Translating Aotearoa


November 2014

Found in translation 15

All translations are not equal. A good translation is one that conveys the same meaning as the source text and sounds natural in the target language (if that is the desired outcome of the translation). Some do just the opposite. Here are some of the greatest blunders found in translation, gathered from the Web and suggested by some of you. We hope you enjoy them.

If you come across funny or appalling mistranslations, feel free to share them with us.

  1. Crab driving

While some road works were being done in Kyushu, Japan, a detour sign was installed and read:Stop: Drive Sideways.’ Most English speaking drivers wouldn’t know what to do!

  1. Religious dental care

It isn’t well known but you can get dental treatment at your local church. At least, this seems to be the case in Hong Kong where a dentist proudly advertised: ‘Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.’

  1. Zombies picking flowers

Following a number of incidents and complaints, a sign was posted in an Italian cemetery: ‘Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves.’ Flower-picking zombies are really an issue after all!

November 2014 news

This is a brief review of translation and language news from around the world, along with the links to the relevant content. Let us know if you come across interesting online content!

Tel Aviv University launched a new programme in medical interpreting to help Eritrean refugees in Israel when they go to the hospital. Listen to the podcast on the website of Tel Aviv’s English-language internet radio station TLV1.

Apple launched the Apple Watch, for which ‘you don’t even have to use words’. Non-verbal communication is the future, or so it seems. The Intersect blogger and Washington Post journalist Caitlin Dewey wonders if we still need words.

American journalist Robert Lane Greene takes a stand against ‘zombie nouns’ in his blog Prospero. Out with nominalised verbs and in with short, clear sentences and concrete nouns.

What if the internet, TV and crowdsourcing contributed to revitalising endangered languages? Viki and the Living Tongues Institute launched an Endangered and Emerging Languages Programme, an initiative aimed at crowdsourcing subtitles for popular shows in endangered languages. The National Geographic published the official press release.

My language tells the world who I am

Fanaura, one of our Cook Island Maori translators, shares what her mother tongue means to her and why she works as a translator. We will publish her account in several parts.

Kia orana kotou katoatoa i te aroa maata o to tatou Atu Akaora ko Iesu Mesia.

Greetings to you all in the precious name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Old stamp from the Cook IslandsI consider myself an extremely lucky person considering the fact that from the very early age of 12 years (in 1952) I found myself alone with over one hundred English speaking children and teachers at St. Mary’s Diocesan private boarding school, in Stratford, Taranaki.  There were also 5 Samoan and 3 Tongan students at the school, but I was the only Cook Island Maori student.  It was to be expected therefore that English was the only language of communication for me, not being Samoan or Tongan.

Most fortunately for me however, my father and mother were also in New Zealand for two years so that my father could attend a further 2 years of theological studies at what was then the Mt. Eden Congregational Theological College in Auckland.  My father had completed the required 5 years theological studies in Rarotonga, but the Head of the national Takamoa Theological College who was from England, decided my dad should come to New Zeeland and do 2 more years of study.

I was lucky because with my parents in Auckland, I was allowed to go and stay with them during the school holidays.  All Pacific Island students in those days had to go with friends from their school “to help further improve their English”, according to the Department of Education in Wellington!

While at St. Mary’s, it became a habit for me to keep correcting my friends at school whenever they mispronounced a NZ Maori word, or the Maori name of a town, of a person, and every Maori word pronounced incorrectly.  When the May holidays arrived, it meant a long train ride from Stratford to Auckland.  And of course, all the way I would quickly correct my school friends when they kept mispronouncing Maori names of the towns the train went through.  We eventually arrived at Auckland and there my mum and dad were waiting for me!

On our way in a taxi to the Mt. Eden Theological College, I was bubbling over with all I had to tell my Mum and Dad about the school, the boarding house, the freezing temperatures of Stratford, the teachers, the Anglican church we attended every Sunday and so on and so forth.  I had barely started chattering however, when my mother firmly put her hands on my knee and said to me in a very stern but quiet voice, “Look, he [pointing to my Dad] is Maori, I am Maori [pointing to herself], and you are Maori [pointing to me!].  When you go back to where you have just come from, you speak to them in that language.  When you come back to us, don’t speak to us in English.  We are Maori and we have our own language.  I don’t want you to speak to us in that other language but in our own Maori language!”

That lesson from my mother over 62 years ago has remained with me ever since.  The fact that I was the only Cook Island Maori student at St. Mary’s for the one year I was there before I was sent on to New Plymouth Girls High School, where again, I was the only Cook Island Maori student with a huge number of boarders at “Scotlands”, the boarding house, and even more at school, as well again as a lot more Samoan and Tongan students than there were at Stratford, did not deter me from keeping my language through reading my Maori Bible and singing songs and hymns to myself.

To be continued…


The return of the square bracket

Image of square bracketsThere may be some confusion as to how to use square brackets for place names. This short article will hopefully clarify our standard practice, which has, as you may have realised, evolved over the years (hence the confusion). Our overarching principle is to be helpful by giving useful information, and careful by avoiding unnecessary risks. Place names are often stated with no mention of their corresponding countries. Does that mean that you should insert the countries in square brackets? Not necessarily.

While the name of the country isn’t stated, it might be obvious that the city is located in a specific country. There might be an emblem, the look and feel of the document may point to specific national practices etc. Only use square brackets if there is room for error or confusion.

For example, a German police clearance certificate might state that the holder was born in Berlin. The document was obviously issued by a German authority, as it bears the national eagle, and it was issued in Bonn. Plus, why would the German Ministry of Justice feel the need to specify that Berlin is in Germany?

Another example is a police clearance issued in Dubai. The holder is born in Paris, but no country is stated. There’s no place with such name in the United Arab Emirates. The holder may be French – her surname sounds French – but we have no certainty of that. There are quite a few places named Paris, the most famous one likely to be Paris, Texas. In this case, square brackets are needed.

2014 TTS party

While we had to cancel our party earlier this year for various reasons, it was important to us to organise an event to thank you all for your hard work. What better day for such a party than the International Translation Day on 30 September?

Picture of Surinder, John, Giovanni and Bill
From left to right: Surinder, John, Giovanni, Bill
Picture of Patrick and Sevana
Sevana and Patrick
Picture of Alepano and Céline
Alepano and Céline
Picture of Sevana, Vincent and Sanying
Sevana, Vincent and Sanying

With about 20 of our freelance translators, this year’s party was well attended despite the short notice and cold weather. It was nice to see you all again, or meet some of you in person for the first time. Hopefully you enjoyed it as much as we did, and hopefully more of you will be able to come next year.

From left to right: John, Monika, Demetrius, Patrick, Giovanni, Sevana, Bill, Surinder, Yvonne, Margaret, Alepano, Linh, Céline, Sanying, Stefan, Pavel, Anneta, Jing, and Vincent

Thank you to all of you who came and thank you to Linh for organising it!

Translators have communication issues too

Mox is a young but well educated translator. Two PHDs, six languages… and he hardly earns the minimum wage. Find out more about Mox’s adventures on his blog.

Comic strip showing Mox and a woman: Mox says 'I had a CAT too but I had to get rid of it because it wouldn't run fast enough.' The woman replies: 'You got rid of your cat because it wasn't fast?' He then says 'No big deal. After all, I made it run for 14 hours a day for two years. I'll just buy a new one and make it run even longer.'A policeman appears andgrabs Mox 'You d'on't understand, Officer. I'm a translator and my CAT tools are part of my job...' The officer says 'this one will end up in a psychiatric hospital.' Mox 'Yipee! Lots of time to translate!'.

Who is Linh?

Portrait of LinhLinh was born in Vietnam to a family of 7 kids of which she is the youngest. She grew up in New Zealand in Lower Hutt and now lives in Wadestown in a house that faces the bush. She studied Fine Arts and majored in audio visual art and theory. Her passion for lending a voice to others less able to communicate their needs led her to pursue a career in advocacy.

In her spare time she enjoys learning about the world through documentaries (particularly ones on nature, history, space, and the occasional conspiracy theory….ahem), She is also a lover of music.  Two of her goals are to make more videos and to one day to be able to film the Aurora Borealis.

So let’s find out a little more about Linh….

Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A:  Freedom of the mind, and to have the space and time to learn more about the things I love.

Q: What is your greatest fear?

A:  Mice. They are my kryptonite and I have even had hypnotherapy to try and manage my phobia. More introspectively, I fear the idea of total lack of purpose. 

Q: Which person do you most admire?

A:  It’s a toss up between David Attenborough, Stephen Hawking, and Neil Armstrong

Q: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

A:  Shyness/awkwardness

Q: What is the trait you most deplore in others?

A:  Ignorance/lack of empathy

Q: What is your greatest extravagance?

A:  I spend a lot of time trawling through music, watching films and documentaries, and musing over various subjects, so my greatest extravagance is the amount of time and energy I devote to my interests.

Q: On what occasions do you lie?

A:  When I don’t like something, I don’t always say so in the moment because I believe feelings and opinions are subject to change. Lying on the other hand can cause an effect that is irrevocable, so I do my best to avoid that unnecessary stress.

Q: What makes you happiest?

A: Getting in “the flow” when I’m working on a project I’m passionate about, and listening/discovering music I haven’t heard before; It gives me angst to know that it is virtually impossible to listen to all the music in the world in one life time.

Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

A:  To have less reservations.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement?

A: My first solo exhibition at the Film Archive and screening of two short films for WUFF (Wellington Underground Film Festival). It was my 15 minutes of fame.

Q: If you died and came back as a person or thing, what would it be?

A: The Aurora Borealis

Q: What is your most treasured possession?

A: My imagination

Q: Who are your heroes in real life?

A: 1960’s performance artist Marina Abramovic

Q: What is it that you most dislike?

A: Lack of trust

Q: What is your motto?

A: “There is no use planning for a future which when you get to it then it becomes the present you won’t be there, you’ll be living in some other future which hasn’t yet arrived; so in this way one is never able actually to inherit and enjoy the fruits of one’s actions. You can’t live at all if you can’t live fully now” – Alan Watts

We feature a staff member or one of our freelance translators every month. The featured profile includes a picture, a small biography and the person’s answers to a light version of the Proust Questionnaire. Do you wish to be featured in our blog? If so, write to Lisa for more details.

Welcome Sylvie and Linh!

Image of a Hello My name is tagWelcome Sylvie and Linh!

You may have been in contact with Sylvie or Linh in the past month and wondered who they were. Both of them joined The Translation Service recently as our new administration officers: Sylvie holds our reception, while Linh manages all our emails. We wish them a great start at TTS, and invite you all to say hi next time you’re in Wellington.

Lisa and Stefan on secondment

Both Lisa and Stefan were on secondment. Lisa was seconded to the team that manages the IT modernisation of the IKS branch, which TTS is part of, and returned to her regular employment on Monday 3 November. Stefan was seconded to the Ministerial Support team that oversees the Change of Executive following the general election. He returned to TTS on Thursday 30 November. We now have a full house! Well not quite… as Bill is away on leave for 3 weeks!

TTS Learning and Resources Hub launch

It is finally time for us to launch our e-learning platform! The content will grow as we develop new modules. For now, you will be able to meet the team, find out what we think are good translations, learn the art of selective translations, and test your knowledge of our guidelines for selective translations. There’s also a forum, and useful resources. Please make sure you visit it and let us know what you think. Email Stefan if you’d like to find out what this is about, or select the Training tab.

Do you have any news that you would like to share with us? Contact us and we will publish it in the next issue!

Thanks for coming to the party!

So much has happened since our last newsletter – the NZSTI conference, Diwali, the Japanese and Korean Festivals, our translator gathering on Translation Day and several Pacific Island language weeks celebrating Samoan, Cook Island Maori, Tongan, Tuvaluan, Fijian, Niuean and Tokelauan. Phew!

Our translator gathering was an exciting event and I’d like to personally thank the many translators, who came from near and far to celebrate International Translation Day with us.

We will be sharing some thoughts and photos from the day and we’ll also hear from Fanaura, our Cook Island Maori translator, about what it means to speak Cook Island Maori.

I’m sad to announce that our two administrators Alfonso and Jess have both moved on – Jess has been promoted to a more senior position in the public service while Alfonso has moved to England with his family. Best wishes to you both for an inspiring future ahead! The flipside of this is that we are privileged to welcome Sylvie and Linh onto our team! We’ll be learning more about Linh through her Proust questionnaire.

We have a wonderful, sunny kiwi Christmas to look forward to this year (fingers crossed) so put on some sunscreen, find a nice, relaxing spot on the beach and enjoy some great reading below!


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