Translation and Interpreting in 150+ Languages
Lost in Translation Investigated
July 20, 2012 - By: - In: Translation - Comments Off on Lost in Translation Investigated

Lost in translation, but somehow you found your way here. Just a desk, a coat rack, a file cabinet, striped in shadows from the venetian blinds. Translation Noir.

Every one of those Tweeters walk through this door with my business card clutched in their mitts, and they all got that same expression, like they just caught grandma stealing cigar money out of the cookie jar.

“At least you found my business card.” I say. “Have a seat,”

Sometimes there’s a comeback, like “Yeah, I little birdie told me,” or sometimes they just sit, quiet, sizing up the joint, ready to jump to the next page. They’re asking themselves why they bothered to follow a link that left them in this dump.

“So,” I lean back in my chair, smiling my charming smile, “lost in translation?”

Maybe they’re embarrassed, and don’t say nothing, quiet as a three-minute egg nursing a black eye with a piece of raw bacon.

“You wouldn’t be the first guy to get lost in translation,” I say, unless it’s a dame, in which case I say, “You wouldn’t be the first dame, either. So spill. You tell me, or if you like, I’ll tell you.”

Maybe I come across too hard-boiled, but I’ve heard every translation sob story there is. They always start the same way: “He seemed square, and he told me I could have whatever I wanted, cheap…”

If they’re still clammed up, I’ll pull up two glasses and a bottle of scotch from the bottom drawer. “Here, have some of this.” No ice, but a great icebreaker. I’m not sure if I do it to help them talk, or help me listen.

So I hear about a translation burn, some guy who promised the moon and delivered Swiss cheese. Or they got it free, and found out they got what they paid for. Amateurs, Google, whatever. Tough beans, but you’ll get over it, if you got enough dough.

But sometimes its traduttore, traditore, like they say down at the social club. Textual infidelity. Some translator you really trusted, someone special. But you start noticing little things, a misplaced comma, a word left in the wrong place. Lying awake at night thinking that your translation output is putting out. Llike a shiv in the kidney, and you’re left wondering how you got stuck with it.

So I check it out. Maybe it’s OK, just a moment of weakness, a slip-up. Except my customers are always right. You find smoke, I find fire. When I show you the proof, with that quality audit of 8×10 glossies spread across the desk, I’ll skip the story of how you’re better off without ‘em and hand you a hankie instead.

Not always though, sometime it’s just some yuckster thinks “lost in translation” is funny, like it isn’t some punch-drunk cliché on the ropes in the ninth round of the English language. For you I got a message, so listen and listen good.

You better make like a translator and watch your language. Some of us take “lost in translation” personal, because it’s like saying translators are losers. And that’s when the dictionaries start to fly. Because it’s just the opposite. Translators are finders. Lost knowledge of the ancients, the shoulders of giants, the whole nine yards. That’s what we do. Find stuff.

So you might want to keep that in mind, next time you tweet “lost in translation.”

Because I’ll find you. See if I don’t.

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