... The fact that it doesn t deal with syntax or linguistic terminology doesn t mean it s not useful to translators. I m finding more and more that people sMessage 1 of 12 , May 5, 2008View SourceOn May 4, 2008, at 2:32 AM, Jirka Bolech wrote:
> Thanks, Michel and Jamie, for educating me further on the subject.The fact that it doesn't deal with syntax or linguistic terminology
> basically started a new thread and not a very linguistic one.
doesn't mean it's not useful to translators. I'm finding more and
more that people's problems with translation are often due to an
inability to visualize what's behind the words, and absorbing more
knowledge about legal systems, technical processes or social behavior
helps people make the jump from words on a page to actual
understanding and sensible translation.
It's possible to know every word on a page, and not understand
anything. As I've mentioned before on the list, I demonstrate this
with my ESL classes. I give them this paragraph, which contains no
words that they don't know:
"It was the day of the big party. Jennifer wondered if Tom would like
a kite. She went to her room and shook her piggy bank. There was no
Then I ask them these questions:
1. What kind of party is it?
2. How old are Tom and Jennifer?
3. Why is there no sound?
A woman recently arrived from Lebanon says:
1. "The party is a wedding."
2. "I don't know how old Tom and Jennifer are, but they're definitely
3. "There's no sound because the guests haven't arrived yet."
A man from Macedonia says:
3. "There's no sound because the wind isn't blowing on the beach, and
they can't fly the kites."
A woman from Vietnam -- the best student in the class -- says:
"I think this paragraph has no meaning!"
The Chinese woman agrees.
Most of the people who misunderstand the paragraph -- whose meaning is
obvious to Americans -- come from countries with no tradition of
children's birthday parties or of children having their own money.
The same thing can happen to translators, even though they have
relatively sophisticated language knowledge. I've done many a repair
job on translations that were botched because the first translator
couldn't picture the situation. I got one that had a Bohemian glass
producer delivering large quantities of glass to St. John twice a
year. Of course, by medieval times, St. John had been dead for
centuries, but the original translator apparently had no clue about
scheduling things according to the Catholic liturgical calendar (such
as on the feast of St. John), rather than according to numerical dates.
I've seen a Czech interpreter translate an explanation of how vacant
housing in an American city is rehabilitated as if the US city were
reenacting the 1948 communist seizure of the Czech bourgeoisie's
houses and their breaking them up into apartments. The city was
actually selling abandoned houses to people at a discount. The Czech
interpreter lacked the mental schema for abandoned housing and its
disposal, because this doesn't really exist in Europe.
The same day, I saw an American banker talk about a volunteer
organization of bankers that met a couple of times a week to research
and apply for improvement grants for the city. It was all totally for
free, but the then mayor of Brno talked to me later and had understood
it as a scheme for flowing the grant money through the banks so that
the banks could take a piece of it. This was not stated, and it
wasn't happening, but because His Honor the Mayor lacked the right
cultural schema in his mind, he completely misunderstood what was
being told to him, even in his own language.
So this cultural stuff is important.
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