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Is it that bad in your languages?
Thread poster: Merab Dekano

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
May 21, 2016

I was watching Unfortunate Events with my kid. At some point, one of the characters presents herself:
- Hello, I'm justice Strauss of the city High Court.

Spanish (continental) translation was like this:
- Hola, soy justicia Strauss del Tribunal Supremo.

Spanish (Latin American) translation was like this:
- Bienvenidos, soy la jueza Straus de la Suprema Corte.

Subtitling part goes like this:
- Hola, soy Justicia Strauss de la Suprema Corte de la ciudad.

As you have probably noticed, "justice Strauss" got translated as:

- justicia Strauss (even "Justicia Strauss", as if it were a proper name of the lady)
- jueza Strauss (which seems to be the proper translation, as "justice", in this context, is not "justicia", but "juez/a", a judge)

I have two questions and would love to hear about your experiences from your linguistic areas:

1. Is it that difficult to either realise that "justice" has at least two meanings depending on the context, or to ask someone who knows this is so, and that prior to releasing the film in different languages?

2. Is it only in Spanish or does it also happen in other languages?


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Slobodan Kozarčić  Identity Verified
Serbia
English to Serbian
+ ...
It's even worse in Serbia May 21, 2016

In May 2015 I authored a newspaper article published in the nationally distributed popular weekly magazine ‘Ilustrovana Politika’, and in 2016 similar articles were published in two daily newspapers, Blic and Vecernje novosti. These articles covered issues related to translating texts elements in various TV stations in Serbia and cited numerous examples of incorrect translations. This is what happens when agencies are not careful when selecting the movie translators. Because these articles are in Serbian Cyrillic, I'll give you here just a few examples (I have several hundred examples):

"Two and a Half Men" show:
-"What about the royalties from your music", translated as "What about the royal subjects of your music?" (?);
-"Turn tricks" (prostitute), translated as "Show tricks" (like a magician);
-"Knock-off Gucci bag", translated as "A fantastic bag".

"Las Vegas" show:
-"With a tape measure", translated as "With a camera";
-"Naked trumps fear", translated as "I fear of nudity".

"Anaconda" movie: Talking about fast mating of some fish, Jennifer Lopez says, "So, no pick up line", translated as "So, no loading line" (as in a factory).

"Gilmore Girls" show:
-My first class is cancelled today”, translated as "My luxury one was cancelled" (bus).

"Hawaii 5.0" show:
-"The American Ambassador to Russia", translated as "The Russian Ambassador".

One documentary describing Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel work as:
-"He painted the SIXTEENTH Chapel."

"Eddie" movie:
-"Coed showers", translated as "Cold showers".

Not to mention incorrect Serbian Grammar and Spelling. It's because one Croatian agency delivers most of the Serbian subtitles, and no one controls it. They even use nonexistent words ("доменак"). Shame on us.


[Edited at 2016-05-21 21:06 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 19:59
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
You're not alone May 21, 2016

Similar problems exist in my language pairs. People confuse law, legislation and an Act (of Parliament, the Danish Folketing, or another legislative body). And lots more.

Last week I regretfully turned down a translation job for one of my good clients - I am already doing a larger job for another of their PMs and will be busy all next week.

Yesterday the job I had turned down came back - the end client had complained. Could I please sort it out, as I was officially their preferred translator, and they were NOT happy?
So here I am spending my Saturday afternoon bitterly regretting that I did not do it last week. I am spending nearly as much time sorting it out as I would have done translating...

The first heading, in clear, simple Danish, was translated as:
(Forbrugersikkerhed stiller høje krav til ...)

User safety puts increases the specifications for [product name] -- which I changed to:

User safety makes exacting demands on [product name]

There is another sentence where a gift - clearly a bicycle from the rest of the context - becomes a voucher... It was given to company employees a short time before the New Year.

The translator simply has not understood the sentence, and has translated the word 'kort' as a card, not short, as in 'a short time'.

There are several other places where the translator has misunderstood the source, and some where the syntax is so close to the source that it barely makes sense in English.
___________________________________

Where are all the really qualified, conscientious translators these days? My client pays quite well, but as soon as its regular translators are busy, even a good client like that can only find amateurs who should not be working in that language pair.
(There are three others working on the same large job as me, and there are other clients claiming our time...)

I am turning into one of those monster reviewers everyone is so furious about, and I am NOT enjoying it.


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
MT? May 21, 2016

Slobodan Kozarčić wrote:

"Gilmore Girls" show:
-My first class is cancelled today”, translated as "My luxury one was cancelled" (bus).


This sounds like machine translation. Man, man (as they say in Belgium... All right, in Dutch-speaking part of the country).


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Slobodan Kozarčić  Identity Verified
Serbia
English to Serbian
+ ...
Not a machine, just underpaid amateurs May 21, 2016

Merab Dekano wrote:

Slobodan Kozarčić wrote:

"Gilmore Girls" show:
-My first class is cancelled today”, translated as "My luxury one was cancelled" (bus).


This sounds like machine translation. Man, man (as they say in Belgium... All right, in Dutch-speaking part of the country).


Wait 'till you see translation rates.
They pay 0.45-0.50 euros per minute of runtime (0.50 is for experienced translators like me).
But, it's getting worse.
At the end of 2015, one Serbian TV generously offered me 43 euros per 90 min. movie (depending on number of words, it is 0.005-0.0085 euros per one word). What a treat!

[Edited at 2016-05-21 21:34 GMT]


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Sad, really May 21, 2016

Christine Andersen wrote:
The translator simply has not understood the sentence, and has translated the word 'kort' as a card, not short, as in 'a short time'.



Fairly recently I edited a translation. It was a short business letter. The source read approximately this: "can and can end supplies will be resumed..." The translator (in Spanish, obviously) did something like this: "we will end can supplies...". In fact, the opposite meaning. Apparently, the translator couldn't figure out what "can ends" were.

Rushing? Lack of research? Both? Who knows.

Now, back to movies, it has always astonished me how those companies who literally spend millions on movie production fail to hire a Russian speaking person (they do not even need a translator for this). It is customary in certain American action movies (Yes, I am liable to having watched them in my teenage years) to fit in some Russian "prose" (usually, the "bad guy" says something in Russian). In most of the cases, the text is complete rubbish. You can still understand it, but there is no grammar nor proper pronunciation.

Phrases like (I'll avoid using Cyrillic here) "ya poidu tam", when the proper form would be "ya poidu tuda" (I'll go there).

Is it that difficult or expensive to lay on a short sound track spoken by a native Russian-speaking person? Some would even do it for free, I reckon.


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Daryo
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:59
Serbian to English
+ ...
underpaid? more likely "translators" suffering from the Dunning–Kruger effect May 22, 2016

or more accurately, "translators" not suffering but enjoying the Dunning–Kruger effect, while it's others [on whose ears and eyes their "artwork" is foisted] that are really suffering - suffering the consequences of having to make do with unintelligible or plain wrong translations!

IOW rates are far from being the only problem!

Slobodan Kozarčić wrote:

Merab Dekano wrote:

Slobodan Kozarčić wrote:

"Gilmore Girls" show:
-My first class is cancelled today”, translated as "My luxury one was cancelled" (bus).


This sounds like machine translation. Man, man (as they say in Belgium... All right, in Dutch-speaking part of the country).


Wait 'till you see translation rates.
They pay 0.45-0.50 euros per minute of runtime (0.50 is for experienced translators like me).
But, it's getting worse.
At the end of 2015, one Serbian TV generously offered me 43 euros per 90 min. movie (depending on number of words, it is 0.005-0.0085 euros per one word). What a treat!

[Edited at 2016-05-21 21:34 GMT]


You can add this as a gem in a category of its own (published in a Serbian "quality daily"):

"going back to business as usual" translated as "going back to work [presumably after returning from holidays!]"

Merab Dekano wrote:

1. Is it that difficult to either realise that "justice" has at least two meanings depending on the context, or to ask someone who knows this is so, and that prior to releasing the film in different languages?

2. Is it only in Spanish or does it also happen in other languages?



That a word can have TWO [and even more, would you believe it!] meanings is still a discovery waiting to be made by quite a number of "expert linguists" - go back to square one [the Dunning–Kruger effect] for any comments ...


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Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 19:59
German to Swedish
+ ...
Words vs physical reality May 22, 2016

Merab Dekano wrote:

Rushing? Lack of research? Both? Who knows.


Typical language-focused translation.

Some translators apparently are unable to go from reading a sentence to imagining what actually happens in the physical world that the sentence describes.


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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 02:59
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
All the time May 22, 2016

Like, half the stuff that goes through my review desk.

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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Alarming May 22, 2016

Lincoln Hui wrote:

Like, half the stuff that goes through my review desk.


This really sounds alarming to me, Lincoln. I simply hope that doctors or nuclear plant managers are doing better job than those ill-fitted translators.


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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 02:59
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Reviews May 22, 2016

Merab Dekano wrote:

Lincoln Hui wrote:

Like, half the stuff that goes through my review desk.


This really sounds alarming to me, Lincoln. I simply hope that doctors or nuclear plant managers are doing better job than those ill-fitted translators.

Oh, some of these are tests, so presumably they won't get to the point where it matters.


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Lina Efthimiadou  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 20:59
Member (2016)
English to Greek
+ ...
I also noticed that with Greek phrases! May 23, 2016

Now, back to movies, it has always astonished me how those companies who literally spend millions on movie production fail to hire a Russian speaking person (they do not even need a translator for this). It is customary in certain American action movies (Yes, I am liable to having watched them in my teenage years) to fit in some Russian "prose" (usually, the "bad guy" says something in Russian). In most of the cases, the text is complete rubbish. You can still understand it, but there is no grammar nor proper pronunciation.

Phrases like (I'll avoid using Cyrillic here) "ya poidu tam", when the proper form would be "ya poidu tuda" (I'll go there).

Is it that difficult or expensive to lay on a short sound track spoken by a native Russian-speaking person? Some would even do it for free, I reckon.




Exactly the same thing with Greek phrases. It is ridiculous!

[Edited at 2016-05-23 09:24 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-05-23 09:25 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-05-23 09:25 GMT]


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Texte Style
Local time: 19:59
French to English
cool Cole May 23, 2016

just watching a series last night with my daughter I saw that the name of a character, Cole, had been translated as coal. Like "Charbon, tu es là?"

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Roni_S  Identity Verified
Slovakia
Local time: 19:59
Slovak to English
teehee May 23, 2016

It must be that bad in all languages. I don’t know if I’d blame it on rushing or lack of research, though. I think there are 3 main reasons, in no particular order (and the last one does only apply to English, sorry):

1) Laziness (although I suppose this falls into the category of lack of research)
2) Total overestimation of one’s language skills (for those who translate out of their native language)
3) My (fill in your choice: niece, grandson, daughter, etc.) just came back from 6 months in the UK. She/he/it now has PERFECT English. This one is my favourite, and I hear it a lot.

An instruction manual for a step ladder, in both Slovak and in Czech. Grammar aside, these are 2 very similar languages that are very mutually understandable. The Czech side of the manual said you should climb up and down the ladder facing toward the ladder. The Slovak side said you should climb up and down with your face. I saved this paper, if anyone is inclined to see proof.

Some subtitling: a character on a show was happy for having found a wine cooler in the bottom of his gym bag. The Czech subtitle said he was happy to have found a wine fridge in the bottom of his gym bag. I know wine coolers haven’t been a popular drink for many years now, and I was probably drinking them way before many of the translators on here were even born, but how does it make any sense to anyone that somebody would have a wine fridge in their gym bag? It’s all about the shandy now, right? Bartles & Jaymes, anyone?

A recent advert for some posh hotel claimed them to have luxurior rooms. They spent hundreds of euros on their full-page, full-colour advert, but couldn’t pay someone an extra maybe €50 for a proper translation of a handful of words?

Anyone for ‘little children sponge drops’?

But then, I have seen websites for prominent US law firms where they had no clue about how an apostrophe should be used. I immediately look elsewhere for information. Maybe globalisation is actually what is killing language? What did I read recently about how in this age where everyone blogs and writes on the web and just basically puts it out there, there has never been a higher rate of illiteracy? It seems they’re churning out graduates with dubious language skills - in their own native language.

But what would we laugh at if not excruciatingly bad translations??


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 20:59
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Be happy you at least have subtitles May 23, 2016

In many countries you cannot even compare because all you hear is the translated dialog.

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