2007-05-05

Unilingualism is Expensive

Ever hear the line "bilingualism is to expensive" ?

I used to wonder. But having a job that required translating my own work, I discovered a huge advantage: clarification.

Double meanings are everywhere. Missinterpretation are shockingly prelevent. The most basic instruction can be missunderstood; never mind Federal tax regulations.

I recently received a wedding invitation in French and Vietnamese. I realised that I insticlively read both versions, simply because I'm used to receiveing them in English and French, languages I understand. Be it microwave cooking instructions or a change in garbage days, I read both versions. That way, if I read the translation and realise that isn't what I had understood, I can read to original version to see if perhaps I had missunderstood.

What would seem completely innificient, reading the same thing twice, is actully quite efficient as it cuts down on burnt food and missed weddings.

Writing rules and regulations in both languages, I'm convicinced, helped me make them clearer. I would often modify the original version having realised that something could have more than one meaning. An other way to do this would obviously be to aks people to read what you have written and then explain what they understood. But then you get the impression you are surrounded by morons. By translating the work, you realise the possible missinterpretations for yourself.

The Conservative "Nation" resolution is a prime example. Read the English version first, then see if the French version is what you had understood.

"That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada".

"Que cette Chambre reconnaisse que les Québécoises et les Québécois forment une nation au sein d'un Canada uni."

The resolution was adopted on Monday, November 27, 2006.

The next day:

(...)

Ms.
Paule Brunelle (Trois-Rivières, BQ)
:

I am again asking the government
whether it can confirm today that the Quebec
nation officially recognized in
yesterday's motion (...) that all citizens
of Quebec are part of it?

Hon.
Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities,
CPC)
: (...)
the House of Commons of Canada, decided last night that yes,
Quebeckers are part of a nation. We recognize that fact, but within Canada,
within a united Canada.

The reason I bring this up is that I just discovered Scott Adams' blog (which is way better than Rick Mercer 's or Paul Wells ') and came across a post about the Koran and the possible miss interpretations, based on various English translations. In this case, according to Adams, the consequence is beating your wife, or not. Think about that next time you think translation is expensive. NOT translating could be far worst!

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