Monthly Archives: January 2011

Translation comedy – Gerglish? Engman? Googleegong!

Why the UK should keep up teaching MFL

This article was sent to me on the JISCmail German Studies List
It was written by Dr.Falco Pfalzgraf (translation by Lingonews)

English speakers love having a laugh with “Chinglish”

but there are also some rather funny translations around in the United Kingdom:
I bought a packet of “Stem Ginger Biscuits” produced by “Fudges” from Dorset. On the packaging of this rather pricy product, the sentence “Stem Ginger Biscuits half dipped in Belgian Dark Chocolate”, in its German version turns out as “Halten Sie die Ingwer-Biskuithälfte auf, die in belgische dunkle Schokolade eingetaucht wird” [Stop the half ginger sponge-cake in its tracks, that is being dipped in Belgian dark chocolate]. Strange – did the translator (or computer) understand “stem” as the imperative of the German “stemmen”, meaning “stop in its tracks” (or like a ‘Stemmeisen’=crowbar)? Google Language Tools offer the following options as a German translation for the English word “stem”: “eindämmen, aufhalten, hemmen” [to dam up, to stop, to constrain] – always assuming that it’s a verb. Also strange: “Biskuit” instead of “Keks” or “Plätzchen” [sponge-cake rather than biscuit or cookie]. And: the “ginger shavings” in German turn into the incredible “ingwerrasieren” [trim the ginger’s beard].

The Spanish version is even more interesting, the sentence “Stem Ginger Biscuits half dipped in Belgian Dark Chocolate” becomes “Provenga la mitad de las galletas del jengibre sumergida en chocolate oscuro belga” – here, too, they take it as an imperative, however, this time, the English “stem” is regarded as “to be a descendant of” in the sense of “origin”. Thus, approximately: “Be a descendant, half of the biscuit of the ginger […]” The “ginger shavings” , too, are remarkable: “jengibre que afeita” – “ginger trimming someone’s beard”. “Ground ginger” becomes “jengibre de tierra”, that is “earth ginger”.  “Stem ginger” becomes “Jengibre del vastago”, i.e. “ginger of the sapling”, etc.
Of course, there is a nice French version, too 🙂
Should anybody like to see the packaging, here it is:

Really, MFL teaching in the UK is of the essence.

Comment by Lingonews: As for the teaching, I couldn’t agree more.
Manufacturers who would like to market their – really much appreciated – products in the European marketplace should be wary of free translation (it’s like that free lunch).
Professional translators are happy go that extra kilometre for them – and a short product description still comes at a very low price.

Memorable reference

That’s what my customer was, when he found this job reference of his great grandfather’s.
As a matter of fact, the good man was always at his post, diligent and well-behaved.

Even modern handwriting is not always a piece of cake. Any parents or teachers out there who have struggled to appreciate the written intellectual performance of those who have not yet taken entirely to keyboard-only writing don’t need to be reminded.

When it comes to historic documents, reading can become even more of a challenge. Not only are we suddenly dealing with a different and not throughout normatized presentation of the individual letters – there are old ways of spelling, words that have come out of use and, as in the case of modern handwriting, spelling mistakes and awkward corrections.
Google translation doesn’t help, but there are some very supportive pages:

on German “Kurrent”script:
on “Sütterlin” script:
and for “Fraktur”

As translating this type of handwriting cannot be based on simple word count, the pricing should be well considered …
but isn’t it great to find out that your great grandfather was just the kind of 19th century role model that you always thought he was?