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Sunday, December 04, 2011

Lost in translation

I have written a blog post over on Freedom Central this morning about the failure of the UK Department of Education to provide a bilingual version of a letter they sent out to teachers in Wales. That is a serious omission on their part that needs to be corrected.

Elsewhere in the Wales on Sunday though there is a story about what happens when attempts at bilingualism go wrong. Their article is based on a book called Sgymraeg, edited by Meleri Wyn James, and published by Y Lolfa.

There are many reasons of course why biingual signposting goes wrong. There is sheer laziness and incompetence on the part of those responsible for the sign, such as the famous example in Swansea where a roadside sign read in English: “No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only”, but translated into Welsh, and erected for all to see, announced: “I’m not in the office at the moment. Send any translation work.”

Often an official translator will do a perfectly good job only to see mistakes made in the signwriting process, which they do not have the opportunity to proof-read. Commonly, an official will rely on machine translation without getting it checked and sometimes of course, the translator will interpret the wording incorrectly and provide a more literal version in Welsh that means something completely different from the English.

Translation is an art form not a science, but that does not stop us despairing at some of the worst examples. These include the badly translated shop sign advertising wines and spirits, which reads “wines and ghosts” in Welsh, and the baffling bilingual road sign that warns Welsh- speaking motorists to beware of “exploding workers” instead of 'blasting in progress'.

There is also the sign between Cardiff and Penarth telling cyclists to dismount but which in Welsh apparently tells cyclists they have problems with an “inflamed bladder” and a potentially lethal sign for pedestrians in Cardiff reading “Look Right” in English and “Look Left” in Welsh.
Some nice examples there Peter.

It's what happens when one (small, in this case) country is invaded, occupied, subjugated, assimilated and exploited by its more powerful neighbour.

The result we have is the Wales of today, one of the poorest regions in Europe.

Its language struggling for survival, its infrastructure decrepit, its economy parlous, its resources controlled by others, and a widespread dependency culture.

Worse still, its future is in the hands of the most wealthy elitist, privileged Cabinet in generations, most of whose members couldn't give a damn about Wales, and of course not one of them lives here.

The issue you highlight - as if we hadn't noticed what has been happening to our language - is a symptom of a much deeper problem.

Thanks for giving it some publicity, nevertheless.
You criticism of the DOE would have more value if the Liberal Democrats in wales published all their election leaflets for example bilingually.

Was your correspondence last May fully Bilingual. Many of your colleagues failed to do so.
By all means point out these failings but also address your own
The DOE are subject to the Welsh Language Act, we are not. We produced our leaflets as appropriate for the communities concerned.
Translation goes both ways.

I was faced with a public tender document that was only printed in Welsh. As Managing Director of a company offering Welsh Translations, and employing Welsh translators, I was faced with having to have the documented translated before I, as bid writer, could respond. When I asked for the document in English I was told the tender was for services in Welsh and therefore it was felt unnecessary to provide an English version. This was from the Welsh Language Board.

It would appear that there is some duplicity going on here.

I am very much a supporter of the Welsh Language. My youngest son, born and bred in Wales, is fully bi-lingual. Alas, despite my attempts, I am not.
I seem to remember that the Plaid Cymru candidate for Maesteg West didn't publish his literature out bilingually!....and we have a number of Welsh Speakers in this ward.
Regrettably, Peter, from your decisions to censor/withhold comments, we now know what a total hypocrite you are.

You can take both the 'liberal' and the 'democrat' out of your description.
I refer you to the moderation guidance and in particular those parts that refer to 'off-topic', repetition and boring.
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