Newstalk
Newstalk

17.39 30 Sep 2013


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Another day, another celebration. Today is International Translation Day which celebrates the work of translators around the world and was set up 60 years ago by the International Federation of Translators.

In an increasingly interconnected and globalised world, translation is vitally important.

But as anyone who has tried to learn a foreign language or dealt with people with "limited" English, there are pitfalls that often have funny or embarrassing consequences...

 

Pollo NOT polla

This is a very common error in Spain, especially in restaurants. Pollo means chicken in Spanish. Polla means something altogether different as you will realize when you hear the Spanish waiter's sharp intake of breath and horrified look.

I once saw a friend try to order pechuga de pollo which means chicken fillet. However they replaced the 'o' with an 'a' and instead they ordered 'fillet of c*ck' which was definitely not on the menu - which proves that one letter is the dividing line between competence and embarrassment.

 

So are you embarrassed or pregnant?

Speaking of embarrassment, you would think the Spanish word embarazada means embarrassed. Instead it actually translates as pregnant.  Men get funny looks when they proclaim themselves to be embarazada.

 

Condoms in your food????

Many people are concerned by the amount of preservatives that end up in the food chain. But there should be even more concern if people in France and Spain take you literally.

The French word preservatif and the Spanish term preservativo both mean condoms, which confusingly sound like the additives which go in our food. This error is all too common and foreigners often unwittingly claim there are too many condoms in the food chain.

 

What's the craic?

Walter White preferred crystal meth to crack and the craic.

Not so much a mistranslation, and more a misunderstanding between Hiberno-English and American English, the word craic does not go down well in the USA (or around Americans) where it sounds like an entirely different substance which will have SWAT teams descending on you.

 

Do NOT tell Italians your name is Sorcha

I witnessed this incident a few years ago. A lady called Sorcha once introduced herself to a group of Italians.

When she said her name, the reaction seemed a little rude - the Italians all started laughing uncontrollably.

Once they had calmed down, they explained why they had lost control of themselves. They explained that the name 'Sorcha' sounds exactly like the Italian word sorca which means something completely different.

If you want to find out what the word means, google it at your peril. Here's a clue it is a four-letter word that starts with the letter 'c' and is generally considered to be the most heinous word in the English language. 


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