Translation – GET LOST!

Translation has a habit of attracting a negative press. Only this week most news outlets gave us the amusing story of the 13,500 surplus eggs sent to the Norwegian Olympic Team in Korea. Most newspapers trundled out the now hackneyed, ‘lost in translation’ formula (‘Scrambled in Translation…’, The Guardian, ‘…a grocery order got lost in translation,’ the Independent). This mix up was apparently caused by Google translate adding an extra zero to the athletes’ order. Only the BBC cast into to doubt the culpability of Google translate, wondering whether it might have been the result of a typo in Korean. Whichever the case, it underlined once more how a seemingly trivial error put translation in the crosshairs of criticism. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since it also implies that a) it is important to use a serious translation service which at least should minimize such slip ups and b) there may be a whole host of causes for such an error, not necessarily directly related to translation, though which should be dealt with one way or another (did it not occur to anyone that 15,000 eggs was rather a lot for a Norway’s 109 athletes?). As the Independent states in ending its report: ‘But if the Norway’s Olympic ambitions are to bear fruit, they may have to find a more reliable method of translating their food orders’.

David Anderson


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