Lost in Translation

In a recent post I cited an article translated on the site Watching America. Frequent reader Icepick (I presume that’s an homage to the venerable character actor Elisha Cook, Jr. who played a character by that name on the TV series, Magnum, P. I.) questioned the sense of the translation of the article so I took a quick glance at the original German, linked at the site. A second, closer look made me suspect that there was a problem in the translation.

Here’s the original translation:

Hillary Clinton intends to continue cultivating contacts with Europe as well as with al-Qaeda and US-friendly regimes in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and Israel.

That would be of enormous significance, if true. However, the original German is:

Von Hillary Clinton wissen wir, dass sie Kontakte mit Europa und den von al-Qaida und dem Iran bedrohten US-freundlichen Regimes in Ägypten, Jordanien, der Türkei und Israel weiter pflegen wird.

which I translate as

From Hillary Clinton we can expect that she will continue to maintain contacts with Europe and U. S.-friendly regimes in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and Israel, threatened by Al-Qaeda and Iran.

which differs enormously in sense from the original rendering.

I contacted Watching America, they concurred with my translation, and the correction is already in place.

Thanks again, Icepick.

5 comments… add one
  • I think you’re right. Got to watch those split verbs in German. You never know what’s going on until the very end of the sentence. And when there are two of them in a single sentence, a Google translator won’t save you. “… weiter pflegen wird.” Ugh, nightmares of 9th grade German.

  • It’s dangerous to learn German. Learn German and the first thing you know you’re reading Hegel or Husserl. And then where are you?

  • The curse of Anglo-Saxon culture (as any good Frenchman could tell you). If you think that’s bad, consider how corrupting learning Russian is. After all, Lenin wrote in Russian.

  • The pronoun “den” should have been a tip that this was going to get complex. But how is it that “Iran” drops out of the translated sentence entirely? There’s more than just bad grammar afoot here.

  • That was my clue, too. 😉

    I was being kind. I think there was both a mistranslation and a bowdlerization.

Leave a Comment