Misleading words
Thread poster: George Trail

George Trail  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:08
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
May 15, 2010

We surely regard people in the professional translation / interpretation community as among the most capable of handling misleading words and expressions; which is just as well, because no-one wants to inadvertently waste someone else's time (especially where business is concerned!).

It was Johann von der Goethe who said (untranslated): "Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiss nichts von seiner eigenen." I.e. "he who doesn't know foreign languages..." doesn't know anything about his inner self, or doesn't know anything about himself? From the perspective of these two suggestions I guess that not everyone will "take this quote" exactly the same way.

Actually, when you look at the Youtube videos of Pat Condell, you can understand that these words can have considerable weight attached to them. "Islamophobia" is a lie, a myth. And it's not just a lie that exists to take advantage of other people; it is cynical, when you look at radical Islam. (Can I say that?) But there used to be a time when I would define "lie" only as stating something that I knew to be untrue; while in reality coercive political propaganda depends on fabrication and misleading. And I would only define "myth" only as old stories with little credibility attached to them - Pandora's box, the Minotaur etc. etc.

It is true that local culture is important in connection to words when translating. Pat Condell, the famous Youtube atheist, in one of his videos on Youtube, says that "faith" is a "dangerous and misleading" word, and it "has the potential to enslave us all by stealth". This is best explained in his video "Aggressive atheism".

It pays to think (i.e. not necessarily go with the first response instinct that comes into your head). If you think that misleading words in the translation industry are limited to in-project stuff, you might want to think again. Like the time I read, in French: "réécriture d'un texte en anglais"; they did not mean re-writing a text in English, from French (the standard translation act), but "re-writing" a text that was already in English but which sounded funny because it was written by a person whose mother tongue is not English. I also think of that time I was looking for translation projects asking for quotes and I came across writing that was in English by one whose mother tongue was not English, but French: I remember reading "Actual projects" and understanding that this was an inaccurate translation of "projets actuels". It should of course read in English as "current projects".

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Gisela Greenlee  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:08
German to English
+ ...
Goethe May 15, 2010

What the quote is really saying: "He who doesn't know a foreign language doesn't know his own language." Since he already used the word "language" in the first part of the sentence, it was implied in the second part.

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Hermeneutica  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:08
Dutch to English
+ ...
Grammar, eternal grammar ... May 16, 2010

"... seiner eigenen".

Seiner is genitive feminine, can therefore in this sentence only refer to "Sprache" ...

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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:08
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
completely clear May 16, 2010


I can't but agree with Gisela and Hermeneutica: The source is completely clear, the construction absolutely is standard German and will be understood in exactly the same way by anyone with sufficient proficiency in German. Both translations you suggest are completely wrong.

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