Guest Blogger: Munichmaedchen

Lost In Translation

I am a certified interpreter/translator in English, Spanish, and German. Every time I am outing my profession in the free business world, I receive encouraging hand shakes and sympathy statements that let me feel like the last dinosaur ready to leave the earth.

Indeed, if I look around, there are not many of us pro-s left. Why is that so?

Outsider, mostly budget cutting managers, think that the translation software packages available for low money or even for free to download on the internet can substitute the human translator who costs money and can make mistakes as he or she is no machine.

Now, what do we get from free ? One of my US friends recently commented on a
blog entry
in which I described our governator with the friendly German word "Wichser" that the only reasonable search result for this term he could obtain on a German-English translation site was "Windshield Wiper." This should make managers re-evaluate their decision to reduce labor costs by exclusively depending on translation software for their finished publications - unless they don't think that there is a huge difference between the word "windshield wiper" and "masturbator" which would have been the correct translation in this case.

Well, mistakes like that do not occur in the mainstream business language one might say. The same one should not bet on that too soon. Here is an example:

German sentence: "Wir haben die Gehaelter bereits ueberwiesen."
English online translation: "We have the go holds already over meadowed."
Correct English translation would have been: The salaries have already been transferred."

The most popular German word in the USA is "Fahrvergnuegen," frequently used in Volkswagen commercials. Sorry to burst your bubble folks but the word "Fahrvergnuegen" does not even exist in my native language just like "drivepleasure" doesn't in the English speaking world. "The pleasure of driving" would be the correct translation of this randomly put together so-called German term.

I admit that human translators can make mistakes - big mistakes - but at least there is a fair chance that 80% of their work leaves their computer correctly. Translators usually have to go through a thorough certification process before they are allowed to screw up in public. The online translation software very often helps them to stay competitive as it provides a basic translation matrix without labor costs involved. The human translator recognizes booboos and bugs and can fine-tune the script before it becomes public.

Make no mistake, the costs for a lawsuit that occurs from a faulty translation can by sky high - ten times as high as a translator's fee. I have the feeling that unlike the dinosaurs, my colleagues and I will have a chance to survive in our jobs, at least for now and the next couple of years.


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