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Weasel words
Thread poster: John Marais

John Marais  Identity Verified
Spanish to English
+ ...
Apr 4, 2010

Which word do you find the most difficult to translate?

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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
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Great question! Apr 5, 2010

Why is everyone taking so long to respond?

One German word that has more English translations than any other I can think of is Anlage:
http://dict.leo.org/ende?lp=ende&lang=de&searchLoc=0&cmpType=relaxed§Hdr=on&spellToler=on&chinese=both&pinyin=diacritic&search=anlage&relink=on


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JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 03:40
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Gestiones/trámites Apr 5, 2010

Both gestiones and trámites are Spanish words that give me trouble. Both are vague, ambiguous terms that mean "stuff you do in order to get something done." Sometimes it's "in process," sometimes "negotiations," sometimes "efforts," sometimes "steps are being taken," sometimes I'm just plain stuck. Sometimes it's a stalling technique: "Se está tramitando" can mean, "I haven't done a bloomin' thing about it, but I'll get to it eventually."

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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:40
French to English
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Valorisation Apr 5, 2010

....in French is one of the banes of my translating life. Sometimes it can mean recycling, sometimes providing added value. sometimes enhancing - but always in a very vague sort of way. My heart sinks whenever it crops up!

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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:40
Italian to English
Realtà Apr 5, 2010

I'm talking about "realtà" used as a countable noun, in the rough sense of "significant player in whatever context we are talking about", which is widely used by Italian authors, particularly for elegant variation. As often as not, the Italian sounds fine but the English is crying out for a bit more detail, which simply may not be available.

"Valorizzazione", too, can be well-nigh impossible to translate because you don't know whether the value is being added in the form of enhancement, promotion, recovery, investment or whatever.

It's not so much a linguistic problem as a culture-related issue to do with the differing stylistic expectations of English and Italian (or French, or Spanish, or Modern Greek, or...).


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Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 02:40
Member
Spanish
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English: output/input Apr 5, 2010

They're both a nightmare to translate. A few years ago, I created thread about some of these 'weasel' words and I elaborated a little about output/input:

For instance, I'm translating a manual where the words [Data] Input and Output are mentioned very often, sometimes they refer to the actual data, sometimes to the incoming/outflowing data, sometimes to the jacks, sometimes as an adjective, sometimes as a verb. And it's impossible to use just one word for all those instances. And to make matters worse, within the same text, and even in the same paragraph, sometimes it's data output, sometimes it's current output, sometimes it's just output in such a way that it could be a noun, and adjective or a verb.


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:40
Italian to English
You put your input in, you pull your output out Apr 5, 2010

Claudia Alvis wrote:

For instance, I'm translating a manual where the words [Data] Input and Output are mentioned very often, sometimes they refer to the actual data, sometimes to the incoming/outflowing data, sometimes to the jacks, sometimes as an adjective, sometimes as a verb. And it's impossible to use just one word for all those instances. And to make matters worse, within the same text, and even in the same paragraph, sometimes it's data output, sometimes it's current output, sometimes it's just output in such a way that it could be a noun, and adjective or a verb.


You sound quite ehm, "put out", Claudia.


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Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 09:40
Member
French to English
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From French: métier / ensemble Apr 5, 2010

I find these two words a constantly recurring nightmare!

Although 'métier' can of course just mean a 'trade' or 'profession', I am increasingly finding it being used in management-speak with the sort of sense of 'a business discipline' — though that sort of phrase is really just too cumbersome to bear repeated use.

'Ensemble' too, though deceptively simple, sometimes causes me some head-scratching; there are times when it can simply be left out, or re-phrased, but there are times when I find I just desperately need some word to render it, but can never quite put my finger on the right one!

[Edited at 2010-04-05 19:36 GMT]


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Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:40
Portuguese to English
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Scandal words Apr 5, 2010

In Brazil we have a lot of words related to political and other scandals. These are very difficult to translate into English, except by a verbose description. Example: mensalão, mensalinho, mensalão do DEM, and many more. Then there are political words like "tucano" (a member of Brazil's Social Democratic Party) and "peemedebista", words exclusive to Brazilian culture - in English, if we say "José Serra is a toucan leader" this would have a completely different meaning!

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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:40
German to English
German: einstellen Apr 6, 2010

A lovely verb with numerous, sometimes contradictory translations:
Example:
Produktion einstellen = to shut down production
Arbeiter einstellen = to hire workers


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Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 09:40
English to Czech
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The entire English advertising lingo... Apr 6, 2010

...is absolute nightmare.

[Upraveno: 2010-04-06 17:42 GMT]


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British Diana
Germany
Local time: 09:40
German to English
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You are all wrong - it's the small words! Apr 6, 2010

I think the smaller the word, the worse it is.

Do I translate the definite article or not?
Do I translate the indefinite article or not?
Do I use the familiar or the polite word for "you"?
Or what about prepositions like "to" or "at"
Or words like "with"
Verbs like "set" and "put"
Or those elusive "discourse markers" which are most found in speech, but sometimes in written texts, too , such as "anyway" or ""whatever"


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:40
English to German
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"issue" and "bearing" Apr 6, 2010

What a kaleidoscope of meanings... without context you are doomed.

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Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:40
German to Spanish
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Weasel words Apr 6, 2010

John Marais wrote:

Which word do you find the most difficult to translate?


Bestand in German...


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:40
English to Portuguese
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Empowerment Apr 6, 2010

Actually it means "delegation" properly done, i.e. not merely dumping tasks on some underling, but instead giving them the necessary training, information, power to decide and act, accountability, and recognition, if deserved.

The problem is that managers/supervisors are afraid to give away part of their power, so HRD people had to invent a word that made it more explicit than mere delegation.

I've seen so much meaningless BS "invented" for empowerment in both PT and ES, and then "borrowed" from each other as if they were one same language, that it often fails to make sense. Who knows (in PT): empoderamento, capacitação, empoderação, apoderação*... for empowerment?

*This one actually means "takeover" (n.)

The end client has to be brave enough to accept the word in English - empowerment in their PT/ES text, as it's known in the HR environment. Some are radical: No English words in my Portuguese text!" Fine! For these I'd recommend using "delegação comme il faut", as it's not English, that's French!


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