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
> 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
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.