be definitely interesting reading! I will mark this topic to be informed when you do so. Good luck!

[Edited at 2009-09-14 06:22 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:49
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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Don't agree at all - Action is necessary!! Sep 14, 2009

The Misha wrote:
It's like fighting the windmills. Useless. Occasionally funny, but useless nonetheless.

I don't agree at all about this approach. When our Councils and other government bodies misuse our money to produce ridiculous pieces that will make us laughable in front of our visitors, we must definitely complain about it! They grab a ton of money from us --in Spain, to the extent that an increasing number of people feel that making more money is useless because any excess will be taken by our many governments--, and they must use it properly.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:49
Italian to English
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Italian Ministry of Health Sep 14, 2009

I saw a prime example at the airport this weekend. I thought it prudent not to take a photo, as it was right by the x ray machines, but there were 7 mistakes in about 150 words of a notice in English about human influenza AH1N1. Unfortunately I can only remember one of them - the one that amused me the most: the use of "unclean" rather than the more straightforward "dirty".

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:49
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Another perfect situation for an official complaint? Sep 14, 2009

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:
I saw a prime example at the airport this weekend. I thought it prudent not to take a photo, as it was right by the x ray machines, but there were 7 mistakes in about 150 words of a notice in English about human influenza AH1N1. Unfortunately I can only remember one of them - the one that amused me the most: the use of "unclean" rather than the more straightforward "dirty".

Personally I think I would have asked permission to take a picture or to write down the Italian and English texts (if you had the time) explaining that you will file a complaint in the consumer office of the relevant authority (I don't know who that would be in Italy). I sincerely think we should start taking these things seriously, most specially in our case as translators.


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Gary Smith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:49
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
worthwhile? Sep 14, 2009

In fact, there are translator forums that do just this - complain about bad translations by official bodies and companies that should know better (I just couldn't find one on Proz!). And believe me, it works. Take photos, point out e-mail addresses, till they start taking translation seriously. As Tomás says, government spends a lot of money on bad texts, and I'd like to know where it goes, as it certainly doesn't go to professional translators.

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Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:49
English to Japanese
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Not worthwhile Sep 14, 2009

I agree to what The Misha wrote, and I can also understand what Tomas says.

But as The Misha pointed out, it's useless, since the government and the company or entity or whoever who's posting those mistranslations would not make any corrections, unless a lawsuit is brought up by someone misunderstanding the text due to mistranslation and damage is done to the one who filed a complaint.

This is not only limited to Europe, but also in Asia, where you see a lot of funny and "weird" English, or even other languages native to those countries.


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Gary Smith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:49
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
keep it up Sep 14, 2009

Governments depend on votes and therefore public opinion, Yasutomo, and believe it or not companies depend on the latter too! As I mentioned, the recent Linked-In scandal shows that pressure can work if we shame them with their own handiwork. Anyhow, everybody is free to join in the effort or not. At least we can have a good laugh at their expense if nothing else. ;.D
I should add that if we take Tomás's more official approach and are polite, I can assure you from experience that pointing out mistakes can actually be a good way of finding new clients!

[Editado a las 2009-09-14 07:57 GMT]


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xxxPaul Daubreu
Local time: 06:49
French to German
+ ...
... Sep 14, 2009

Hello to all,
as per France, we now have some bright minds who think it is more than time to simplify French grammar, spelling and so on in order to avoid that these may become "instruments of social selection". Curious (this is strictly an outlandish and domestic debate, in my opinion) that said bright minds never thought about simplifying mathematics for example.
How does this relate to the subject of this thread? Well, I am inclined to think that a country which doesn't care about the way its own language is misused will hardly care about how many mistranslations can be found in more or less official websites, publications or even on road signs, etc.

Is this the case in the examples mentioned?

[Edited at 2009-09-14 08:11 GMT]


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Henrik Pipoyan  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:49
Member (2004)
English to Armenian
One of the things we can do is to educate them Sep 14, 2009

While many save on translation, there are also those who just don't know the correct procedure of getting a professional translation, or don't realize its importance. Many government officials and managers of major companies are not linguists, and can never realize that a single mistake in the translation may spoil their image, bring to naught all the efforts and money they spend on developing a logo, a nice website, advertising, etc. This is why they don't spend much money on it, and most of these texts are translated by people who are on their payroll, performing other functions in the agency along with translation.

I think, we, as a community of professional translators, can develop a document containing recommendations, and publish them on this site, as well as allow anyone to use them or send to authorities and major private companies.

In this document I would include a point about the importance of having such texts translated or at least edited by native speakers of the target language specializing in that particular field, and preferably living in the country where the target language is spoken. I would also include several examples - the funniest ones -- to show the destructive force of mistranslation. And, I think we could translate this document into other languages and localize the examples.

There are many such documents, but most of them are targeted to either translation agencies or translators. What I suggest is a document that is short enough to be read in five minutes, simple enough to be clear to government officials and managers, and strong enough with examples, to touch everyone, who is far from translation.


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Gary Smith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:49
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good idea from Henrik Sep 15, 2009

I totally agree with Henrik - and perhaps he is also answering Paul's point. As translators we should point out bad grammar and punctuation. Although we can use humour to point out mistakes, grammar and punctuation are not a petty matter; they have evolved in order to make language clear. If people use them incorrectly, the language can become unclear with disastrous results. By the way, Henrik, do you think we could create such a document (or localised documents) through Proz?
BTW- I'll also be taking Tomás's advice when I get time!

[Editado a las 2009-09-15 16:31 GMT]


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Gary Smith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:49
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Example of a letter of complaint. Sep 15, 2009

I've just followed Tomás's advice and sent this to the OMIC (Consumer Information Office) of the town in question. I'll let you know how it goes. ;.)

Buenos días.
Les escribo para avisarles de las traducciones nefastas que ha puesto al Ayuntamiento de Alboraya en la Patacona, de las cuales adjunto un ejemplo. Tardaría una hora en explicar todos los ejemplos de mala gramática y vocabulario incorrecto; sencillamente es incomprensible, y hablando con otros traductores tengo entendido que las versiones en francés y alemán son igualmente malas.
Obviamente, da una imagen penosa de Alboraya cuando los turistas se ríen de los textos que se han publicado allí, y crea la impresión de una falta de cultura en el gobierno y de seriedad en su trato al sector de turismo que tanto ayuda da a la economía de la Comunidad Valenciana.
Por favor, que tomen en serio las traducciones de los textos.
Sin otro particular,
Gary Smith.


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:49
Swedish to English
+ ...
Hmm... Sep 15, 2009

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

notice in English about human influenza AH1N1.


Isn't that HN1N1?


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:49
Italian to English
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S'all swine flu to me! Sep 15, 2009

Madeleine MacRae Klintebo wrote:

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

notice in English about human influenza AH1N1.


Isn't that HN1N1?


AH1N1 seems to be the correct term though:
http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/News/Recentstories/DH_098573
http://www.euro.who.int/influenza/AH1N1
http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/Safety/EmergencySituations/ucm179153.htm


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