Archive for the ‘Translation and Interpretation’ category

Translation 58. Media Ignorance of the Role of Translators and Interpreters. Again.

24 July 2017

The Western world is at present mesmerised and traumatised by a constant hourly bombardment of media reports on the antics of a strange US President. This could last 4 years, or more. So be it.

But the latest Sunday Times (London) inclusion of an official Russian interpreter, Anatoli Samochornov (labelled by the journalist as a translator) as another of the growing number of “suspects” in  meetings between Trump people  and “meddling” Russians in 2016 and 2017 is really CRASS. (Josh Glancy, Washington, ‘President’s Red Line for Russia Investigations’, reproduced  in The Australian, 24 July, 2017)

But the truth is so simple. A translator’s paid job is to translate documents, usually in written form. A professional interpreter is paid to interpret (i.e. he or she orally translates) SPEECH by one or more persons.

If that is too difficult for some media operators to understand, try this clearer version.

But distinguish between the two professions and stop blaming interpreters (or real translators) for doing their legitimate job.


Translation 56. Michel Houellebecq’s Latest Publication

17 January 2017

Just interviewed on French television (FT2, 20 Heures), a more sympathique-looking and -sounding Michel Houellebecq spoke about his hefty new collection of essays and his current attitude to life and writing, Cahiers de l’Herne. (l’Herne is the publisher.)

Here are some references for his fans.

“Insaisissable, inclassable, irréductiblement ambigu : Houellebecq, infailliblement, nous échappe. Sauf, peut-être, dans le cas précis d’un Cahier de l’Herne, lieu idéal d’une approche plurielle et du mélange des genres. Nous retraçons ici la trajectoire d’un écrivain singulier en montrant les hésitations, les points de rupture, les multiples « bifurcations » qui contribuent à la construire. En entremêlant les textes rares ou inédits, les essais universitaires, les témoignages de proches, d’écrivains, d’artistes, de musiciens, d’amis ou d’ennemis (et tout l’éventail se situant entre ces deux extrêmes), il voudrait rendre compte de la complexité d’un auteur et d’une oeuvre qui ont pour ambition de sauver une époque – la nôtre – de l’évanouissement.”

If necessary, you can submit these references to the new improved Google Translate. For example:

“Ungraspable, unclassifiable, irreducibly ambiguous: Houellebecq, infallibly, escapes us. Except, perhaps, in the case of a Cahier de l’Herne, an ideal place for a pluralistic approach and the mixing of genres. We retrace here the trajectory of a singular writer by showing the hesitations, the points of rupture, the multiple “bifurcations” that help to build it. By combining rare or unpublished texts, academic essays, testimonies of relatives, writers, artists, musicians, friends or enemies (and the whole spectrum between these two extremes), Would like to account for the complexity of an author and a work whose ambition is to save an era – ours – from fainting. ”   (GOOGLE TRANSLATE)

Opinions of Houellebecq’s Soumission.

Translation 35. Ms Natthita Opaspipat helps IKEA to avoid infelicitous commercial Transliterations

6 June 2012

In the Wall Street Journal for 5 June 2012, James Hookway refers to Ms Opaspipat’s commendable efforts in his article titled
‘IKEA’s Products Make Shoppers Blush in Thailand. Swedish Retailer Hires Local Linguists to Police Racy Translations’.
A promising sign of linguistic sensitivity.

See also this earlier comment.

Translation 34. Lost in Translation according to a Vatican Archivist

2 March 2012

According to my modest Collins Latin Dictionary, the semantic range of the Latin words secretus and secretum is as follows:

secretus: past participle of secerno (to separate, to set apart): separate, solitary, remote, secret, private.

secretum: privacy, secrecy, retreat, remote place, secret, mystery.

The following article seems to show a Vatican archivist using this semantic range to weasel his way out of a very embarrassing situation involving the Catholic Church’s centuries-old suppression of information.

We owe this story to Stacy Meichtry, writing in the Wall Street Journal on 1 March 2012 (repeated in The Australian the following day – today):

‘Vatican’s ‘Secret Archives’ Open to Public View’

Here is a further copy of the intriguing article, which shows a new attempt by the Catholic Church to win over  a suspicious public, plus a final comment and a link to the writer, for the WordPress record.


“ROME—The Vatican is giving the public a rare, if temporary, peek inside its secret archive.

On Wednesday the Vatican kicked off a six-month exhibit at Rome’s Capitoline Museum that will place 100 documents, usually locked away in the pope’s personal archive, on display.

A papal bull excommunicating Martin Luther from the Catholic Church; the judicial acts of the trial of Galileo Galilei; and a letter from the guillotine-bound Marie Antoinette, are just a few examples of the kind of history-in-the-making documents that rarely are seen by the general public.

A register of the oaths of fealty to Pope Innocent VI is part of the exhibit.

The exhibit is part of a Vatican effort to rebrand one of its controversial institutions. The Vatican Secret Archives—the official name of the papal archive—have long been a source and symbol of intrigue, providing endless fodder to conspiracy theorists and a useful backdrop to at least one Dan Brown novel.

Critics have long accused the Vatican of using the archive to keep historically relevant—and potentially damaging—documents sealed away for ages.

Despite the repository’s reputation for secrecy, however, scholars are actually allowed to consult most of the archive.

“We don’t want this material to be kept secret,” Vatican archivist Enrico Flaiani told a group of reporters this week as he guided them into an underground bunker that houses part of the archive.

Beneath a vast concrete ceiling, curled parchment and cracked leather bindings filled the dimly lit stacks.

Mr. Flaiani cast the archive as a mere victim of Latin lost in translation. The decision to call the Archivum Secretum Vaticanum the Vatican’s “secret archive” was a mistake, the archivist said, adding that he preferred the translation “personal archive.”

Still, part of the archive is certainly kept secret.

Documents dating from 1939—the year the World War II-era pontiff, Pius XII, took office—are kept locked behind metal fences. Vatican officials have said they need time to index the files, but the issue is one of papal prerogative.

Documents related to the trial of Galileo Galilei are part of the exhibition.

Pope Benedict XVI, or his successors, will decide when those documents are made public. For the exhibit, however, the Vatican appears to have allowed at least one such document to slip past the fences.

Among the letters on display is an April 1944 memorandum from a Rome priest to Giovanni Battista Montini, a top Vatican bishop who would later become Pope Paul VI.

A week earlier, Nazi troops had massacred hundreds of people near catacombs on the outskirts of Rome and had tried to cover up the act by sealing the bodies inside a quarry.

“There is a pile of corpses. Six can be seen clearly,” the memo states, describing one of the younger victims as having “three fingers whose flesh has been stripped off in earlier torture.”

“Another has dug his nails in the chest of his comrade who has fallen beneath him, as if he was trying to get up for the last time,” the memo states.

[The following section is NOT included in the reprise by The Australian.]

The archive has a tortured history.

Bishop Sergio Pagano, head of the archive, recalled how in earlier centuries his predecessors were thrown in Vatican dungeons for releasing papal files. When Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Rome, he moved the entire archive to France. With his reign ended, thousands of documents were destroyed in a cull, because the archive was deemed too massive to return to Rome in its entirety.’

[Write to Stacy Meichtry at ]

A version of this article appeared Mar. 1, 2012, on page A11 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Vatican’s ‘Secret Archives’ Open to Public View.”