Eight Polish-to-English translation errors that are ruining my life

I know there are good Polish-to-English translators out there because I’ve read Kapuściński in English and thoroughly enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I never seem to get to work with them. I spend an alarming amount of my time these days earning a crust on the ‘proofreading’* circuit and I’m developing a complex of neuroses any Viennese hysteric would be proud of. My imaginary analyst told me to write a post about it as a catharsis.

I’m not talking about amateurs here, or at least not people who admit to being amateurs. These are certified translators working full time for translations agencies. It’s not a pleasant experience receiving texts from some of these characters. I often find myself having read half a page of undeniably English words without having gained any accompanying sense of what they were about. The plan seems to be to replace all the Polish words with English ones that have roughly the same meaning and leave it at that. This is, admittedly, a step in the right direction but it hardly amounts to a translation. From this, apparently random, assemblage I am expected to mine perfect English prose at a rate of an eighth of a pittance per 1,800 characters (including spaces, which, fortunately, are the same in Polish as the are in English).

Here is my top-eight hit list:

My organism

As in: Mountain air is good for your organism.

I do not have an organism and neither do any other English-speaking people. I’m no scientist but I’m pretty sure an organism is something unpleasant that lives in your shower drain. I’m not prepared to encourage these things with mountain air, daily exercise or fresh fruit.

The word you are looking for is ‘body’ or, possibly, ‘health.’ I know it’s a false friend and I don’t care. Spotting false friends should be on day one of the translator’s course; in the morning before people get sleepy after lunch.

Our offer

As in: Our offer is rubber tyres and rubber tyre servicing.

Your offer sucks. I think what you mean is ‘Our goods and services include…’ or ‘We sell…’ This is a favourite** on Polish website translations. Don’t do it. English-speaking readers think you are about to make an indecent proposal. Yes, it is another false friend and no, I don’t care.

One

As in: One must visit Club 99 is one wants to experience the hottest in Polish nite life.

You are not Charles Dickens and this is not 1874. ‘One’ went out with the ark, as it were. You might, just, at a massive stretch get away with it in a pompous legal document (in fact, no), but in any other context it looks absurd. It’s archaic is what I’m trying to say. Apparently Polish translation schools are still teaching from Bishop Lowth’s Ye Shorte Introduction to English Grammar (1762).

The word is ‘you,’ and if you capitalise it I will personally come round to your house and prise out your caps key with your severed index finger. Old people may quibble with this but they are wrong.

Never, on any occasion or event whatsoever, use in the vicinity of at least three times as many words as you, effectively, need for you purposes, all things considered and respectively.

As in: ibid

People tell me that Polish has less words than English. This may be why Polish translators feel the need to use at least twice as many words as strictly necessary when putting together documents for me to read—they just become word happy. My advice is this: once you’ve finished turning all the Polish words into English words go back and delete at least half of them, it doesn’t particularly matter which half since most of what you’ve written doesn’t make any sense anyway, at least there will be less of it for me to worry about.

Commas, are, not, compulsory

As in: When, you are translating, and it is quite late in the evening, save yourself a lot of time, by not using commas.

Commas serve almost no purpose in English. They are annoying little squiggles that people feel they should use without any clear idea of when or how. I’ve been an editor and writer for 15 years and this is when I use commas:

1) Lists: “London, Birmingham, and Bristol are cities in England.” (Americans have slightly different rules).
2) Conditionals: “If I were a rich man, ya ha deedle deedle bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.”
3) Genuine parenthesis: “The gun, which he had picked up earlier, was loaded.”
4) Before ‘which’: ibid
5) Some other times.
That’s it.

If you’ve used more than two commas in a sentence, you’ve almost certainly got it wrong, probably because you’ve got the word order upside-down (see below).

Sentences the wrong way round, do not write.

As in: Sentence above that is, is a perfect example.

Teachers of Polish make a big play of the idea that Polish sentences can be written in any order. There is some woman called Ala and her cat to prove it, which always sounded a bit suspicious to me since I’ve never met anyone called Ala. Apparently this makes the whole thing ‘easier.’ The entire performance is a ploy to distract you from the fact that every single element in the sentence may have seventeen possible endings depending on the phase of the moon or the colour of your trousers. The order in which you put these protean monstrosities is the last thing on your mind.

Whatever order Polish people choose to write their sentences in turns out to always be the wrong one when that sentence is transposed into English. I believe this to be a trans-linguistic proof of Sod’s Law, or a proof that the whole sentence-in-any-order propaganda is blown.

I have a certain amount of sympathy with translators over this one. Correct word order in English is about as forgiving as a ten-thousand foot dive into wet concrete. My advice on this point is closely connected with my advice on commas: if you find you need more than one parenthetic clause, you’ve almost certainly got it wrong. Rewrite the sentence the other way around and save yourself a lot of pain.

X is not equal to Y

As in: My height is equal to 1.8 centimetres or The trees were the colour of green

Thanks to Michael Dembinski for pointing out that this particular error is known as a pleonasm, a word I once knew but have long forgotten. It means saying the same thing twice and is, therefore, a species of tautology. I speak Polish badly at an intermediate level so I have no idea which circle of Polish grammar hell this originates from but if you could stop doing it, I would be very grateful.

Opportunities are possible

As in: You have the possibility to sample our fine wines.

Nine times out of ten the word you want is ‘opportunity’ or, more likely, ‘can’ as in: “You will have the opportunity to sample…” or “You can sample…” This one crops up all the time, for reasons unknown.

*Proofreading is, as the name implies, the reading of proofs. Proofs used to be the final stage of a manuscript before it went to the printer (in those days it was a film negative, hence the co-terminology). Proofreading involves finding spelling mistakes or typos that have crept in during the editorial process. Turning nonsensical text into good English is not proofreading, it is copy editing and, in most civilised countries, commands a respectable salary.

** I have a new computer that recognises British English, so I’m going back to it.

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113 thoughts on “Eight Polish-to-English translation errors that are ruining my life

  1. Jeannie says:

    Yes, you are doing copywriter work as well as proofreader and should be getting compensated as such. That frustrated me and I’m not even a professional. Grrr.

    Mountain air is good for the constitution, too.

  2. Brad Zimmerman says:

    I feel your pain. I’ve proof’d two theses (I had to look up the plural of thesis) that were written in English by native Polish speakers. There were WWII battlefields that had less red on them than those papers…

    I’ve made a point not to teach English, copy edit or proofread for about two years now. I do correct small English mistakes on-the-spot, especially egregious mistakes but otherwise have happily left the rest of it behind. It’s just too maddening and frustrating and I’m already known as someone who is easily irritated.

  3. Basia z Szwecji says:

    I think I’m going to bookmark this post! Very entertaining and unerring description.

    Here in Sweden it seems to be standard only to translate into your native language, and it can’t be emphasised enough how important that is. (Not that this requirement is enough for acceptable translations.) Most of the examples are so true for translating into Swedish as well, but I especially remember tearing my hair over the total discrepancy in word order when I was translating proffessionally. Nowdays I only do some interpreting, which of course has its own hazards. :-)

  4. DeCoy says:

    The two most common translation mistakes I have heard from Polish to English have involved the verbs being opposites – most notably confusing ‘uczyć sie’ (to learn) with ‘uczyć’ (to teach), and also ‘pożyczyć’ (to borrow) with ‘pożyczać’ (to lend).

    This has resulted in me hearing people saying something along the lines of “I will learn you Polish” or “Can you borrow me some money?”

    I have also encountered the majority of those listed above by Island as well, but having said that it shows how English is an easy language to being speaking and a difficult one to master.

  5. newsaddict says:

    A very common mistake with commas.

    I know, that you phoned me.

    The problem is that in virtually all Slavic language, a comma is inserted before the word that at the start of a subordinate clause. In English not comma is used.

    Indeed, most of thes common problems mentioned are common to all Slavic languages. ¨One has the possibility to try our offer¨ is seen from Prague to Vladivostok.¨

  6. Whyyy, oh whyyy would you prohibit ONE, One is fun! Lot’s of fun! And You is rude, or plural, or so somebody told me, and now you say One is rude, that’s too confusing! (…wailing…)

    I will resort to ‘it’, I guess. It can be said that it can be used, since one cannot say one. Can it?

  7. chris says:

    One was most amused at the article, which made me cry round circular tears of joyousness. I hope in having the possibility of reading further comedies,which may not improve my organism but certainly improve upon my mood. I await for Your next offer. ;-/

  8. Bartek says:

    Island, don’t you writing for many people is a form of katharsis – you gave vento to your frustration, anger and other negative emotions triggered by incompetent trnslators.

    Menawhile I developed a thoery on how to recognise a decent translation agency:
    1) they call themselves “translation agency”, rather than “translation office”, which is a literal translation of biuro tłumaczeń
    2) they make “certified translations” rather than “sworn translations” – once again a word-for-word equivalent of tłumaczenie przysięgłe.
    BTW how can one swear (in) a translation???

    I often find myself having read half a page of undeniably English words without having gained any accompanying sense of what they were about. – for no apparent reason I knwo how it feels.

    Eighth of a pittance – poor Jamie, look back on what Michael Dembinski wrote about blissful unawareness. They don’t realise the importance of preparing decent translations, they don’t realise what how a native speaker reacts to a mangled bunch of English words put together without rhyme or reason.

    Organism – I’d use body – seen many times, I’m almost insensitive, very apt remark to false friend, it’s a real plague, the worst errors stem from them.

    Our offer is… an attempt to translate w ofercie mamy…, once again a faliure to stick to original language.

    I use one to formalise a text, though switch more and more often replace it with more natural you. Everything depends on the context, one clashes with “club 99”.

    How verbose a translation needs to be – in many cases three of four word long Polish phrase might be translated into two English words in a very deft way. One example I have never seen properly translated into English is opłata za prowadzenie rachunku [bankowego], which is in English account fee, not a charge for running an account

    The list for comma is useful, need to brush up on it a bit.

    Wrong word order and too logn sentences are next sins. sometimes a Polish 50-word-long sentence needs to be split into two, if it’s shorter it won’t hurt to take it apart and put together in a civilised order.

    Pleonasm – I wrote another post on it. In Polish you shouldn’t say moje oczy są koloru zielonego, but moje oczy są zielone. If you hear a Pole speaking the former, they are wrong, it’s a common mistake.

    Opportunity vs. possibility – in Polish they are represented by one word możliwość. This should explain everything. Once I read a thorough study how not to misuse those two words.

    Very apt remark on the difference between proofreading (which is polishing up a decent text so that it is almost excellent) and struggling to turn some drivel into English (which involves frequent guessing meanings and is a general ordeal).

    I see absolutely no link between this post and my last rant over translations (mine is a case study).

    And hey, three posts about bad translation within two days.

    Guys, someone ranked us (you Jamie, Scatts, Michael and me) the authors of the best Polish blogs in English.

  9. teresa says:

    thank you so much. Your article amused me so much

  10. Goofreader says:

    Great article! For more laughs along the same lines please check out goofreader.com where I take great pleasure in exposing bad translation/proofreading websites.

  11. uratroll says:

    who cares about your primitive language? MONKEY ISLAND LOL

  12. island1 says:

    ‘Constitution’ yes, good one.

  13. island1 says:

    Translating into your own native language is indeed a law for a good reason. The problem in Poland, of course, is that there is a massive shortage of native speakers of English who are capable of translating from Polish.

  14. island1 says:

    Yes, both very common among Poles who speak English. I have no complaints about Polish people’s English in general, I’m jealous of anyone who can speak a second language. My beef is with translators, who should know better.

  15. island1 says:

    I had a feeling there must be a Polish grammar reason behind this one.

  16. island1 says:

    Not rude, archaic.

    ‘It’ definitely doesn’t work.

  17. island1 says:

    Aaaaah… the pain!

  18. island1 says:

    Blimey Bart, that’s a comment and a half :)

    Perhaps we should make this Bad Translation Month.

    The last link doesn’t work by the way. We’ve been getting a fair amount of traffic from a Turkish site recently, is that it?

  19. island1 says:

    You’re welcome.

  20. island1 says:

    Now that Professor Uratroll has revealed the true depths of our foolishness with his devastatingly witty comments we clearly have no choice but to wind up Polandian and return to our various monkey islands. I will, of course, be making a personal visit to the monkey queen to suggest that we all stop speaking English and switch to Polish since our experiences abroad have revealed a total lack of interest in the language.

  21. Bartek says:

    I’ve noticed the link’s puzzlingly invalid. Let’s have one more try on…

    Glad to have been of service. Text of considerable length appear to be scary for many readers. I’ll cut down on the word count, but not this time!

    March 2010 – a month of bad translation on Polandian.com? In unmanageable amonuts bad translations also drive me insane, but hey, the topic is undeniably comment-provoking. Nice to look back on those days when we used to have more than 100 comment. And whenever a linguistic piece comes up all the folks around perk up and stick their oar in it.

  22. Bartek says:

    on… the link and now it works

    I had forgotten to praise you for returning to BrE, so I’m making up for it.

  23. Michał says:

    *less words

    fewer words :-)

  24. island1 says:

    You got me.

    Though I have to say, I think this one is one the edge of sliding into nonsense. Nobody says ‘fewer’ and 99 percent of people don’t know or notice the difference.

  25. Justine says:

    How much do you pay the translators? :) (Don’t take it wrong, I’m asking because I used to work as a freelance translator – but my target language was French not English – I considered my English wasn’t good enough). I think the problem is that usually translators translate into their native language and there are few native English speakers who can translate from Polish. There are many Poles abroad who have probably achieved a better command of the English language, but working for rates offered in Poland might not be attractive to them.

  26. Gabriela says:

    I guess all of your examples apply for other languages. Spanish for instance. I reconognized myself in many of your words, when I grumble (a lot)about lousy written documents.
    Saludos.

  27. PAIiIZ (The Polish Information of Foreign Investment Agency) was even able to publish something like that a few years ago:

    ———————–
    “Because of the decison of City Government the Agro-Industrial Park has been created in the industrial distric. It gain about 370 ha ground and almost 25 companies function in the nearest neighbourhood with polish and foreign capital.

    The atutes of KAIP :
    – East-West railway with mental sidings chain[2]
    – International road E-30 Berlin-Moscow
    – Proximity of the principal road[3] E-75 Gdańsk – Vienna and planning motorway Nr 1 North-South,
    – Wastwater aggregate treatment plant
    – Fuel pressure gas-pipeline
    – Water intakes
    – Principal recharge juncture
    – Telephone line (Telekomunikacja Polska S.A., Multimedia Polska- Centrum Sp. Z o.o.)

    Few cieties in Poland have also such interesting tenders as Kutno proposes. Our city create right terms (infrastructure, buisness surroundings), invite foreign and local investors for localize their measures in KAIP. Kutno received honourable mention Fair Play Commune and certificate of Certificated Investment Location in 2005.
    We are open for every tenders, specially that , wich guaranted new jobs places and implemented new methods and technologist.

    Investors who are interested in activity on KAIP area can count on City Hall Government and local Institutions help such as: [etc.]”
    ———————–

    This c**p survived somehow on the website of the Kutno Town Council till the last week (i.e. till my intervention), but in fact that was an early material made by the PAIiIZ. What a shame!

    It’s just ridiculous when both the local and central governments are spending something like several hundred millions € for preparing each of the investment areas and then try to ruin the first impression of people from abroad with the Borat language (while the proper translation with the proofread/correction by a native speaker would cost only a few thousand €).

    (I know I’m also writing in English very poorly, but I’m not a specialist).

  28. Malcolm says:

    I say, how does one break into this aforementioned ‘proof-reading’ circuit? It certainly has an air of prestige surrounding it. Perhaps it may be a better way of earning a crust than training juvenile delinquents to pronounce the word ‘through’ without having them breaking into an uproar akin to a scene from Monty Python…

    I believe what you’ll also find is that many, if not most, of these websites with poor translations are not prepared by translators, but by employees who happen to have studied English at school. Or at least, that is my experience…

    Last summer I did some temp work, during which I had to spend three days ‘proof-reading’ the firm in questions so-called English product list. I was fired for wasting my time.

  29. Darth Sida says:

    I had a good laugh. Probably at myself. My organism feels good.

    On side notes:

    Jamie, do you realize pains you’d have to go through in order to proofread Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” (and I don’t mean ‘read’ or ‘translate’).

    Punctuation (commas): go preach Cormac McCarthy, bwahaha.

    Oh, and while English “false friend” is ok, let’s unokay “faux ami” – why not “fausse amie”? They should make some “false-friendperson” pol-correct thing, the French.

  30. island1 says:

    I don’t pay them, they are paid by translation agencies—probably very badly.

    Yes, huge demand and a lack of translators with native command of English is the problem.

  31. island1 says:

    That all looks very familiar and I agree, it almost certainly gives a bad impression to potential investors that could very easily be avoided.

  32. island1 says:

    Prestige? Surely you jest?

    Google ‘Polish-English translation services’ and write to all the companies that pop up. There are hundreds of them.

  33. island1 says:

    Proofreading Finnegans Wake, now that would be a job. I would simply swap a few words around, add the odd ‘s’ here and there and delete all punctuation–nobody would be any the wiser.

    Cormac McCarthy eh? I’ll have to have a look.

  34. Grze$ko says:

    It seems that the word “translator” itself implies something mechanical and, as it turns out, often incomprehensible.
    To preserve the feel and keep the language alive in translation there’s a need for a healthy chunk of interpretation must be mixed in.

  35. Grze$ko says:

    I just realised what I wrote above…
    Should not watch TV and try to put 17 thoughts into 2 sentences.
    Sorry.

  36. Paulina says:

    Oh no I like “one”;)

  37. I also cried while reading the article but without any joy at all, I was rather about to cut my veins. That’s how 99% of the Polish official content translated into English looks like. It’s just another sight into the Polish cesspit where nothing is possible to be done properly.

    And my other sad reflection is that almost no Pollack is able to learn to use English that is good enough not to sound asinine. I abandoned my hope and fell into a deep depressive state.

  38. Alison says:

    Great blog!! I snorted coffee all over my keyboard reading some of these…

    I used to be the editor of a travel magazine that promoted Poland as a travel destination on the British market, so as you can imagine, I had to suffer plenty of howlers… and if there is one expression that was over-used was “feel invited”.

    The funny thing was that the advertising clients sometimes used to ask me if I could proof read the text for their advertisements. They would send me a whole page of text that never made any sense, so I would re-write everything to make it more concise and – most importantly – appealing to the target market. The advertisers would then get stroppy with what I had written for them because they had used a ‘professional translator’. What could I, as a native speaker, possibly know?…

  39. island1 says:

    Also a very common experience. A surprising number of Poles are convinced my command of English is highly suspect. The most fun is to be had when they dig up some obscure reference in an ancient grammar book, totally out of context, and demand to know why I have apparently failed to comply.

    Professional translators have the benefit of an official stamp, which always outranks reality or common sense in Poland.

  40. island1 says:

    Take deep breaths, it’s not that bad.

  41. “Feel invited” (i.e. a literal equivalent of this expression) is over-used in the Polish version of advertising materials as well and also makes (not only) me irritated.

    “The advertisers would then get stroppy with what I had written”

    I can’t believe such mindless people can survive in the business. And, of course, everybody in Poland has “fluent English” in his CV. That’s so sad to see :(

  42. I think too many people in Poland underrate the difficulty of English.

    I can’t speak English at all. It has taken me 15 years just to acquaint a reading knowledge of English at the level that is enough to understand a majority of texts without an obsessive need for using dictionaries all the time. Sometimes I’m able to write something with effort and pain. That’s all. Speaking (more fluently than 1 word a second) remains still far beyond my reach. I feel that I ain’t gonna be able to master the language ever in my wretched life.

    English only seems to be the easiest language in the word, but is actually very hard and sophisticated: full of idioms, fixed collocations and partially replaceable synonyms. It’s easy, but only to read, not to use. Thanks to that, producing gibberish comes easily, but trying to use proper words can really squeeze the cr*p out of any non-native.

    What’s worse, the native speakers like you are forced to see and hear all our sh*t. As a result of all those difficulties, the world is still becoming infested by so-called simplified International English, which is just a bunch of bureaucratic loan translations. They sound equally bad in all languages, but are easily translatable. American and Commonwealth citizens handed over their language voluntarily to the barbarians from all over the world; that’s a situation like a herd of monkeys would have been given a razor blade.

  43. adthelad says:

    Oh Jamie! Rather you than me :) In my time proof reading I found myself rewriting whole sections of text which, as you say, is not what it’s supposed to be about (note comma after ‘which’ – ok?). One ended up with texts containing different styles of language flow, which couldn’t be helped, otherwise you’d end up rewriting the whole bloody lot (acceptable use of ‘one’ or not?).
    The thing I hated most was the use of American English (an oxymoron if ever there was one, LOL) and those blasted commas. The latter allow Poles to write about 15 sentences in one, sometimes leaving me perplexed as to which subject/ object a particular verb was referring to. Thank God for the wife, although her patience ran thin very quickly.

  44. Alison says:

    Quick question (and apologies for going off on a tangent here because it is not really a translation thing as such), but am I alone in becoming irritated by multiple telephone numbers e.g. “Call us now on +48 22 12345, +48 22 12344, +48 22 123333”. Surely one number will do the job???

  45. Jubal says:

    Heh.

    Every time I tried to translate anything into English, I ended up writing the text from scratch, trying only to convey the general meaning.

    (And of course my English grammar is extremely bad in any case; I’m not a translator, though.)

  46. Bartek says:

    What Poles put into their CV is not fluent (though I use fluent), rather than very popular biegły (proficient). Proficiency means mastery, according to international standards their command of English should stand for a level an educated native speaker represents. And in truth they just communicate quite effectively and hold their often ill-gotten CAE or only FCE.

    Many of them speak English and write quite well, but if it comes to translating, they fall down on it. After all nobody teaches how to translate these days. Or this skill is taught like in my school, where the knwoledgeable staff are few and far between…

  47. adthelad says:

    Very well put sir, with one teeny weeny exception http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_collective_nouns_by_subject_I-Z ;)

    Old joke:
    “What a cute bunch of cows!” she remarked.
    “Not a bunch, herd”, her friend replied.
    “Heard of what?”
    “Herd of cows.”
    “Of course I’ve heard of cows.”
    “No, a cow herd.”
    “What do I care what a cow heard. I have no secrets to keep from a cow!”

  48. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_collective_nouns_by_subject_A-H
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_collective_nouns_by_subject_I-Z

    Yes, that are the most obvious reasons for what the English language is so difficult. In Polish, we have terrible inflection. In English, you have terrible phraseology. ;)

  49. Anonymous says:

    It’s podmiot-orzeczenie (subject-predicate?) thing. This pair is sentence, and sentences within two dots should be divided with commas. This is general rule and implies commas in conditionals, genuine parenthesis, and other sentences.
    Example:
    “(Ja) wiem, że (ty), gdy (ty) miałeś piętnaście lat, chciałeś być pilotem”. It’s not the best thing – i did it ad hoc, but can be more complicated (my father in his childhood had written one one and a half page homework in one sentence to the dot, but a lot of “który”, “jaki”, “jeśli”, “gdy”, etc.).
    “I know, that you phoned me” -> “I know” & “You phoned me” (http://bash.org/?835030).

  50. newsaddict says:

    Different telephone culture. In the UK, we are used to a single number for a company, which will be a central switchboard, or in a small company the receptionist. The receptionist then forwards you to the requried extention. This means that we are put on hold a lot and large companies have those dreaded ¨press 1 for X, press 2 for Y or hold for other problems¨ answering machines.

    In many Polish, and many other Central European, businesses, (especially small one likes translatio agencies_ the switchboard-extention system is less comomn, so numbers go direct to individual members of staff, there is no general switchboard number.

    Indeed, many Polish and Central European companies and government departments put their internal telephone directories on the internet, do you directly call up the the CEO or foriegn minister’s secretary, though it is probably engaged!

  51. Pistefka says:

    Ah yes.
    I do plenty of “proof reading” (which is in fact copy editing, or better still “translation revision”) from Hungarian English (Hunglish) into something more like English. I also do the occasional Polish text, so I was surprised you didn’t mention the almost total absence of articles, especially “the.”

    “Many of texts from Republic of Poland not written in original English have same problems like mentioned in article above.”

    Funnily enough Hunglish also loves the word “possibility” – which this time comes from the Hungarian “lehetőség” rather than “mozliwosc”. Maybe this is a German influence – do they use “möglichkeit” all the time too? Hmmmm…(strokes chin)

    I am not complaining too much though – if the English of these texts was too good they wouldn’t need me to revise them, and its rather a handy source of extra income.
    In fact I am just going to do some now, the proceeds of which will go straight towards redecorating my bathroom.

  52. island1 says:

    Polish translators tend to be highly aware of articles, to the point where they panic and put them before every other word. I don’t mind this one so much since English article use is akin to mysticism.

  53. Stefan says:

    Island1 is absolutely right. Bartek’s post on Polish-English translation on his blog is also significant. There is little excuse for its poor quality, though (should I use a comma here?) we can trace some roots of this state.

    Within the last 20 years the so-called grammar-translation method has been condemned and pushed aside by the communicative method. Almost all the native speakers invited to teach English in Poland in the 1990s were delighted whenever a student uttered a single word. Actually monosyllables and gestures are pretty sufficient to communicate.

    The idea of ‘immersion’ in the target language is definitely great but who’s going to translate then? This requires fluency (if not proficiency) in the both languages.

    Here we’re touching on another problem. Polish office workers, lawyers, politcians and scholars use a jargon which can hardly be called the Polish language. They are very creative making up new terms and are often surprised that no English scholar has happened to invent their English equivalents.

    The reference some Polish translators may ‘dig up’ are not necessarily ancient. Many of them are still being published by Oxford UP, Longman, Cambridge UP, etc. Published and sold all over the world! For many of us they’re the only source of ‘correct’ English.

    What’s more, (to comma or not to comma, that is the question!)throughout my career as a teacher I’ve come across just two textbooks whose language resembled that you can here in Britain. Tens of others provide students with some simplified versions with several rigid grammar rules (hardly heard from either British or Americans users of English).

    Professional translators are scarce and expensive. Companies, including universities and colleges, usually order their employees to do the translation work. It’s good if they agree to pay them anything for job. Native speakers are also hard to find but not impossible. The guys who order to translate hardly ever have money for native proofreaders. They economise on whatever they can.

  54. Stefan says:

    Huh! Sorry, I haven’t proofread my own text!

  55. Jerzy Stachowiak says:

    It’s probably the only blog or forum in the whole Internet where people attentively proofread their comments with profound reverence and sweaty palms :)

  56. island1 says:

    Good points Stefan. Of course the emphasis on the communicative method was also driven by the fact that the pool of potential teachers, young native speakers of English, also don’t have a clue about the grammar of their own language.

    I want to make it clear once again that I’m not complaining about English as used by Poles in general, just persistent errors made by translators who should know better. It’s true, of course, that a lot of translations you see in Poland were not produced by trained translators.

  57. island1 says:

    It’s a nice thought but I hope it doesn’t get out of hand because then I would have to proofread my own posts more carefully.

  58. PMK says:

    Story of my life.

    Doing a translation correction right now, and I can’t tell you how much this post rings true.

  59. Bartek says:

    I have to tell you Stefan you hit the nail in the head when writing about grammar-translation method. Courses run currently don’t teach people how to function in a space involving use of two languages. A Pole will often have to harness English to be used in Poland, in Polish corporate environment. The have to know how to translate those Polish words which come up very often and are hard to translate into English. Plus Poles have their own lingustic habits that impinge on how they speak English and what errors they make.

    That’s a great topic for a seperate post too.

    yeah, on Polandian I don’t proofread my posts, but for blog I double-check everything and edit before publishing – it’s a foreign lanuguage still, most mistakes are avoided then

  60. Kiki says:

    By the way : Basia ze Szwecji. Not “z”.

  61. Kiki says:

    Jerzy, never heard of “herd” of monkeys – isn’t it a troop ?

  62. Scatts says:

    Yet more proof of the popularity of posts about language.

    ‘one’ – As an old git, I have to stand up for the right to use ‘one’ from time to time. I rarely use it but there are occasions when it seems like exactly the right thing to do. These are not often the same occasions as would have been back in one’s heyday, but occasions nonetheless. I know that ‘you’ can easily be used to refer to a group of people as opposed to one person but there are times when ‘you’ sounds just a bit too personal in a sentence and that’s when ‘one’ comes to the rescue.

    less-fewer – glad that Michał picked you up on that and don’t agree that nobody notices. The misuse of these always really jars with me for some reason.

    three times the number of words – happens ALL the time. I often get involved in ‘brushing up’ reports and whatnot in the office and this happens every time. 200 words in Polish turns into 600 in English. I have no idea why but generally take it as a compliment to the English language that they feel the need to embellish.

    sentences the wrong way around – Zosia often does this when speaking. It’s a problem of people knowing the words but not understanding the grammar.

    shocked!! that the need to delete 4,000 instances of ‘the’ and ‘a’ from the text and then reinsert 100 of them in the right place didn’t make your top 8. Truly shocked.

    There is something very wrong when you have to, let’s face it, re-write the damned work and yet only get paid for proof reading but you know the only way to change that is for everyone to refuse to accept such drivel in the first place. We get utter crap back from so-called translation services, especially the pseudo-legal ones and they charge decent money for it too. We should all take it upon ourselves to refuse such dross and either send it back or demand higher payment for correcting it. Without this, nothing will change. In the meantime, you need to earn a crust and so take what you can get. Not right. Very not right.

  63. DC says:

    Great post. I _love_ the organism thing.

    One more vote here for “one.” I used to do a lot of technical writing and there are many times where “one” is very useful, especially since our style oligarchy prefers active voice for instructional writing. Americans are less familiar with “one” than in the UK, I suspect, but at the right time you can’t beat it for clarity and simplicity.

    Fewer and less errors just grate.

    Now a question. I know nothing about translation, outside of my personal struggles with other languages. What strikes me about many of these errors is that I imagine the translator being locked in a room with only books for many years. No internet, TV, or conversation in English seems to influence their usage. Is this a matter of academic training being weighed too heavily?

    For contrast, I have a Finnish friend who speaks English pretty well. Othe friends almost always understand what he says. But he can’t spell to save his life. It’s because he has the skill (which I am very jealous of) to just pick up languages from what he hears. I am repeatedly surprised by how quickly he updates his usage from what he just heard even the same day.

    So are the errors you mention possibly a result of just trying to be too formal?

  64. Jerzy Stachowiak says:

    Yes, it is a “troop of monkeys”, of course. Just my fault.

  65. Jerzy Stachowiak says:

    “Great post. I _love_ the organism thing.”

    I suspect that there is one exception for the use of “organism” in reference to the human body. I read a lot of scientific papers on human physiology I see that the term “organism” is used in them and has a meaning of “human body” when it is treated as a system that consists of many related subsystems. A small example:
    http://www.nature.com/onc/journal/v21/n4/abs/1205083a.html
    “Telomerase in the human organism”

    So I think it’s nothing bad to write about the “human organim”, when we use the scientific language of biology. Am I right?

  66. Jerzy Stachowiak says:

    “sentences the wrong way around – Zosia often does this when speaking. It’s a problem of people knowing the words but not understanding the grammar.”

    When it comes to speaking (but not writing), I see another reason for difficulties that speakers of the languages with inflexion and free word order have.

    When we speak Polish, we don’t have to plan all the content of sentence in advance, but we can make it up just in time, as soon as the new stuff comes to the memory. It’s something like:

    *At 8 o’clock, today, came in there, to this shop, right near the bus stop, (thinking: uhm, who was that?) an old man, no, middle-aged with a yellow bag (a pause to thinking) and just after that happened… (etc.)

    So, in Polish we have a great freedom of adding new information during uttering the sentence. When we try to speak English, we need to prepare all the information beforehand to put it into the proper positions in the sentence. That’s the difficulty in the real speech.

    But it doesn’t justify messing up in the word order during writing, when we have enough time to think.

  67. Scatts says:

    Jerzy, yes, organism is fine in the context you refer to.

  68. Halina says:

    How true! This is the remnant from the communist past.

  69. Halina says:

    Having browsed through this lengthy thread, I can summarise it with: hear! hear! As a translator myself, I’ve been despairing over the poor standard of Polish translations for a long time now. However, if you consider the general standard of Pl > En translations as low, you would be amazed at how low it is in the other direction En > Pl. And it is less excusable, for it is the so called “native” speakers that produce those clumsy copies. They pay no heed to the syntax differences between English and Polish and the “faux amis” are a common occurrence.

    All this points to the underlying flaws in the way the translation procurement system works. And I guess, this may be true for other languages as well. There might be some good Polish translators out there, but the jobs go to those who have acquired the necessary paperwork (by hook or by crook perhaps in some cases?) and are therefore given credit without further questions. They can thus enjoy their privileged status and sit on their laurels without the need to prove their worth. And if they’re lucky enough to acquire the so called “sworn” status, no one can undermine their expertise.
    I feel like pouring my hair out sometimes, looking at this corruption of Polish, particularly when it invades my computer and sticks there like a proverbial **** to a blanket in the form of the Polish translation of a software application, e.g. Google Chrome. Incidentally, I cannot get rid of it, even though I set my language to English. Any suggestions?
    This is just one example of the massive invasion of Polish by Polglish, that has been the feature for the last 2 decades. I feel like throwing a gauntlet to the literary fraternity out there: Sympathizers of Polish unite!
    Sorry, I finished my comment with this slogan, which actually has nothing to do with the poor English copies, but I couldn’t help evolving the thread into the opposite direction.

  70. Halina says:

    Proof-reading of my own writing: … tearing my hair out …., is what I meant.

  71. Jesus H Christ on a crutch… they poured out of the woodwork on this article.

    I just wanted to point out another “organism”: http://www.thenews.pl/radio/newsfrompoland/artykul127656.html

  72. Jeziorki, the 19th of March, 2010 year.

    The City Enterprise PPHU “Jeziorki” Sp. z o.o. established over twenty-two years ago invites You to cooperation. Our offer comprise 25 thou. different types of steel fastening to match most exacting demands. From Rhodium-plated helical screw-pins to precision-etched double-bouldered type, our Company can supply Your needs. We boast of Professionalism and Experience.

    TELEX 98734

    Trombity Street 17-19,
    Warsaw

  73. Bartek says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t just made up.

  74. island1 says:

    erythropoietin in her organism… nasty

  75. island1 says:

    Good to know it isn’t only me suffering. I’m surprised to hear about the poor quality of En to Pl though.

    Can’t help you with Google Chrome. As far as I can see my version doesn’t let me change the language setting at all.

  76. island1 says:

    Pitch perfect.

  77. Halina says:

    Quote: As far as I can see my version doesn’t let me change the language setting at all.

    How lucky you are!

  78. pinolona says:

    Grrr… I haven’t read the other comments but still, here is my two euro-cents worth:

    – false friends are NOT taught in the first week of the translation course because you should already have learnt them in the first week of your language course and if you don’t know them by now then what on earth are you doing training to be a translator?!

    – translation agency rates are pretty low in Poland so the best translators usually skirt round them and work directly with the client. If you need translations in Poland, I would recommend asking around before you hit the yellow pages.

    – translation (translation means taking a document written in one language and re-writing it in another language: not to be confused with interpreting, which means listening to the spoken word in one language and conveying the meaning of that speech in another, allowing two parties who do not share a common language to communicate) should always be into your native language. This is because translation is not just a question of reproducing the same text: you have to be skilled at writing in the target language in a variety of different styles, so that you automatically know for example that a website ought to say: ‘Our products and services include…’ rather than ‘Our offer is…’. It is indeed very similar to copywriting in some cases. And that is the job of the translator, not the proofreader. I would say the most important skill for a translator is to be good at writing in your own language.

    – By the way, have you ever had a Polish client write back and correct you for deviating too far from the source text?

    – I have started saying ‘possibility’ instead of ‘opportunity’. Damn.

  79. pinolona says:

    Halina, did you see the petition to correct the English translation of the Polish Winter Olympics website?

  80. pinolona says:

    It’s true, it is really, really hard to know what to say when someone asks what the rule is for articles.

    ‘Possibility’ comes up in French a lot too, which has nothing to do with either Polish, Hungarian or German.

  81. pinolona says:

    I mean, not that I know anything about Hungarian or German or all that much about Polish to be honest…

  82. pinolona says:

    hallelujah! that’s basically the whole point!!

  83. pinolona says:

    Malcolm, that is a terrible idea, don’t listen to Jamie. Avoid agencies: look for independent translators. Try the translation dept of your nearest university. Ask ex-pat friends to pass on your name. Keep your eyes peeled for translators among your Polish acquaintances. Maybe put up an ad on Gumtree and get some business cards.
    There is quite a high demand for good native English proofreaders in Poland, so if you do a good job for one translator it’s likely your details will be passed on to their colleagues.

  84. pinolona says:

    I disagree: this one is really irritating (possibly because it sounds like Estuary English).

  85. Halina says:

    No, I didn’t. Where is it?

  86. Magda says:

    I came across your blog entirely by accident, while Googling ‘Polish inventions’ (of all things!), and haven’t been able to leave my computer!
    It’s way past bed-time, and I seem to have been lured into a reading frenzy.
    I am not a blog reader, or writer for that matter, and have always vowed never to become one – but you guys are brilliant!

    I’m a translator and interpreter – I know, I know…. a short and boring history to explain myself:
    Polish born; Aussie bred; living in Poland for 14 years now; the last three years spent straddled over Warsaw and London (English boyfriend).
    I suppose I could call myself a native English speaker, but I always feel that to be an exaggeration. Even though I never actually studied Polish, my written English has never been perfect (although I know very few English who have perfected the art), and Mrs Faulkner, my English teacher from high school, would choke if she ever found out I made my living from the use of the English language.

    Everything I have read above is painfully true, and many times I have been known to curse the fingers of people calling themselves “translators” (usually using rather unlady-like vocabulary).
    My personal favourite was the translation of a 90-page market research report, written for a client who had a chain of warehouses. I was given this report to proofread, overnight, being told that the client was not satisfied with the translation provided by another [person who re-wrote the text in something he thought was English]. Regardless of the general lack of grammar, syntax, or anything else related to linguistics, he used spell-check over the whole document. Unfortunatelly, the poor bastard misspelled the word ‘warehouse’, and in his genious corrected each appearance of the word to ‘whorehouse’ :)

    Another, humorous but seriously irritating example is the certified translation of my birth certificate and high school diploma – I somehow ended up being two years older (according to my legally certified birth certificate) and then surprisingly graduated from university, with an MA, at the age of 17! (according to the legally certified translation of my high school diploma – I attended Holy Cross COLLEGE in Sydney).

    On a different note, I have to say that translating and interpreting in market research and marketing has its requirements. We (those who work in the industry) must keep to set formats, text length, and sometimes even paragraph structure – otherwise clients do come back with a mouthfull.

    Don’t get me wrong, I would quite gladly shoot most translators I have evern come across, but it isn’t easy keeping to what is often ridiculaously required of you and your own conscience. I recently realised that I now find it difficult to ‘translate’ a text without sticking to it in the most precise manner possible. Not that I’ve ever had any literary tallent, but I can no longer bring myself to add any literary value to texts I work on – it’s sad.

    Finally – if you get the chance, take some time to read any copy of a Wizzair magazine. As proofreaders, your flight time will wizz-by in a jiffy! It’s like sticking pins under your fingernails!

  87. Nick says:

    Hear hear, totally agree! I’m a proofreader in Poland and have come across all of these and worse in certified translations. Ok, I’m sure I’d make hilarious mistakes if I tried to write anything seriously in Polish …but then I don’t claim to be a translator.

    A good read, and the comments. cheers.

  88. island1 says:

    Thanks for the very long comment Magda. Glad you’re enjoying the site. I would have left ‘whorehouses’ in and claimed I thought it was right. The Wizzair mag is indeed a sight to behold.

  89. island1 says:

    I also picked up the habit of saying ‘possibility’ instead of ‘opportunity’ plus a bunch of other Ponglishisms. This is why people look at me funny for the first few days whenever I go back to the UK.

  90. Philipp says:

    Dzień dobry!

    Having disposed of “one” is one of the worst crimes that English native speakers ever committed.

    Let’s rank languages by features. Today’s criterion: the passive voice.

    1. German: Here the equivalent of Ye Olde English “one” still exists as a separate mode of expressing passive and what’s more: ordinary people are willing to use passive voice. Nobody, except maybe a few die-hard style fetishists indoctrinated by professors of rhetoric, will find it unusual when you express something in passive where you could have easily done without it — thanks to the German “one” it doesn’t contribute to the length of a sentence either.[*]

    2. Czech and Russian: No “one” here but in some cases the passive looks exactly like the genus medium (the so-called mediopassive voice). The grammatical agent is expressed by means of inflection, which makes the passive voice in both languages very compact.

    4. Latin and Polish: Mostly the same as in Czech or Russian but the agent is expressed through prepositions. Therefore passive sentences tend to be more verbose. Note that in Polish the object of a medio-passive is put into the accusative, e.g. „śpiewa się piosenkę” instead of Czech „zpívá se písnička“ or Latin “carmen canitur”; redundand if not confusing I think.

    5. English: Lack of “one”, passive expressed by means of prepositions, felt hostility against the use of passive in general. You can never be sure whether some statement is in fact a neutral passive phrase or rather a very personal one — both of which require the speaker to use the pronoun “you”. To add insult to insury quite a few native speakers are easily offended by foreigners who try to amend the language by introducing handy passive constructions from their own mother tongue.

    Hey, and don’t you take all this serious, for Christ’s sake!

    Regarding the punctuation: In most languages other than English commas, as somebody already mentioned, serve to indicate nesting levels of subordinate clauses, which is more convenient for the reader who doesn’t have to keep track of the current nesting depth all the time. “Complexity made easy!”

    And didn’t you forget about the article (“the”, “a” &c.) that native speakers of slavic tongues never get right?

    Don’t tell me you actually read through all this, pozdrowienia

    Philipp

    [*] The passive is one of the rare occasions where German turns out to have the best features. In most other cases it ranks last due to redundancy or lack of logic.[**]

    [**] Languages you can’t complain about are hard to find. It is rumored that the least annoying natural languages are actually the Finno-Ugric ones together with Turkic languages and Japanese. Those tend to be rather strict (read: logical) in their usage of morphemes with exceptions seldom to occur. If you don’t mind having nobody to talk to, you should definitely go for Lojban.

  91. Philipp says:

    English should be sixth … nevermind.

  92. David says:

    “People tell me that Polish has less words than English.”

    True (although it should be “fewer”;-). Linguists estimate there’s roughly 200,000 words in Polish while English has recently reached 1,000,000 (however, having learnt that some of those “new English words” are bad puns such as “social notworking”, I can’t help but be suspicious of that figure). Oddly enough, that doesn’t mean that an average Polish text is bound to include 5 times fewer words than an English one. In Polish there’s a very strong taboo against repeating words, which means that in a single paragraph you can end up with several synonyms while an English reader would be perfectly happy seeing the same word repeated.

  93. David says:

    Two more things:

    “The two most common translation mistakes I have heard from Polish to English have involved the verbs being opposites – most notably confusing ‘uczyć sie’ (to learn) with ‘uczyć’ (to teach), and also ‘pożyczyć’ (to borrow) with ‘pożyczać’ (to lend).”

    It’s not exactly like that. Both pożyczyć and pożyczać mean to lend and to borrow. It is what you say afterwards that makes the difference: pozyczac/pozyczyc komus (to someone) is to lend, pozyczac/pozyczyc od kogos (from someone) is to borrow. The yć/ać difference is about the aspect: pozyczyć means one time, pozyczać many times.

    I am not at all surprised by the low quality of English to Polish translations. Not everyone that speaks Polish (or English, French, etc.) fluently is a proficient writer in the language as well. And the fact that Polish syntax is quite flexible (not as much as it used to be, but still) means that a translator may get away with copying the more rigid English sentence structure. The translation will sound clumsy, but who cares… As for false friends, if someone was not paying attention in class when this was discussed, that’s what’s going to happen. It only shows that it is easy to be a translator but much more difficult to be a good one.

  94. mikh says:

    As a utterly non-professional and simple english speaking person but loving linguistics and languages’ issues ( not only english or polish) I’d like to notice that A LOT of websites originally created and managed by ENGLISH web masters contain VERY THE SAME examples of quoted mistakes ( or errors ? hehe).
    Some examples :
    http://www.sky.com/shop/new
    http://www.hintonfirshotel.co.uk/
    http://www.bechtle.co.uk/shop/standardShop/home;jsessionid=6c9dc9a0b93bf51115744620e2e4d2124c1b0e90a1adb1efc835776b370ecbc4?SSID=BD_GB&sessionId=6c9dc9a0b93bf51115744620e2e4d2124c1b0e90a1adb1efc835776b370ecbc4&i=pk2&newFE=true

    to see it use search button in your browser and look for “offer” word.

    There is NOT excuse for professional translators but if even Brits make this kind of mistakes …
    Thanks

  95. Halina says:

    It appears the critical letter about the English version of the website http://www.olimpijski.pl/en/ has worked, as it is now under construction. I assume this is what the letter referred to?

  96. mikh says:

    Excuse me… what was wrong with my previous post here ?? don’t support your only one correct point of view or what ???

    Censorship practices on polandian site ??

    Cutting an uncomplying opinion out ??

    Any answer please ?

  97. island1 says:

    Calm down Mikh.

    Your previous comment was automatically held for ‘moderation’ because it contained multiple links. Our spam-detecting software automatically holds comments with multiple links because this is a common feature of spam. If it didn’t, these posts would be flooded with Viagra. I look through the spam every couple of days, so I would have seen it eventually.

    As to your comment, the word ‘offer’ is used correctly on the first two of the sites you mentioned (I didn’t look at the others). ‘Offer’ is a valid noun and verb in English, it’s just often used incorrectly in translations. On the Sky site it is used (“Bundles & Offers”) to refer to special deals or discounts. On the Hinton Firs site it is used, rather inelegantly but correctly, in the sentence “We would like to offer you a warm welcome to Hinton Firs Hotel.” That’s the trouble with ‘offer’: it’s very close to what translators think it means, but not close enough. The incorrect usage grates.

  98. […] “My organism. As in: Mountain air is good for your organism. I do not have an organism and neither do any other English-speaking people. I’m no scientist but I’m pretty sure an organism is something unpleasant that lives in your shower drain. […] The word you are looking for is ‘body’ or, possibly, ‘health.’” polandian.home.pl […]

  99. Marianne says:

    I really appreciated Stefan’s comment about non-professionals being required to translate.

    This morning the marketing department at my sister’s place of employment wanted the advertising pitch put into Polish as of right now. This is my sister’s job, although her area of expertise is Photoshop. (She also has to check for cultural sensitivity.) Over the years, she’s developed a network of ex-pats for most of the countries with which her company deals. She came up snake eyes for Poland.

    I am qualified to swear translations from German, but not certify them, as I am not a translator. Magda’s comments about an inaccurate birth certificate make me wince, because I tend to stick to birth, death and marriage certificates. If a “troop of monkeys” might not be able translate them, a reasonably well-trained parrot could. I also translate the ‘jurats’ (legal term for who signed, where, when and before whom), as quite often the documents come back with the account for services rendered bound together. This confuses the **** out of our legal people, but is hardly pertinent.

    I just love rants and am pleased to find a site where y’all do it so well!

  100. Marianne says:

    PS
    My sister’s job title is Graphic Artist.

  101. "Suzichka" says:

    Ah, you have plucked a sting in my editing heart with this blog. Pretty much everything you said here applies to my Russian clients. And I could add some more based on their ususal madness

  102. Witek says:

    Island1, my advice is this: compile a list of not 8, but all such errors and publish it – such a book has blockbuster written all over it! I’m the first to buy it, at any price. Thanks for the excellent post. I’m hungry for more

  103. lonka says:

    Hi,
    Excellent discussion.
    A hint on “opportunity” translation: if it can be rephrased as “okazja” in the Polish sentence then it will be “opportunity” 99.9% of the time.
    You will have the opportunity…
    Beda Panstwo mieli okazje…

    so (most of the time):
    opportunity – okazja

  104. Name says:

    Honestly, I don’t think native speakers of English really understand what it’s like to use a foreign language, probably because they don’t really know any themselves. Being Polish, you can spend hours studying English, but you will never master it to the point that anything you say / write sounds natural. The only way to do it is to live in a foreign country for a long time, preferably visiting it for the first time at a very young age. And even if you do it, even if you become unrecognisable as a foreigner among the people speaking a given language, you can still make a silly mistake!

  105. island1 says:

    But my point was that it is a translator’s job not to make these mistakes, or at least not so many of them. I don’t care if non-translators make mistakes in English.

  106. Lady OK says:

    Thanks for this post! It’s very nice!

    Please look at this problem from a different perspective. Daily, we, native Polish speakers read a lot of materials in English simply by visiting web pages, reading posts at forums, blogs etc. I believe that NOT all content written by native English speakers is correct – grammar, style etc. *Hmm, not talking about you – professional writer.. Of course this applies also to the Polish language, and Polish native speakers but we make the quality…

    Kisses!

  107. barbara_d says:

    1) Lists: “London, Birmingham, and Bristol are cities in England.”

    I wouldn’t use a comma after that ‘and’ !! :)

  108. oddłużenie says:

    I have to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing this blog. I am hoping to see the same high-grade content from you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own, personal blog now ;)

  109. Mag says:

    Very useful post, I think you should put heads together with other proofreadeers and write a whole book on mistakes (as one of the readers earlier commented). I also think there is no point being too judgemental about bad translations. Translation is hard work and I am sure many of those badly written texts have been translated by those who have just started their careers. In old days many agencies employed in-house translators so that you had instant feedback. Now it is sink or swim.

  110. David says:

    How can you be a proofreader but not care whether you use ‘fewer’ or ‘less’ correctly? The fact that lots of people get it wrong doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. Judging by what I see online, most people write ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’, but you wouldn’t allow that in a proofread text.

  111. grata says:

    The only way to master English properly as well as loose your polish accent is to live in England for more than 23 years , marry an English man and only speak Polish once a week.
    I did all of the above and my English is perfect. I do splendid job working as a translator/ interpreter.
    You can have as many translation degrees as you wish but at the end of the day you will always sound foreign to the natives..Everybody on this blog uses fancy words but I bet that majority speaks with heavy accent ( no offence)

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