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Richard
02-11-2013, 09:03
Some very good examples of the importance of acquiring and maintaing good language skills.

For me, the lesson was learned most when I was in Thailand. Thai was very difficult for me as it is a mellifluously multi-tonal language and I often had difficulty hearing and replicating the tonal variations. Fortunately, the Thais were wonderfully understanding and I could always tell when I'd gotten it wrong...from their laughing at me while attempting to politely correct me.

It also taught me another important lesson in learning foreign languages - the value of attempting to communicate with a people in their own language in an unassuming manner; IMO it's importance cannot be overly emphasized and I always found it went a long way in establishing critical relationships and understanding with HN partners.

Richard :munchin

9 Little Translation Mistakes That Caused Big Problems
TheWeek, 11 Feb 2013

The importance of good translation is most obvious when things go wrong Knowing how to speak two languages is not the same thing as knowing how to translate. Translation is a special skill that professionals work hard to develop. In their new book Found in Translation, professional translators Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche give a spirited tour of the world of translation, full of fascinating stories about everything from volunteer text-message translators during the Haitian earthquake rescue effort, to the challenges of translation at the Olympics and the World Cup, to the personal friendships celebrities like Yao Ming and Marlee Matlin have with their translators. Here are nine examples from the book that show just how high-stakes the job of translation can be.

1. The $71 million word

In 1980, 18-year-old Willie Ramirez was admitted to a Florida hospital in a comatose state. His friends and family tried to describe his condition to the paramedics and doctors who treated him, but they only spoke Spanish. Translation was provided by a bilingual staff member who translated "intoxicado" as "intoxicated." A professional interpreter would have known that "intoxicado" is closer to "poisoned" and doesn't carry the same connotations of drug or alcohol use that "intoxicated" does. Ramirez's family believed he was suffering from food poisoning. He was actually suffering from an intracerebral hemorrhage, but the doctors proceeded as if he were suffering from an intentional drug overdose, which can lead to some of the symptoms he displayed. Because of the delay in treatment, Ramirez was left quadriplegic. He received a malpractice settlement of $71 million.

2. Your lusts for the future

When President Carter traveled to Poland in 1977, the State Department hired a Russian interpreter who knew Polish, but was not used to interpreting professionally in that language. Through the interpreter, Carter ended up saying things in Polish like "when I abandoned the United States" (for "when I left the United States") and "your lusts for the future" (for "your desires for the future"), mistakes that the media in both countries very much enjoyed.

3. We will bury you

At the height of the cold war, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev gave a speech in which he uttered a phrase that interpreted from Russian as "we will bury you." It was taken as chilling threat to bury the U.S. with a nuclear attack and escalated the tension between the U.S. and Russia. However, the translation was a bit too literal. The sense of the Russian phrase was more that "we will live to see you buried" or "we will outlast you." Still not exactly friendly, but not quite so threatening.

4. Do nothing

In 2009, HSBC bank had to launch a $10 million rebranding campaign to repair the damage done when its catchphrase "Assume Nothing" was mistranslated as "Do Nothing" in various countries.

5. Markets tumble

A panic in the world's foreign exchange market led the U.S. dollar to plunge in value after a poor English translation of an article by Guan Xiangdong of the China News Service zoomed around the internet. The original article was a casual, speculative overview of some financial reports, but the English translation sounded much more authoritative and concrete.

6. What's that on Moses's head?

St. Jerome, the patron saint of translators, studied Hebrew so he could translate the Old Testament into Latin from the original, instead of from the third century Greek version that everyone else had used. The resulting Latin version, which became the basis for hundreds of subsequent translations, contained a famous mistake. When Moses comes down from Mount Sinai his head has "radiance" or, in Hebrew, "karan." But Hebrew is written without the vowels, and St. Jerome had read "karan" as "keren," or "horned." From this error came centuries of paintings and sculptures of Moses with horns and the odd offensive stereotype of the horned Jew.

7. Chocolates for him

In the '50s, when chocolate companies began encouraging people to celebrate Valentine's Day in Japan, a mistranslation from one company gave people the idea that it was customary for women to give chocolate to men on the holiday. And that's what they do to this day. On February 14, the women of Japan shower their men with chocolate hearts and truffles, and on March 14 the men return the favor. An all-around win for the chocolate companies!

8. You must defeat Sheng Long

In the Japanese video game Street Fighter II, a character says, "if you cannot overcome the Rising Dragon Punch, you cannot win!" When this was translated from Japanese into English, the characters for "rising dragon" were interpreted as "Sheng Long." The same characters can have different readings in Japanese, and the translator, working on a list of phrases and unaware of the context, thought a new person was being introduced to the game. Gamers went crazy trying to figure out who this Sheng Long was and how they could defeat him. In 1992, as an April Fools Day joke, Electronic Gaming Monthly published elaborate and difficult to execute instructions for how to find Sheng Long. It wasn't revealed as a hoax until that December, after countless hours had no doubt been wasted.

9. Trouble at Waitangi

In 1840, the British government made a deal with the Maori chiefs in New Zealand. The Maori wanted protection from marauding convicts, sailors, and traders running roughshod through their villages, and the British wanted to expand their colonial holdings. The Treaty of Waitangi was drawn up and both sides signed it. But they were signing different documents. In the English version, the Maori were to "cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty." In the Maori translation, composed by a British missionary, they were not to give up sovereignty, but governance. They thought they were getting a legal system, but keeping their right to rule themselves. That's not how it turned out, and generations later the issues around the meaning of this treaty are still being worked out.

http://theweek.com/article/index/239906/9-little-translation-mistakes-that-caused-big-problems

Dusty
02-11-2013, 09:13
[COLOR="Lime"]In 1980, 18-year-old Willie Ramirez was admitted to a Florida hospital in a comatose state. His friends and family tried to describe his condition to the paramedics and doctors who treated him, but they only spoke Spanish. Translation was provided by a bilingual staff member who translated "intoxicado" as "intoxicated." A professional interpreter would have known that "intoxicado" is closer to "poisoned" and doesn't carry the same connotations of drug or alcohol use that "intoxicated" does. Ramirez's family believed he was suffering from food poisoning. He was actually suffering from an intracerebral hemorrhage, but the doctors proceeded as if he were suffering from an intentional drug overdose, which can lead to some of the symptoms he displayed. Because of the delay in treatment, Ramirez was left quadriplegic. He received a malpractice settlement of $71 million.



Que embarazada!

mark46th
02-11-2013, 10:12
Oh Stewardess! I speak Jive!!

longrange1947
02-11-2013, 11:18
Richard, while I agree that language is important, I also believe that equally important is the ability to work through an interrupter. I firmly believe that SWC is missing out by not teaching this important skill due to total emphasis on language skills only.

While 7th group can get away with Spanish and a smattering of Portuguese, 1st Group and 10th Group has a vast array of languages that would be impossible to keep up with. While in 1st I was hit with Thai, Korean, Japanese, Hmong, a dialect in form the Philippines that I can't remember how to spell anymore and finally 6 months in the Marshall Islands. In the 10th, I was hit with Italian, Spanish, French, German, and Hungarian.


A friend had his face burned off by the SWC GO, for recommending that classes be taught working through terps. Heresy they said, learn the language they said. BS I said. Luckily it was my last year in SWC, I retired.

Sorry rant off. End of my two cents. :D

Sdiver
02-11-2013, 11:21
Oh Stewardess! I speak Jive!!

Perfect cup of coffee runied, along with my laptop.
Thanks. :D :D :D

Richard
02-11-2013, 11:43
...while I agree that language is important, I also believe that equally important is the ability to work through an interrupter.

Wholeheartedly concur.

Working through an interpreter or multiple interpreters can be challenging and frustrating. I was teaching some med skills to a group of HN construction workers (in that part of the world, they worked for the HN govt and were armed with Thompson's to protect themselves from CT attack) and they were effin' up left and right. I chewed 'em out and knew enough of the language to know my interpreter was not conveying the message as forcefully as I wanted - so I had to jump on him for it, letting him know that if I was this angry, he had better let them know that I was that angry and not try to butter up to his fellow countrymen by making it sound as if I was not as upset over their lack of performance as I was. He then lit into them and, once we understood each other, we got along fine from then on. Thanks, Vong, wherever you may be.

I think the article points out very well what happens when you have to depend upon an interpreter, they get it wrong and you don't have the resources to know whether it's wrong or not, and you then have to live with the consequences anyway.

Anyway, good point LR.

Richard :munchin

mark46th
02-11-2013, 14:22
Good point Longrange- A good interpreter and knowing how to use him/her is vital. I remember the first time I gave a commo class to locals- I started off on a detailed plan that was perfect except for the part about how to turn on the radio... Fortunately, my interpreter brought it to my attention without making me look too foolish in front of the class...

miclo18d
02-12-2013, 06:41
Que embarazada!

Good one!

I was in Tacna, Peru setting up a DZ for my team and I had a 7th Grps rigger with me. We had hired a bus to transport the jumpers from the DZ to the airport to reboard the plane for another jump then they would fly back to Lima and we would do it again the next day.

We set up all the radios and markers and were just waiting for the MC-130 to check in, when the bus driver walked over with his daughter to check out what was going on. I must have been busy because he went to the rigger and asked, "Ella (my daughter) no se molesta?" Not being a Spanish speaker he started to freak out. He asked me, "I think this guy is accusing me of molesting his daughter. I started laughing and explained to him that though molest has a bad connotation in English it's alternate meaning in English and meaning in Spanish is to bother. The guy was asking him if his daughter was bothering him.




There are also the language course examples of misinterpretations...

The Ford Pinto did not sell well in Brazil; turns out pinto in Portugese meas small dick.

The Chevy Nova didn't sell we'll in South America. No va means it doesn't go.

And Gerber baby food didn't sell very well in foreign countries. Seems that illiterate populations use pictures to know what's in baby food. They didn't want to feed baby (pictured on the Gerber label) to their babies.

Dusty
02-12-2013, 07:47
It is better to be smart enough to use a translator than dumb enough to say something that gets you in trouble.

Concur.

longrange1947
02-12-2013, 09:23
And remember, while embibing in alchol, your language abilities do not increase, contrary to some, and mine, beliefs. :D

There is a vast difference between Cuba Libre and Cuca Libre, especially when the bar tender is a female. :munchin

Dusty
02-12-2013, 09:34
And remember, while embibing in alchol, your language abilities do not increase, contrary to some, and mine, beliefs. :D

There is a vast difference between Cuba Libre and Cuca Libre, especially when the bar tender is a female. :munchin

lol Like, "Que tetas creyendo?" :D

ZonieDiver
02-12-2013, 09:49
And remember, while embibing in alchol, your language abilities do not increase, contrary to some, and mine, beliefs.Yeah, but I can roll my Rs rrrrreally well after that 2nd cerveza.

But, I can rrrrroll my Rs a lot betterrrrr after that 2nd cerrrrveza.

Richard
02-12-2013, 10:08
I remember when my wife was learning Deutsch and went into a little market near Walkensee to get some sliced cheese and asked the owner for 500 grams of 'sliced cash register'.

She still gets angry if I mention it. :D

Richard :munchin

MtnGoat
02-12-2013, 12:03
Richard, while I agree that language is important, I also believe that equally important is the ability to work through an interrupter. I firmly believe that SWC is missing out by not teaching this important skill due to total emphasis on language skills only.
I heard that SWC is covering working with a interrupter

longrange1947
02-12-2013, 13:16
I heard that SWC is covering working with a interrupter

After my post, I saw where a class is to be given during language training.
Questions are, will they do it, how in depth, will there be PE periods?

Too much has been glossed over in the name of "speaking", it has been forgotten that the actual norm is through at least one terp, and possibly more than one. It is a bitch to be a 3,3 in Spanish and have to give a class in Urdu, one terp understands English/Spanish but speaks Farsi while another speaks Farsi and Urdu. Go for it.

"Our" job is to teach, and overcome all obstacles to do so. The better prepared, the better the job will be accomplished.

Understanding that the "Our" means SF and not me as I am retired and don't do that stuff anymore. :munchin :D

Controlling a terp, making sure he is conveying EXACTLY what you are saying, with not only the meaning but with intent and intensity. Lots to be put forth for someone to be properly preped.

I was not when I first worked with terps in Thailand and Taiwan.

LimaPanther
02-12-2013, 20:04
Grandson has completed Phase I and now in Language He already speaks Spanish but in class for Pashto. Any tips I can give him to help him along?

cowboykpy
02-13-2013, 00:36
I didn't graduate that long ago, but my biggest problem with the way SWC taught language to us was that we learned conversational language with very little military related subjects. I get that we need to know how to conjugate and use the correct tense, but more military vocabulary would improve the training. I'm not saying we shouldn't learn how to book a hotel or pay for a meal, but learning how to explain a non-electric firing system would have been beneficial.;)

ODA 226
02-13-2013, 08:40
Richard, while I agree that language is important, I also believe that equally important is the ability to work through an interrupter.

Usually I work through an "Interrupter" by bitch slapping him and then say I'm sorry to my host through my "Interpreter". :p

longrange1947
02-13-2013, 09:09
I didn't graduate that long ago, but my biggest problem with the way SWC taught language to us was that we learned conversational language with very little military related subjects. I get that we need to know how to conjugate and use the correct tense, but more military vocabulary would improve the training. I'm not saying we shouldn't learn how to book a hotel or pay for a meal, but learning how to explain a non-electric firing system would have been beneficial.;)

When I was at with 10th at Devens, our Hungarian Language course was taught non DOD for that very reason. The instructor was native born and taught "Pheasant Hungarian" instead of "high born" Hungarian. We were taught military terms and how to talk with a 'G' chief and be the "terp". Teh final exam was not the normal reading comp/understanding comp but was out Team Leader playing his job and the instructor was the 'G' Chief. I spent an hour translating for the Tm Ldr during a mock 'G' leader meeting.

I still get a headache thinking back to that hour. :D

However, I felt better prepared to do my job on a team with a group of 'Gs' then I have ever felt coming out of one of the DLI short courses. I agree, too much emphasis is on the DLI/DOS portion of the course. You will not be a tourist nor will you be a diplomat working with high born prigs. You will be working with solid citizens trying to learn how to effectively fight a war. The course should prepare you for that and not just how to ask "where is the bathroom".

MR2
02-13-2013, 09:37
"Pheasant Hungarian" instead of "high born" Hungarian.

An excellent example of how difficult a job translating is.

ZonieDiver
02-13-2013, 09:43
An excellent example of how difficult a job translating is.


Mmmmmm! "Pheasant Hungarian"! I'm sure Chef Penn will be along soon with a tasty recipe.:D

longrange1947
02-13-2013, 09:46
Hey, that is how the Hungarian instructor named it, I was quoting him. :munchin :D

Richard
02-13-2013, 10:13
..."Pheasant Hungarian" instead of "high born" Hungarian...

Reminded me of this scene (starts at 1:20 mark). :p :D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sztf4hcGrB4

Richard :munchin

UWOA
02-13-2013, 11:17
It is better to be smart enough to use a translator than dumb enough to say something that gets you in trouble.

Да, я согласен с вами (Roger that!)

UWOA
02-13-2013, 11:26
Grandson has completed Phase I and now in Language He already speaks Spanish but in class for Pashto. Any tips I can give him to help him along?

Immersion is the best route. Speak only in the target language and try to think in the target language rather than translate. When you reach that stage, it's like tripping a mental switch ....

MtnGoat
02-13-2013, 12:50
Immersion is the best route. Speak only in the target language and try to think in the target language rather than translate. When you reach that stage, it's like tripping a mental switch ....

Very well said

Badger52
02-13-2013, 16:30
Immersion is the best route. Speak only in the target language and try to think in the target language rather than translate. When you reach that stage, it's like tripping a mental switch ....Heartily concur. Immersion in German with Germans (Berliners) took 4 yrs of HS french & pitched it most rikki-tik. (Although down south I used to catch krap in Bavaria for my accent.)

The immersion approach works for Morse as well, just imho. Otherwise people are running a table in their head trying to x-ref one to the other, but will eventually hit "the wall." Dive in, the water's fine.

I mean, what could happen....?

:D

longrange1947
02-13-2013, 16:32
Immersion is the best route. Speak only in the target language and try to think in the target language rather than translate. When you reach that stage, it's like tripping a mental switch ....

It is embarrassing though when you are speaking a language and someone asks you a question in English and you say huh? :munchin :D

Dusty
02-13-2013, 16:33
It is embarrassing though when you are speaking a language and someone asks you a question in English and you say huh? :munchin :D

lol True! That does happen, and it's weird. :D

s
02-16-2013, 16:39
It is embarrassing though when you are speaking a language and someone asks you a question in English and you say huh? :munchin :D

Sir,

from your posts I believe you're well versed in working with "terps". I happen to be one ( I have a degree in translation and interpreting) , and I employ my skills both in the interest of the USG ( as I said before on this board, I work for the navy ) and for myself ( i freelance) . All of your posts have been well on point. And, if I may, seeing things from the other side ( terp side) I can tell you without the slightest shade of doubt that it's a lot easier for me to work with someone used to being interpreted than with somebody who's never had to deal with a terp in his whole life. One reason being the fact that, for example, source and destination languages can have completely different origins ( I.e. germanic Vs. romance) and therefore different grammar structures and vocabulary. To be more specific, it happens quite often that I find myself talking for a couple of minutes in order to convey a message that it took the english speaking person 30 seconds to deliver.
Interpreter's quality, training and experience are also vital. When I started, nine years ago, I wasn't used to dealing with a military environment, terminology and culture. It took me at least a year and a half to start feeling confident with this field, provided that I was was specialized in medical translations/interpretership.

Also, more to your point, many people fail to focus on the core aspect of the craft: interpreting.
Code switching, the act of conveying a message from a source code ( language A) to a destination code ( language B) isn't a mere compilatory work. It requires a whole lot more than just a mere "word swap". Context, linguistic nuances, speaker's intentions and demeanor. I could go on for a few extra lines.

s
02-16-2013, 16:44
It is embarrassing though when you are speaking a language and someone asks you a question in English and you say huh? :munchin :D

How about when shit hits the fan on traffic accident scene, and you start answering in french to question that was asked to you in english by an italian national? :D
I call that a linguistic goatfuck... :)

Richard
02-17-2013, 08:46
One language too many...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0wNl66tT3Q

Richard :munchin