Sunday, September 02, 2007

Word-for-Word Translations Don't Work

I remember about 15 years ago, when I still lived in Chile, I got some software to aid in translation of documents from English to Spanish and vice versa. Because languages differ in manners of expression, a literal word-for-word translation rarely works. That particular software program had varying degrees of interactivity, to assure that an expression in one language would be adequately expressed in the second. The complexities of both English and Spanish made it necessary to set the software to the highest degree of interactivity possible. The result was that it was easier for me to translate an entire document by myself than to use the software.

I once set the software to the lowest level of interactivity, and had it translate a letter from the United States. The result was unintelligible.

There was a terrible tragedy in baseball on Friday. Juan Encarnación was getting ready to pinch hit for the St. Louis Cardinals. He was on the on deck circle, but wasn't paying attention. Aaron Miles was at bat, and hit a rocket of a foul ball that hit
Encarnación directly on the left eye, and the orbital bone "exploded". This tragedy evokes memories of Tony Conigliaro getting beaned.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Bernie Miklasz wrote a piece wishing him a speedy recovery. The headline gets the Spanish right, but Bernie's article has this at the bottom:

Obtenga bien pronto, Juan.

A literal word-for-word translation might be:

Get well soon, Juan, but the phrase is completely unintelligible in Spanish. What he should have written is "que te mejores pronto, Juan."

I'm a die hard Cubs fan, but my heart aches for
Encarnación. Albert Pujols has requested prayer for himן

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