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Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/24/2022 7:35 AM

I was watching a TV show last night: a Spanish speaking man in the US was about to take a picture and said "everyone say queso".

Do Spanish speakers actually say "say cheese" in Spanish, or was it just a joke?

(clearly saying cheese kind of makes you smile where saying queso does not)

The other way round UK mothers often comfort their babies by saying "there there": I'd never thought about it 'til I heard a French mother saying "la la, la la". La is of course French for "there", but, "la la" is a comforting sort of sound so have we just translated it literally, and, it's got stuck.

As an aside lala in Swahili actually means sleep so maybe the origin of this goes deeper, or, it's just one of those things which seems common to lots of languages (like Baba or Papa for Father, and Mamma of Mumma for Mother).

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Guru

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#1

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/24/2022 8:51 AM

Regarding your one example: Saying queso when posing for a photo is preferred to saying cheese, because, as my late father said, people get sick of looking at a smiling face. Think of the famous Karsh photo of Winston Churchill, glowering at the camera. Imagine if Churchill had instead been photographed grinning like a smarmy real estate agent.

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#2

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/24/2022 10:52 AM

When photographing teenagers,have then say "Pussy(2 second delay)Cat" works.

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#3

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/24/2022 7:23 PM

Likewise, idioms in English are confusing to people whose first language is not English. I'm sure the same this exists for other languages. If one translates an idiom word for word, it often makes no sense in another language.

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#7
In reply to #3

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/25/2022 3:00 AM

"I understand only train station", of simply "train station", from German?

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/25/2022 6:23 AM

Maybe this will help:

A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter "c" would be dropped to be replased either by "k" or "s," and likewise "x" would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which "c" would be retained would be the "ch" formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform "w" spelling, so that "which" and "one" would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish "y" replasing it with "i" and Iear 4 might fiks the "g/j" anomali wonse and for all.
Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez "c," "y" and "x"--bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez--tu riplais "ch," "sh," and "th" rispektivli.
Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/25/2022 6:27 AM

As with any change,there will be different opinions on how it should be done.

Here is another such opinion:

Directors at Daimler Benz and Chrysler have announced an agreement to adopt English as the preferred language for communications, rather than German, which was another possibility.

As part of the negotiations, directors at Chrysler conceded that English spelling has some room for improvement and have accepted a five-year phase-in plan.

In the first year, "s" will be used instead of the soft "c". Also, the hard "c" will be replased with "k". Not only will this klear up konfusion, but komputers have one less letter.

There will be growing kompany enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replased by "f". This will make words like "fotograf" 20 persent shorter.

In the third year, DaimlerKhrysler akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reash the stage where more komplikated shanges are possible.

DaimlerKhrysler will enkourage the removal of double letters, whish have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of silent "e"'s in the languag is disgrasful, and they would go.

By the fourth year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps sush as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" by "v".

During ze fifz year, ze unesesary "o" kan be droped from vords kontaining "o", and similar shanges vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis, and employes vil find it ezi to kommunikat viz eash ozer.

Ov kors al supliers vil be expekted to us zis for all busines komunikation via DaimlerKhrysler.

Ze drem vil finali kum tru ...

Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

If zis mad yu smil, plez pas on to oza pepl.

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#12
In reply to #9

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/25/2022 7:23 AM

"That's simplode a three-four you to say." - with apologies to the late "Professor" Stanley Unwin.

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#13
In reply to #7

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/25/2022 7:24 AM

of or

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#15
In reply to #3

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/25/2022 11:22 AM

I'm not sure I follow you. I just looked up a few lists of idioms, quite a lot would mean the same if translated into a foreign language but most of them don't really make any sense in English, and, are only understood because of familiarity.

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#19
In reply to #15

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/29/2022 12:06 PM

I'm not sure I follow you.

If you translate an idiom word for word, it makes no sense. You have to know what the whole phrase means. A word-for-word translation of an idiom to another language is not likely to be an idiom that means the same thing.

https://blog.ted.com/40-idioms-that-cant-be-translated-literally/

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#20
In reply to #19

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/29/2022 8:53 PM

I guess I can see what you're saying. Trying to translate "Let's go Brandon" to another language just loses something in the process.

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#4

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/24/2022 8:18 PM

You are right.Tell a woman she looks like a million bucks in the USA it is a compliment,but tell her she looks like a million pounds,and you are in trouble.

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#5

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/24/2022 9:20 PM

A ghetto rapper greets his friends at the corner one day.

"Hey bro, what's goin' down?" they ask.

"I'm so proud," he says, "My baby boy just spoke his first word today. Well, actually, half a word. But still..."

"Half a word? What did he say?"

"Mother."

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#8

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/25/2022 6:15 AM

Here is a sign I saw over a Siemens machine:

ACHTUNG!!! Das machine is nicht fur gefingerpoken und mittengrabben. Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und corkenpoppen mit spitzensparken. Ist nicht fur gewerken by das dummkopfen. Das rubbernecken sightseeren keepen hands in das pockets. Relaxen und vatch das blinkenlights!!!

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#14
In reply to #8

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/25/2022 9:24 AM

True story: I was working extended amounts of time in Germany with an equipment manufacturer. While chatting about life, they mentioned that many of the campgrounds have a raised firebasket to heat the area and provide lighting. Being a blacksmith, I replicated one in my shop. Having taken it to some shows, a man wished to buy it but he wanted to know the German name for the basket. Winging it ( lying ) I said it was a rostenweiner ( roasting wieners ). Sold!! I asked my German cohorts the correct German pronunciation, and they said firebasket. When I told the above story, they laughed and said " That's perfect!"

Cheers! Mastrsmth

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#11

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/25/2022 6:36 AM

"cc C? Si! Si!"

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#16

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/25/2022 8:06 PM

Gesundheit...! ..or 'health' in German...When somebody is about to take a leap they can say 'Geronimo' referring to an old Apache shaman ...or 'bonzai' which means 'planted in a container'...

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/26/2022 9:47 AM

I think it's banzai, a Japanese battle cry.

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: Literal translations that don't work in the target language but get used anyway.

08/26/2022 4:26 PM
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