Sunday, 24 September 2006

Keeping out the tourists

Last week’s bright spot was the news that officials hoping to attract tourists to Jerusalem had distributed tens of thousands of leaflets promoting a musical and arts festival held in the city. The sightseeing pamphlet was translated from Hebrew and should have read: "Jerusalem— there's no city like it!". But instead the slogan in English read: "Jerusalem—there's no such city!".
Tourist brochures, like restaurant menus, are notorious for laughable translations. Some years ago Air France used to offer a range of package holidays which they marketed under the name of Welcome Tours, and promoted them with slogans such as: Johannesburg with Air France? You’re welcome!
It was some time before a native English-speaker on the staff of Air France pointed out just what this meant and the posters and brochures were hurriedly withdrawn. Presumably a cheapskate marketing department in Paris had used a locally based translator who did not know that You're welcome is not only a polite formula used in response to an expression of thanks, but may also mean, ironically, Rather you than me.
Not that being a native French-speaker is an excuse for ignorance of this English idiom. A top-flight linguist like Céline, born in Bayonne, has lived in England for twelve years and is as near bilingual as makes no matter but still prefers to translate only from English to French although she interprets both ways. She would never have made a blunder like that.

5 comments:

Amanda said...

Also a translator, although the exact opposite to Céline, Irish native, living and working in France and translating from French to English, I do love perusing menus for little pearls of sloppy translation. One of my favourites seen recently was "Greedy Lost Bread". You can figure it out, n'est-ce pas?

Tony said...

OK, French toast, but I can't see how the greedy gets in. Please tell me.

Amanda said...

"Gourmand" of course! Although I'm not sure what it had extra; I preferred to order the Green Lemon Foam...
Bon appétit!

Tony said...

Sorry, Amanda, but I don't quite get it. How would you have translated Pain Perdu Gourmand? French Toast for Gluttons sounds pretty silly. Or have I missed something?

Amanda said...

Not having sampled this particular delicacy, I imagine it has something added, fruit maybe or an extra topping. I would probably have translated it as Gourmet French toast.