2011/08/29

Worst ever Spanish covers of English-language songs?

I haven't talked to any of the perpetrators, but I have little doubt that the principal cause of what we regard as fucked translation is a misunderstanding as to its function: whereas English-speakers expect to encounter a linguistic resource, the aim of Romance-dialect-speaking businesses, politicians and civil servants in providing English translation is often symbolic - to demonstrate modernity, professionalism and internationalism to domestic audiences that they imagine to be even more boorish than themselves.

The is of course not just a complaint about contemporary Iberian Anglicism. I recently came across an interesting piece by Esmat Babaii and Hasan Ansary on the failure of xenophobic restrictions on Iranian TV advertising to completely stamp out this powerful device:

unlike Arab countries where journalism is receptive to foreign neologisms and loanwords, particularly words originating from English (e.g., the case of Jordan as reported in 1993 by Hussein & Zughoul) and unlike Switzerland where abundant occurrence of English in advertisements is at the service of appropriation of English as a Swiss national identity symbol (cf. Cheshire & Moser 1994), in Iran, in line with language maintenance policies and revitalization plans sponsored by the Iranian Academy of sciences, using foreign words as brand names or in the body of ads is discouraged and forbidden. Although producers are not allowed to use foreign brand names, some local manufacturers attempt to evade this regulation by using brand names which have almost similar pronunciation to foreign words in order to keep the good name of suppliers or to (mis)use their good names to promote sales. For example, a local clutch and disc producer in Iran has used the name /Færavari væ Saxt/ (F+S) to connote the good name and good quality of Fischel & Sachs (F+S) which is a German brand name. Or, since the producer of Nichola heaters had to change the brand name into a Persian word, they use /Nik kala/ (meaning good product) which is phonologically similar to original brand name, Nichola.

Juan Ceñal's list of covers-that-should-not-have-been is interesting to us English-speakers because his objection to linguistically-challenged buffoons in search of cheap status comes from a Spanish-speaking perspective.

Spanish artists using English is all about pleasing stupid domestic crowds, so some of Juan's calls strike me as hard. For me El Príncipe Gitano singing Elvis' In The Ghetto evokes the amused bemusement of Prince Philip on discovering the Vanuatuan cult dedicated to him:



Azúcar Moreno's version of Paint It Black by the Stones (los Rolling) is a gas station classic:



However, Seguridad Social and Shakira, whatever they do, deserve whatever comes to them.

2011/08/22

Augustine attacks Jerome's Vulgate for diverging from traditional fucked translations

Here:

A certain bishop, one of our brethren, having introduced in the church over which he presides the reading of your version, came upon a word in the book of the prophet Jonah, of which you have given a very different rendering from that which had been of old familiar to the senses and memory of all the worshippers, and had been chanted for so many generations in the church. Thereupon arose such a tumult in the congregation, especially among the Greeks, correcting what had been read, and denouncing the translation as false, that the bishop was compelled to ask the testimony of the Jewish residents (it was in the town of Oea). These, whether from ignorance or from spite, answered that the words in the Hebrew manuscripts were correctly rendered in the Greek version, and in the Latin one taken from it. What further need I say? The man was compelled to correct your version in that passage as if it had been falsely translated, as he desired not to be left without a congregation -- a calamity which he narrowly escaped.

Transblawg is my favourite translation blog partly because it addresses in its own mysterious way this power and pragmatics thang. Like St Augustine, some of the fucked translators featured here have presumably calculated that the real-world benefits of getting it "right" will be buried by the costs, but too often the wussy masses of professionals (what a terrible word!) forget that translation is actually about blood, soil and bondage, and lose themselves in dreadful sub-literary online bonding.

[
Many thanks for all kind wishes re the malfunctioning ear. It still appears to have a considerable portion of the Mediterranean sloshing around in it, but a visit to A&E seems to have begun to correct the screw-up made by the GP, and it hopes to hear the sound of beer being poured in the next week or so.
]

2011/08/07

Circus or fish market?

Peter Harvey links to this contribution by Tom Maguire, which finds a translator of a circus poster in Sitges struggling with the polysemous llotja and imagining a splendid fish market where a simple box was all that was required.

Makes you wonder, though: maybe Juvenal has been misquoted on the moral decline of pagan Roman, and they longed not for panem et circenses but for panem et piscem, bread and fish; maybe the Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes was borrowed by Jesus from a corrupt emperor; maybe it's time for some coffee.

2011/08/02

The legislation affecting the Catalan language is different depending on what state you are speaking

One of the inconveniences of living or doing business on Mallorca over the last decade has been language legislation which, unless like Palma-based Air Berlin you are big enough to ignore the law, has required all (ie not just customer-facing) public employees to speak fluent Catalan and all businesses to provide all consumer information and, where your head count > 2, Catalan-speaking staff. (Similar, Franco-era legislation exists for Spanish, but it is not afaik enforced.)

The perception that this stick is too big and perhaps illegitimate (not to mention economically damaging), and that perhaps carrots have been rather neglected, cannot but be accentuated by the piss-poor translation that has gone into this effort to explain language and legislation by the Consejo de Mallorca/Consell de Mallorca, the island council. If they don't take The Language seriously, then why should anyone else?

[
The title quote is surreal rather than grammatically incorrect:

Do I hate you? No! Not hate?
Hate's a word far too intense,
Too alive, to speak a state
Of supreme indifference.
Once behind your eyes I thought
Worlds of love and life to see;
Now I see behind them nought
but a soulless vacancy.
(William Wetmore Story, "Black eyes", Graffiti d'Italia (1868)
]

(H/t the excellent Mr Clarke.)