Translation 9. Paying expert translators is not a waste of money. A trivial example
In spite of what is shown in the following quotations from one book, educated Mexicans tend to speak very good English. They have to because their careers often depend on this facility. Unfortunately, the same cannot yet be said for educated speakers of American English in relation to fluency in Spanish.
In 1997, the Mexican author Eduardo R. Huchim published an interesting futuristic political novel, set in 2000, with ample doses of sexual interludes. It was titled Las conjuras. Una historia en el México del año 2000 (Mexico, Grijalbo, 1997).
The author includes some imaginary telephone conversations on serious matters between the American and Mexican Presidents. Presumably to add realism, Huchim writes these conversations mainly in English. But the seriousness of the topics under discussion is completely undermined by the unconvincing language used. The resulting bathos is due to Señor Huchim’s failure to take the precaution of getting his comically literal English checked, at minimal cost, by a competent translator.
Here are some of the results (they include sloppy spelling and punctuation):
-Mr. president, you can not anounce what your message says.
-Of course I can, Mr. president. I shall do it in 20 minutes.
-Do you want to kick the world?
-Do you want to do that?
-Of course not.
-Then, agree to the moratorium.
-Will you forget the drug legalization and the reduction of your exports …?
-Yes, Mr. president. I promise I will forget both things for some months-. I need proof of the efectiveness of your program against drug consumption and I need to see the oil prices. (p.119)
-Well, Mr. president. I need some hours to try to persuade my team and the IMF about the moratorium.
-How many hours, Mr. president?
-OK, Mr president. I will postpone my message until tomorrow. I shall wait for your notifications.
-It is a black mail.
-From your part, Mr. president. You are who tries to persuade me not to give my message to my people.
Una carcajada de William Clinton y un “you are terrible” puso fin a la breve charla. (p. 120) [A belly laugh from President Clinton and a “you are terrible” ended the brief conversation.]
-Mr. president. There is an only way against the drugs. It is the legalization. Any other thing will fail. It is necessary to walk on that road. But while it is possible, I’ll have good news for you very soon. Be atent about news. Good morning, Mr. president. (p. 125)
-Mr. president, I also want to tell you of an important matter. I think our differences had gone far enough. I want to propose you an agreement for the normalization at once of all our commerce, including oil and petrochemistry. We accept your decisions on the matter and we are ready, tomorrow if you want, to sign an agreement for buying and paying for all the oil that we did not buy in the last four months. You will give us the oil in a period of three months.
-Oh, Mr. president, be understanding. Congress is very angry. Do not make it difficult.
-Nuestra decisión es definitiva. Yo tendría mañana al pueblo en rebelión si, después de tantos sacrificios, me rindiera -insistió López Obrador. (p. 208)
-No, Mr. president, your people would be calming down after so many sacrifices. But this is not a conversation between merchants. So I accept your prices, but this will be signed immediatly. OK?
-Yes, Mrs. secretary -se despidió [el Presidente] Williams dirigiéndose a Jimena-, someday all of you will know how much you have won tonight, much, very much more than an oil bussiness. Good nigth. (p. 209)
And Good night to readers!1