Monday, April 30, 2007

When the translator has the final word (?)/ Traduttore, traditore!

Le sous-titre anti-Sarko - French Morning NY

It appears as though translators had the last word to say when they provided the subtitles for Mr. Sarkozy' speech: "S'unir à moi" transformed into "rally my inflated ego".

Whether this helped this candidate is still to be seen. Reminds me a bit of the alledged origins of the word sabotage, which consisted of throwing clogs (sabots) into machinery to create a breakdown.

For some reason, we have not seen this happen in Canada - too civilized for that sort of thing ? :-).

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Love at first sight in S.F. /Coup de foudre à San Francisco

During a recent jaunt to San Francisco, we decided to try a new restaurant in the Marina, called A16 (name of a Naples highway) and specializing in the cuisine of Campania, the area around Naples that includes Capri and the Amalfi coast.

Nous sommes d’habitude de petits mangeurs, c’est donc avec plaisir que nous avons découvert que les plats que sert A16 sont relativement petits et que l’on peut composer un repas respectable d’hors d’oeuvres, de salades et de desserts.

At our first visit, we were seated at a bar-like table, across from the pizza oven and were able to observe the fine art of pizza making. Watching also other food being lovingly prepared in the immediate area gave us a very good feel for the attitude of the staff toward their craft and their customers.

Un hors-d'œuvre que nous avons fort apprécié était une portion de gourganes en cosses, grillées au four avec menthe et sauce au poivre. Un délice de simplicité.

Les brochettes de lapin grillé dans un four au bois accompagné de carottes et de pois grillés étaient d’un goût exquis. Le vin rouge des environs de Naples suggéré par la serveuse accompagnait très bien la nourriture. Les desserts, dont le parfait au citron, sont offerts avec un choix de vins.

This link to the Fork & Bottle article provides photographs of some of the foods. We literally fell in love with A16 and …. came back for three more meals! It is possible to leave more than one’s heart in San Francisco. Cela confirme que l’on peut vivre pour manger et ne pas s’engraisser.

My own blog translated into Chinese! C'est du vrai chinois! 的翻译

While checking my sitemeter for visitors, I found that one of them had had my site translated into Chinese. I forwarded the link to a Chinese translator friend of mine for comments. Here they are:

"It's very obviously a machine translation. The result is: if you don't know English, you can't understand what the translation say. If you can make sense out of the translated text, you must be already fluent in English and don't need the translation in the first place.
A few things in here:
* The Chinese is done totally mechanically, mirroring English syntax. All the necessary recasting of the Chinese text didn't happen here.
* There is no passive voice in Chinese, because this is an isolated language, meaning each character is isolated from others as a single morph. There is no inflection. Each character shows up as it is. If you want to represent tense, voice, number, etc., you have to add some other characters, to mean just that, such as from "play" to "played". In here, this didn't happen. All passive voices were just mechanically switched back, which totally distorted the meaning.
* Selection of words is mechanical too, which I believe is typical of machine translation in all language pairs. No nuances were captured here. And many word selections were simply out of context.
* It's word-for-word translation and the words appear in the target text all in exactly the same places, totally disregarding the target language's grammatical structure.
* As you notice, the translation still comes with a few English word left untouched, obviously because they were not entered in the glossary database yet.

Overall, it's a horrible and totally unreadable translation. Waste of money and waste of time, plus, if used without caution, might cause big damage."

The indiscriminate use of translation software does indeed represent a great danger. That is why I caution my clients about it and will go to great pains to explain what risks they are taking. Buyer beware!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Vimy Ridge was a terrible waste of human potential

In his article from the Victoria Times Colonist , Brad Bird has a very convincing argument that the glorification of war is wrong and that there is a need for balance.

Il est intéressant de noter que dans la lecture des siteweb français et allemands sur les cimetières militaires, je n'ai trouvé ni rancune ni fanfaronnade. On déplore le sacrifice humain, c'est tout.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

History becomes myth/L'histoire devient un mythe

A mention in the French paper La Voix du Nord of New Zealand sappers working on the Vimy tunnels prompted me to research the subject further. On Blogger, Anthony's detailed description adds another dimension to this event. It is like a gigantic puzzle that is falling into place to reveal a fresco worth of a Michaelangelo or Brughel the Elder.

Voici un néo-zélandais que l'histoire passionne et qui nous donne une description détaillée des combats et des tactiques. Il nous rappelle aussi que c'est alors que le Canada a participé au Traité de Versailles à titre de signataire pour la première fois.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Underground tunnels built by New-Zealanders \ Les tunnels sont néo-zélandais

Article intéressant de la Voix du Nord sur l'arrivée de touristes anglais et canadiens pour célebrer le 90e Anniversaire de la bataille d'Arras.

The locals are expecting some 100, 000 tourists to visit Arras this year: remembrance tours are in vogue, says an English tourist.

What is interesting is a detail about the authors of the famed underground tunnels that are found around the area: they were built by New Zealand sappers to conceal some 25 000 British soldiers who were going to attack the Germans.

La Première Guerre était bel et bien une guerre internationale. Les alliés en font foi. WWI was very much an international war - here is a fine example of the Allies working together.

The real history of Vimy/ Vimy – la vraie histoire

Almost immediately after I learned of my friend’s daughter’s trip to Vimy, I started an Internet search about Vimy and WWI. Because of my fluency in both English and French, I was able to access and study websites in both languages. Very quickly, I realized that stories abounded on the various aspects of WWI and not all agreed. Michael Valpy’s article in the Globe & Mail on the myth of Vimy Ridge confirmed my misgivings.

I grew up in France and was influenced by the perception of WWI (and WWII) which prevailed at that time – that these had been horrible wars, that they had been fought justly, and that the dead should be honoured.

In the early sixties, I was able to visit many a war cemetery in Belgium, Luxembourg and France which drove one point: regardless of the side the combatants were on, war was horrible, senseless and futile.

I will definitely watch the proceedings in Vimy on Canadian television as there are always new things to learn, but as the saying goes – I will take the rhetoric “avec un grain de sel”.

It is rather interesting that there is an organisation in Germany that promotes work camps for young people 14 to 25 to spend their summer holidays while working on the maintenance of French and German cemeteries. Pour mes lecteurs français, voici le lien à la version française du même site. Their aim: to provide an opportunity to live in an international and multicultural setting, to practice languages, to be the witness of French and German history, and to help maintain military cemeteries which represent monuments for peace.

Maybe our young Canadians might be interested in this as well?

Read what they think in Ottawa.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

An angled servant at your service/ Serviteur d’angle à votre service

Shopping in the local Canadian Tire store, I chanced upon the bathroom section, which showed various tub accessories: showerheads, soap caddies, etc. One package caught my eye: It was called Corner Caddy – it was triangular, had suction cups and allowed the user to store soap and shampoo on a little shelf wedged in the corner of the bath wall.

The French side wasn’t as cute. It said: Serviteur d’angle

I guess a golf caddy can be a server, a helper, but it is not human – serviteur is. As for angle – a corner can indeed be an angle, but it usually protrudes. Let us look as specific equivalents:

Un coin de rue - a street corner

Un coin d’une boîte - a corner of a box

Un coin d’une table - a corner of a table

Devices that support something may be described as follows:

Portemanteau - coat hanger

Porte-bouteille - bottle caddy

Porte-clés - key chain

Porte-bagages - luggage rack

Porte-cartes- (business) card holder

So to convey the idea that the item fits in a particular way and performs a specific action, we could say:

Porte-savon en coin (in the shape of a corner)

Why do you think French-speaking customers get upset when they see this kind of communication?

Monument historique - Correction - Historical Monument

I was listening to the 4:30 p.m. Radio-Canada news today where is it was announced that Prime Minister Harper had ordered corrections to be made to the mistakes found on signs at the Vimy Monument in France, before the official ceremonies start on Monday.

Un peu plus tôt dans la journée, le logiciel de visiteurs de mon blogue me signalait qu’un lecteur du gouvernement fédéral avait lu mon blogue – coïncidence? Je suis persuadé que c’est surtout l’article de Radio-Canada qui avait soulevé un tollé.

The important is that the mistakes be corrected so that no one participating be insulted or belittled.

8 p.m. Another link gives the dénouement of the story.

Monument historique : Un français à restaurer | National |

Monument historique : Un français à restaurer | National |

Mistakes can be made, but when they happen in a public place, the reaction is much stronger. Proofreading mistakes in "official" utterences is an absolute must.

Les contrôles ordinaires (si ils existent) n'ont pas suffi pour éviter ce genre de bévue. J'espère que le ministère responsable prendra l'initiative immédiatement pour faire corriger les erreurs en cause ou pour au moins signifier aux lecteurs que les fautes seront corrigées.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Misleading headings/Titres bizzares

I have noticed that newspaper titles are used in many different ways, especially when they serve as a link to the story. I was somewhat taken aback this morning when I found a heading on the Globe & Mail website that said:

Building permits plunge.

A bit intrigued, I clicked the title and lo and behold found:

Building permits plunge

Canadian building permits unexpectedly plunged to their lowest level in a year, paced by declines in Toronto and Vancouver, as the weather turned colder…..

So it was not an animated building that decided to try the waters.

On the French side of things, on the CBC especially, the Google and MSN transcribers have a rough time. French titles are usually preceded by a qualifying statement, for example: Vie sociale – De l’importance de votre cortex. Without the explanation, the title is much harder to understand.

Another one was: Crise politique en Ukraine – Le premier minister tend la main au président. On a referral French page, only the second (main) title is shown: The prime minister reaches out to the president. Could it be Harper and Bush? Without the word Ukraine, any guess is ok with this little context.

Reminds me of the classical heading translation example:

“PROFESSOR BURNS LEAVES ON COMMENCEMENT.” The all-cap approach conceals the fact that Burns is a proper name, not a verb. You can image what a beginner translator might do with this and describe a new ritual of burning leaves at a graduation.

Context is everything in translation. Make sure you provide all of it to the translator you hire – otherwise, he too might take the plunge.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Diagramme de cause à effet pour la traduction

Back in May of last year, I posted this translation fishbone diagram but failed to provide a French version - here it is.

Voici la version française de mon diagramme de cause à effet sur la traduction. J'ai découvert que mes clients industriels comprennent mieux ce genre d'explication que des explications écrites.