Off topic: Government Texts
Thread poster: Preston Decker

Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:30
Chinese to English
May 8, 2014

First day of a five day, 15,000+ word project, which is essentially typing out absolute garbage written by a government bureau here in China. Now when I say garbage, I mean that this is a 15,000+ word document that could have been said everything it needed to in 2500 words if the writer/speaker hadn't been so busy with phrases like (not an exact quote for confidentiality reasons) "We will resolutely promote the growth of the nation by following the guiding ideology of [insert any one of hundreds of meaningless 'guiding ideologies'], encourage the expansion of China's opening up and reform movement into new fields and sectors by implementing the policies of the 4th Plenary Session of the [insert long-winded committee name], and strive to absorb the lessons of [something long], in order to bring about the betterment of the nation and party."

Our apartment is 20 stories high, and if my laptop does not wind up flying out the window over the next 5 days it will be an absolute miracle.

In any event, I'm curious to know if the absurdness of government texts is unique to China and America (where bills in the House and Senate routinely run into the hundreds or thousands of pages of legalese), or if there are actually languages/countries that have managed to reduce the use of such nonsense somewhat in the government texts you all translate?


 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:30
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
No, same around here May 8, 2014

You're not alone, Preston. At the moment I'm trudging through quotes of rulings by Spain's Constitutional Court, the Supreme Carta Magna itself, various laws and government bills, and the job I finished yesterday was largely the same.

I suppose they can't make them any lighter, but many times I get the feeling that only two people in the entire world will ever read some of the mind-numbing trash I translate - the person who wrote it (but often it's a group task), and me.

Mervyn


 

Tim Friese  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:30
Member (2013)
Arabic to English
+ ...
Same here May 8, 2014

I recall that the government of Angola is particularly good at this - I once did tens of thousands of words (split from a larger project!) of what read like pure copy-pasta (not a real quote, just for flavor): "human resource capacity-building to achieve our mid- and long-term objectives while reinforcing our strategic commitment to" blah blah blah.

 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:30
Member (2008)
French to English
Same in Canada and the US May 8, 2014

These long winded government documents are often the result of hundreds of civil servants cutting and pasting to reflect changes when laws or regulations are tweaked, with the final result being a total mess.

When I used to do contracting with the Canadian and US governments I once was asked to sign a contract with hundreds of pages with a clause deep in the middle that required my company to consult with a certain department of the US government, with which the contract had nothing to do. I asked the Canadian government agent why this was required (the contract was over her signature) and she didn't know what I was talking about. When I pointed it out to her she said she had merely copy/pasted the entire document from another completely irrelevant document and "I didn't think anyone ever reads those things"!! So I gather only the private sector and translators ever read the whole thing!


 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:30
English to Spanish
+ ...
Bless Them All May 8, 2014

You get paid by the word, don't you? Bless them all, they make you rich along with themselves. That's how I feel about Mexican notaries, for instance.

 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:30
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Henry, you're so right ... May 8, 2014

... that's what my wife says: "What do you care? Have you translated it OK?", she says. Think of the dosh you're making. And I think, "Well, yes I have, but ... "

And she's right. And later I think sheeet, yes.

Mervyn


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:30
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
you're not alone May 8, 2014

French bureaucrats are very talented at that too.

So long as you get "enhancement" and "tirelessly striving" and "moving forward" in somewhere, and got the message of the 2500 important words across, you can basically pat yourself on the back and ring it up on the till.

See the cliché discussion if you'd like to go the extra mile and vary the twaddle a bit, there are some great ideas in there, the link to the glory of clichés especially!

Sometimes bureaucratspeak makes corporatespeak look sweet and simple!


 

artsipoppa
Russian to English
+ ...
Russian May 9, 2014

Russian official documents can be pretty grim. Why use one word when ten will do...

 


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