Friday, January 13, 2012

Lost in Translation – Malaysians, Bad Subtitles and the Government

We all suffered through old foreign movies with bad lip synching and grammatically improbable subtitles before (e.g. most of Jackie Chan’s old films, like the picture above).

Apparently, this is a universal phenomenon as Malaysians are graced with subtitles like “clothes that poke eye.” The Malaysians joke that it isn’t even “Manglish”. Sadly, as far as the Malaysians are concerned, the bad subtitles aren’t movie exclusive— they’re encroaching into real life.

Earlier this week, the Star Online reports that the Malaysian Defense Ministry’s official site was littered with horrible, garbled translations.

Prime examples were located on the site’s guidelines for “ethical clothing.” It included gems like “collared shirts and tight Malay civet berbutang three”, “long-sleeve batik shirt with collar/mongoose fight made in Malaysia” and “shine closed”.

When these mistranslations made it onto the social media circuit the Defense Ministry reacted immediately by taking down pages, posted a clarification and promised to make corrections. However, the damage was already done.

And according to Star Online, this isn’t the first time that Malaysian government eschewed the use of professional interpreters/translators either.
In April of last year, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and his entourage were greeted with a welcoming banner rife with Chinese syntax and grammatical errors. The translation read: “Official welcoming ceremony, with him Wen Jiabao His Excellency’s official visit Malaysia.”

Malaysian officials apologized to the Premier and the incident was subsequently widely reported in China.

Bad subtitles in foreign movies are hilarious, if albeit cringe worthy, but it sure doesn’t translate well in real life.

*Source – The Star Online

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lost in Translation - Hilarity This Way

Christmas weekend is here, and what better way to lead us into the holidays but another edition of “Lost in Translation”!

Have to give the Welsh credit— with signs warning motorists of “exploding workers” or that they’re heading down the “Shear Madness” (or in Welsh, “Mad Sheep Shearing”), it certainly can get distracted drivers to actually pay attention to the road!   

Apparently, bilingual mistranslations like these are so commonplace in Wales that a book is being published about it titled Sygmraeg— the name used for bad translations. It even includes a sign between Cardiff and Penarth notifying cyclists that they have an “inflamed bladder” and a contradictory warning to pedestrians in Cardiff to “Look Right” in English and “Look Left” in Welsh. How confusing!

Other gems include a wine shop that reads in English: “Wines and Spirits” except the Welsh is translated to “Wines and Ghosts.” Or the sign that reads “Business open as usual” and “Business not open” in Welsh.  

Most famous of these was a sign placed in a Swansea roadside: “No entry for heavy good vehicles. Residential site only,” but in Welsh read, “I’m not in the office at the moment. Send any translation work.”

The mistranslations were collected by Welsh language magazine Golweg after readers started submitting them to its satirical column by Jac Codi Baw.

Happy Holidays from World Services!

*Source: WalesOnline

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lost in Translation - The Price of a Word

What could cost taxpayers in New South Wales tens of thousands of dollars? New taxes? Construction projects? None of the above— the bill is tagged to the alleged mistranslation of the Indonesian word “push” after it caused a criminal trial to be aborted.

The problem arose when a juror who spoke Indonesian wrote a note to the judge about “some discrepancies in the translation” of the questions tasked to an accused Indonesian smuggler. The juror cited two examples:

1. The phrase “did you stop anyone moving” was allegedly mistranslated as “did you push anyone”.

2. The word “push” was allegedly used versus the word “deny”.

The juror’s allegations were aimed at the second interpreter used for the case after the first one was criticized by the smuggler’s lawyer.

Ultimately, Judge Freeman agreed that the case had to be aborted as the juror who made the allegations shared his observations with rest of the jury.

“In a sense, that juror has become like a witness in the trial … Now that is a situation which we can't allow to exist, because at the end of the trial I have to be in a position where I say to you that the evidence upon which you reach your decision is that which comes from the witness box,” the judge said.

*Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

Friday, November 18, 2011

Top 5 Interpreter Mistakes

We all make them— and we are quick to gloss over them. We are talking about the “m” word: “mistakes.” Interpretation mistakes, however, are difficult to gloss over when communication can be a one-way street. Once something is spoken... it’s out there to be heard! Today, we have listed the top 5 common interpretation mistakes as a frontline defense for both new and experienced interpreters!

1. Hot & Cold Potato – We all read the hilarious (or appalling) headlines of celebrities and politicians with a hot mic. Most interpreters though have the opposite problem— having the microphone ON. The solution is a simple one: be sure the microphone is on and ready to go. Although, the parallel is also true: be wary of hot mics!

2. Bonjour! Como estas? – Another common problem for interpreters: realizing you were speaking in the wrong language; this especially holds true for interpreters that are proficient in several languages. It happens to even the most experienced interpreters and the best defense is to remember your audience and listening to yourself.

3. A Phrase is Worth 1000 Words – Direct interpretations are not always… well, direct. Expressing that “it’s a beautiful day” as “it’s a beautiful day” may be technically correct, but it might not be the way the locals express it. It’ a lot of work, but be up to date on your jargon, phrases, and even historical use of words.

4. What You Say? – It’s going to happen: you’ll mishear something and say it as something else. For example, one interpreter heard “concrete welds” when the speaker was saying “concrete wells.”

5. Google It! – No, no, and just NO. The problem is that incidents of interpreters using Google Translate or similar browser-translated programs have actually happened. Certified, government and private contracted interpreters resorting to Google Translate. Just don’t do it!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lost in Translation - Another Gov't Fumbles a Foreign Interpretation

The Feds messed up— big time. According to a story from Talking Points Memo, lawyer Haytham Faraj claimed that authorities fumbled a translated conversation between his client—alleged Syrian spy Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid—and his wife via a flawed translator and even used Google Translate.

Faraj claimed that government “has demonstrated a serious deficit in its ability to translate recorded conversations from Arabic into English.” Talk about déjà vu— considering that just a month ago an Iranian refugee almost ended up being deported because of a government interpreter that also took creative liberties with the translation.

In this case, Faraj asserted that the Feds even misrepresented Soueid’s Arabic name by simply typing the words of his English name into Google’s translate program. He continued that the government translator even went far as to take “extensive liberties” between Soueid and his wife and transformed it “into a sinister warning that has no basis in fact.”

The lawyer cited a government transcript of the conversation which has Soueid saying “God Damn you - you - I will deal with you later” and observed that only the word ‘you’ was said within that statement and the rest was a “fabrication.”

Faraj continued:

“Within the same paragraph, the translator takes even graver liberties with the truth. The translator writes “you are talking to me over the phone- and this phone belongs to Intelligence agency - I am not supposed to be talking on it.” The translator missed a clear announcement of the words “over there,” the non possessive “telephone” and then “the intelligence service/agency” rather than “this phone belongs to the Intelligence Agency. To a listener fluent in Arabic, the speaker clearly indicates that he was not free to speak on the telephone because the intelligence service monitors phone calls. And that statement fits contextually within the tone, volume, and playfulness of the back and forth dialogue between husband and wife who defiantly and jokily states “Me, the intelligence service knows me…I...I am not afraid of the intelligence service.” Anyone aware of Syrian language, culture and life in Syria understands that Syrians constantly assume their calls are being monitored. Syrian culture is rife with humor about the Mukhabarat listening in on conversations. Such cultural aspects of Syrian life are commonly known and should be understood by anyone undertaking to translate a Syrian dialect conversation into English. The errors and fabrications in the Government translation are troubling, twist the meaning and portray a conversation that is disconnected from reality.”

So, all in two sentences the government translator reportedly botched the English translation and made contextual and cultural errors. Several questions come to mind in this case and the one last month with the Iranian refugee in Canada: Are these cases of bad contracting? Or are these cases of contractors hiring uncertified Arabic translators? Or was this all due to a shortage of Arabic translators since 9/11, according to Talking Point Memo.com?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Road to Success

It is discouraging to watch the storm of economic uncertainty hovering over the country, and seeing job-seekers pursuing one elusive opportunity after another; interpreters and translators included. More than ever, resumes are important first-and-sometimes-only-impression to employers and is crucial to snatching that crucial interview.

World Services is always on the lookout for interpreters and translators all across the country. For you interpreters and translators looking for work, we have compiled a list of tips and advice for your resume to be considered should you decide to apply for us!

1. Be sure to include on-the-job accomplishments, these can be more telling than just a list of responsibilities!

2. Edit, edit, edit! Proofread and spell-check before submitting. As interpreters and translators, a.k.a. language professionals, demonstrate that you know how to use the written word or your abilities will be put into question.

3. Maintain a consistent format throughout your resume (keep margins, headers, and listing of responsibilities the same).

4. Identify languages that you are only 100% proficient. One semester of language X does not make you an expert.

5. Details! Point out all the experience you have as an interpreter/translator including any translation or interpretation certificates (Bridging the Gap, medical of court, ATA, NAJIT, etc.), company name/dates, projects and work done on the job.

6. Don’t have interpreting experience? Go volunteer at a local non-profit organization, school, hospital/clinic or foreign communities to get some!

Is your resume already all set and prepped to submit? Have all your paperwork in order as well, including: cover letter, copies of any certifications you may have, a list of cities that you are available to work and accurate contact information. Good luck out there on the job hunt!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lost in Translation - Siri Strikes the Scots

Despite being the butt-end of jokes (literally) in Japan, Apple’s Siri is again lost in translation— this time with the Scots. Scottish iPhone 4S users are discovering that Siri’s new voice recognition app is unable to understand their accents and is instead interpreting their dialect to bizarre and perplexing results.

According to the Daily Mail, irate messages have proliferated tech websites and forums and videos have even cropped up in YouTube; some videos even receiving more than 17,000 hits in just a week.

In one such video, a Scottish voice can be heard asking Siri: “Gonnae no dae that.” The phone bafflingly replied with: “Going Akila.”

“Can you dance with me?” is hilariously translated as “Can you dutch women.”

“We have tested out Siri a number of times with many different accents, such as Scottish, Welsh and Irish. We are not too sure if Apple is looking into this, we have been trying to find out,” said Mark Chubb, a gadget expert for Phones Review. “We will try and find out more, but at the moment it looks like a few will miss out on using this new Siri feature.”

Apple, for now, has refused to comment on the issue.
*Source: Daily Mail Online