11 October 2011

Waffle and fluff make translation tough

(This blog picks up where 'Technical, but not tough_#1' left off.)

Texts for translation can be classified in many ways. This translator’s voice of experience says that it’s not about subject matter but about information content and clarity. If a text actually says something and says it clearly, then it can be translated; if it’s ‘waffle’, then filling the space with a target-language version that sounds, at first glance, as though it is saying something, but on closer analysis turns out to say little or nothing -- in other words that achieves as much but no more than the original -- can be a huge challenge.
Experience also suggests that ‘waffle’ or ‘fluff’ is more prevalent in some areas and others. Management, human resources, graphics (including logos and graphic standards) are prime examples.

My thoughts are supported by Financial Times columnist  Lucy Kellaway.
On 24 October 2010, Lucy wrote under the heading Glass ceiling in management drivel is broken:
“The point of the conference is to empower, educate and inspire women to be ‘Architects of Change®’. But it’s not quite clear to me why anyone would want to be such a thing. An architect is someone who designs a building and then invariably falls out with the builders who build it and the clients who pay for it. And if I wanted to be an architect, the last thing I’d want to architect (the noun now perfectly acceptable as a verb in management circles) would be change, in general. Good change is good, bad change is bad, and sometimes the status quo is the best of all.”
“.... an orgy of ‘reaching out’ and ‘delivering value’ and ‘going forward’ ...”

On 17 October 2010 under the heading Listening to customers can be bad business, Lucy wrote:
“ ‘We think our new brand expression visually distinguishes PwC in the same way that the quality and expertise of our people differentiates the experience of working with PwC,’ said the firm’s chairman. Which is, of course, absolute, total tosh. Three little letters and some squares cannot say anything about quality or expertise at all.”
“But then logos are a fluffy subject; I have never heard anyone say anything that wasn’t daft about the thinking behind any change. This is because there never is any thinking, save the idea that it’s time to do something different.”

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