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36284Re: [Czechlist] Re: When reality is comical

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  • James Kirchner
    Apr 20, 2008
      On Apr 20, 2008, at 12:43 PM, melvyn.geo wrote:
      > >I've been doing a lot of work for the French, and when they try to
      > put
      > on a gala event for a weekend sales seminar or something like that,
      > everything they're doing sounds so hilariously, stereotypically over-
      > the-top French that people in many English-speaking countries would
      > find it almost satirical and VERY funny.
      > Any chance of some examples?

      A company brings a bunch of salespeople from all over the world and
      entertains them with a comedy ballet written especially for the
      occasion, with Moliere as the main character. Later, in an attempt to
      jog the creative thinking of the salespeople, they trot out some chef
      to explain how he conceived some Frenchie dessert he makes that
      doesn't look like it took a genius.

      This is for the kind of event where Americans produce basketball
      coaches and famous entrepreneurs. The prospect of watching a comedy
      ballet with guys in lacy cuffs and wigs would seem bizarrely French to
      us and inappropriate to the occasion. But if that's the shindig
      they're putting on, whataya gonna do! I did my best to make it not

      > >Obviously we can't change the substance of what we translate, but do
      > you have any techniques for softening the blow?
      > Elsewhere I seem to remember Newmark wrote that Anglo-Saxon cool
      > understatement sometimes makes a nice cultural equivalent for Gallic
      > exuberance. I think he had something in mind like "on s'est vachement
      > marré" = "we had a bit of a chuckle". :-) Worth considering perhaps in
      > some persuasive contexts.

      This would work with the British, but North Americans would
      misinterpret that understatement as being meant literally. We'd have
      to translate hyperbole with hyperbole. This is a common problem of
      Americans working in the UK, who are liable to misinterpret a British
      supervisor's, "Well done!" as meaning their work was well done.

      > >I imagine Czechs must have this problem a lot when translating the
      > more enthusiastic internal communications from American companies.
      > I'd be interested in people's thoughts.
      > I would often tone down the enthusiasm in persuasive texts for a
      > British audience. It can be quite counter-productive, as we are often
      > just not in the mood. :-)

      There was a good article in the Wall Street Journal about how an
      American ad campaign for Apple Computer had to be rewritten and reshot
      with different actors for Japan and the UK, but that the original
      banter was okay for Germany, France and Italy. Part of it had to do
      with how sensitive the cultures are to bragging.

      > To go off on a well-worn tangent:
      > Zabezpecujeme provadeni zn^ovych praci (=sklizime obili - see
      > Saturday's LN Orientace supplement p. 22). Should one make Czech
      > officialese sound like stiff upper-lip English officialese or
      > "Campaign for Real English" English? I find that is often the
      > question.

      And what if the officialese is partly for effect and is not actually
      meant to convey any meaning?

      A recent book on Chinese English points out that some of it is not
      meant to convey information in English, but to convey that information
      is being conveyed in English.

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