The violence of the bizarre

19Feb11

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to move to Paris, if only for a year or two.

Alas, their unemployment is high, the immigration laws are getting tighter by the day, and they have protectionist hiring practices that favor French citizens (which I completely understand).

But I think I may have happened upon my niche: Paris is obviously in dire need of post-translation translators.

One of the things I love about the French language is its subtlety and elegance. In English, we say “please.” In French, they say “s’il vous plaît,” which translates literally as “if it pleases you.” No wonder French has long been the official language of diplomacy.

But French is also flowery — and fussy, even — in its complexity. Again … in English, we say “please.” In French, they say “s’il vous plaît,” or “s’il te plaît” — depending on how well you know the person, your age, the other person’s age, their social station, etc., etc., etc.

Add in a few hundred colloquial expressions, a dazzlingly rich literary tradition, and some very complex cultural mores, and the translator’s job becomes very difficult indeed.

That’s exactly why Paris needs me as a post-translation translator: For only, oh, 50,000€ a year, I will take “translations” like these and turn them into comprehensible English:

Yeah, I know that last one is hard to read, so here’s a snippet:

Principles: each of the co-owners will have the right to enjoy his/her best privative parts included in his/her lot as he/she thinks best , on the condition of not damaging the rights of the other co-owners and not making anything that might compromise the solidity, the safety or the tranquility of the building, nor strike a blow at its destination.

While I’m glad to know I have the right to enjoy my “privative parts,” I can’t imagine using them in a way that would compromise the structural integrity or safety of a building. Well, maybe if Johnny Depp were there, too …

But I digress.

I intend no disrespect, of course: I know the pitfalls of translation only too well. (I once mistyped “pecar” — to sin, in Spanish — instead of “pescar” — to fish — so that my botched translation read, “It is prohibited to sin in the Otter Tail River and its tributaries between October 31 and March 1.”)

Still … I can’t help but think that I may have found my niche.



2 Responses to “The violence of the bizarre”

  1. It sounds like not only a good plan, but a very useful one! Sadly, I can’t help but feel that if such companies were likely to spend their budget on not only a translator, but a post-translation translator, they might just stump up enough cash for a better quality translator in the first place. who wouldn’t make such a horriblific garblation of it. Still, you can but try!

    • 2 hmunro

      I was only half-serious, of course: As you so wisely observe, any company that is truly interested in quality will probably do things properly in the first place. Still … it’s worth a laugh or two when things don’t turn out properly!


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