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Foreign language errors in literature?
Thread poster: Erik Freitag

Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:45
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Apr 1, 2015

Dear colleagues,

I am reading Stephen Fry's "Making History" in English. The author frequently uses words or sentences in German, or at least in a language closely related to German. In these parts written in German, it's difficult to find a sentence or even a word without an error or without something that stands out to me as a native speaker of German: Wrong grammar, unidiomatic wording, names of real persons and places misspelt or, in case of invented names, not quite sounding natural etc.

I'm wondering about the reasons - is it the author overestimating his proficiency in German? Sloppy editing? Or is it done intentionally so as to make it easier to understand or sound "more like German" for readers who don't actually know any German?

I'd appreciate your thoughts on this (just for the fun of it),
regards,
Erik





[Bearbeitet am 2015-04-01 17:26 GMT]


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:45
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Fry Apr 1, 2015

Erik Freitag wrote:

Dear colleagues,

I am reading Stephen Fry's "Making History" in English. The author frequently uses words or sentences in German, or at least in a language closely related to German. In these parts written in German, it's difficult to find a sentence or even a word without an error or something that stands out to me as a native speaker of German: Wrong grammar, unidiomatic wording, names of real persons and places misspelt or, in case of invented names, not quite sounding natural etc.

I'm wondering about the reasons - is it the author overestimating his proficiency in German? Sloppy editing? Or is it done intentionally so as to make it easier to understand or sound "more like German" for readers who don't actually know any German?

I'd appreciate your thoughts on this (just for the fun of it),
regards,
Erik





That's what you get for reading a book by the execrable Stephen Fry.

icon_smile.gif


 

Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:45
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
;-) Apr 1, 2015

Tom in London wrote:

That's what you get for reading a book by the execrable Stephen Fry.

icon_smile.gif


Haha, quite possible. However, I must say that compared to the only other book I've read from this author, I find this one quite enjoyable (so far).

Fry could of course always try to talk his way out of this by attributing the errors to the narrator...


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 00:15
English to Hindi
+ ...
English-speakers are notoriously monolingual Apr 2, 2015

I think the reason for this is simple enough. Most English-speakers, including English proof-readers and copyeditors are monolingual in English. The English find (or think) that they can get along in the world with English alone and rarely take the trouble to learn other languages. We are seeing a strange phenomenon in which the whole world is going multi-lingual but the English are stubbornly sticking to monolingualism.

In the English translation you mention, most likely, the publishers got it copyedited/proofread by a mono-lingual English linguist, who knew no German. So he/she only corrected the English part of the book, leaving the German portions unchecked and full of printer's errors and other grammar issues you mention. The right thing to do would have been to get the manuscript checked also by a German linguist, who would have weeded out the errors in the German portions.

Multi-lingual publishing (that is, publishing texts that have more than one language in them) is a more complex proposition than monolingual publishing and not many publishers have the technical knowledge or understanding required for doing this properly.


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:45
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
In a different light Apr 2, 2015

Erik Freitag wrote:

Or is it done intentionally so as to make it easier to understand or sound "more like German" for readers who don't actually know any German?

I'd appreciate your thoughts on this (just for the fun of it),
regards,
Erik



[Bearbeitet am 2015-04-01 17:26 GMT]


Well, perhaps he was testing how "off-German" fits into the concept of Esperanto. Or maybe, if at all, he's "learned" a little German in a tiny village with its own dialect that no "foreigner" (including real German speakersicon_biggrin.gif) can or isn't allowed to understand. The possibilities/reasons are endless.icon_wink.gif


 

EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:45
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
This is quite common, Apr 2, 2015

also on TV. Mainly in American series - whenever a language I know is supposed to be spoken, I laugh like a drain. Mainly "NCIS LA", as they work in an international context. Americans just don't care, they don't expect people to speak any of these languages. The same pertains to places - to them, one European town is exactly like any other, at least beyond London and Paris. An agent comes to Prague and meets locals in Russian hats next to a Parisian (or other, but the same old type) subway entry. And they make just "Slavic sounding" noises, closest maybe to Serbian. They have emigrees from all over the world in the US - why don't they bother to ask them?

 

Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:45
Member (2012)
French to English
Example please Apr 3, 2015

I wouldn't want to slag off Stephen Fry without seeing an example of the errors you're accusing him of.

 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:45
Member (2008)
Italian to English
One would be Apr 3, 2015

Elizabeth Tamblin wrote:

I wouldn't want to slag off Stephen Fry without seeing an example of the errors you're accusing him of.


It would be erroneous to say "I wouldn't want to slag off Stephen Fry without seeing an example of the errors you're accusing him of." That's because one must never use a preposition to finish a sentence with.


icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2015-04-03 16:19 GMT]


 

Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:45
Member (2012)
French to English
. Apr 3, 2015

Tom in London wrote:

Elizabeth Tamblin wrote:

I wouldn't want to slag off Stephen Fry without seeing an example of the errors you're accusing him of.


It would be erroneous to say "I wouldn't want to slag off Stephen Fry without seeing an example of the errors you're accusing him of." That's because one must never use a preposition to finish a sentence with.


icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2015-04-03 16:19 GMT]


Lol, so you think it would be better to put "of which you are accusing him"? I prefer something a little more natural sounding.

Edit: sorry, a bit slow to see your joke!

[Edited at 2015-04-03 16:34 GMT]


 

Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:45
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Examples Apr 4, 2015

As I was flicking through the pages again in order to find some examples, it looks like I may have exaggerated the amount of German text and errors a bit. Anyway, here are some examples:

  • Braunau, Adolf Hitler's birthplace, is consistently misspelt Brunau (unless this form is indeed used in English?)
  • "Montag, Dienstag, Mittwoch, Donnerstag, Freitag, Samstag, Sontag"
  • Pnina as a name for a whip (which sounds very strange and unlikely to native ears)
  • "Pnina die Pietsche" (instead of "Peitsche")
  • "Das Kriegstagebuch von Rudolf Gloder" (title of a soldier's diary - using the definite article "das" here sounds very strange)
  • Niebelung (instead of "Nibelung")
  • Kaput (instead of "kaputt")
  • "Denkt an Graf Arco-Valley, ein deutscher Held!" (grammar)
  • "Germanen Orden"





    [Bearbeitet am 2015-04-04 08:12 GMT]

     

  • Tom in London
    United Kingdom
    Local time: 19:45
    Member (2008)
    Italian to English
    Bercht Apr 4, 2015

    Erik Freitag wrote:

    .....


    And Berchtesgaden (Hitler's mountaintop lair) is all too frequently referred to as "Berchtesgarten".

    And while we're on the subject of annoying things: why do so many Italians think "aeroporto" is "aereoporto" - or even worse, "areoporto" ?

    And why do otherwise literate English-speakers insist on saying "I'm bored of XXXX"?

    To say nothing of those who think "high-falooting" is the correct way to say "highfalutin' ". Or those (they all seem to be American) who think it's always rude to say "me" even when it's correct, and who as a consequence say things like "Would you like to have lunch with my wife and I?"

    Why do English soccer commentators think that "Vieira" is pronounced "Viera"?

    Grrrr......I'm sure as the day wears on and I get angrier, I'll think of more.

    [Edited at 2015-04-04 08:36 GMT]


     

    Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
    Member (2003)
    French to Italian
    + ...
    Aeroporto vs aereoporto Apr 4, 2015

    Tom in London wrote:



    And while we're on the subject of annoying things: why do so many Italians think "aeroporto" is "aereoporto" - or even worse, "areoporto" ?



    Please find this link from "Accademia della Crusca" they say: Aereo BUT Aeroporto and also aeroplano not aereoplano.

    http://www.accademiadellacrusca.it/en/italian-language/language-consulting/questions-answers/aereo-ma-aeroporto-perch

    Just wanted to provide an informationicon_smile.gif

    [Edited at 2015-04-04 08:47 GMT]


     

    Giles Watson  Identity Verified
    Italy
    Local time: 20:45
    Italian to English
    An opportunity, perhaps? Apr 4, 2015

    By and large, writers are happy to amend later editions of their books if you point out their homeric nods politely.

    Twenty-five years ago, I picked up a copy of journalist Beppe Severgnini's Italian-language book Inglesi, a humourous account of his stint in London during the Eighties. It was well-observed, well-written and peppered with little inaccuracies of precisely the kind Erik has identified in Stephen Fry's books. As I was enjoying the read, I kept pencil and paper handy and later sent Beppe the list (by snail mail - this was the early Nineties). The incident led to us becoming friends and, eventually, to a stream of Severgnini-related work that continues today.

    And if Stephen Fry is looking for a German translator, one who has already read the text carefully is probably going to be near the front of the queue.


     

    Tom in London
    United Kingdom
    Local time: 19:45
    Member (2008)
    Italian to English
    Vindication Apr 4, 2015

    Angie Garbarino wrote:

    icon_smile.gif


    Vindicated! Both I *and* the Accademia della Crusca can't be wrong !


     

    Tom in London
    United Kingdom
    Local time: 19:45
    Member (2008)
    Italian to English
    Severgnini Apr 4, 2015

    Giles Watson wrote:

    journalist Beppe Severgnini's Italian-language book Inglesi, a humourous account of his stint in London during the Eighties.


    I hated that book. It was all wrong about England and the English. Italians only see what they want to see. In the same way in which all those books by expat English people, about Italy, are always wrong about the Italians. How charming and delightful they are, etc. But of course not to be taken seriously.

    Interesting to note that Severgnini needs an English translator. Why am I not surprised?

    Severgnini's thoughts about the English reminded me of the late Paolo Filo della Torre, formerly the London correspondent for "La Repubblica", whose reports from Inghilterra were more or less a straight rewrite in Italian of whatever had been on BBC News that day. I don't think Filo della Torre ever strayed far from Belgrave Square or looked much under the surface of things. Amazing how far a multi-barrelled name can take you...but I digress...as usual....

    [Edited at 2015-04-04 09:05 GMT]


     
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