Monday, September 28, 2009

One is sort of like, eloquent, yeah?

One indication that a translation may have been done in a hurry is a clash of different registers, such as with this quote from Germany's happiest politician (as of yesterday's election) Guido Westerwelle:

"The decision as to whom we send as a government representative rests solely with us Germans based on our political and moral standards."

The BBC's profile of Westerwelle describes his difficult balancing act between trying to make politics more 'fun', to appeal to younger voters, but still wanting to be taken seriously as leader of a business-friendly party. I'm sure he chooses his register very carefully, and would never mix the German equivalents of the formal 'to whom' construction with the very folksy 'us Germans' when giving a quote to the press.

I genuinely sympathise with the translator, as rendering the German 'lego brick' clauses into natural English, and deciding whether to keep the 'we' or 'us' that they chuck into a lot of sentences, are not easy tasks. On the other hand, this man is about to become rather important on the international stage, and it would be good to get an accurate impression of his personality. Instead, of the four direct quotes in this profile, two are the same bland sound bites you get from anyone in his position, the one above has been unhelpfully mangled, and the fourth sounds oddly formal:

"Of course I made some mistakes when I was young but one grows older and wiser"

Perhaps 'one' merely sounds older and wiser when one's words are translated, innit?

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