Friday 24 October 2008

Translating bad English

I have been doing a bit of translating lately. Translating bad foreign English into comprehensible English.

Yesterday I had a call from my friend who works at bel ragazzo's old hotel here in Rome. A German tour operator had sent her an email in English and she could not understand it. She speaks English but the problem with non native English speakers writing in English is that the often get it wrong and/or backwards, so other non native English speakers cannot understand them.

The email said something along the lines of them wanting to 'confirm from allocation on a call off.' I understand hotel lingo, and I tried to think what on earth these Germans could be trying to say. In the end I translated this phrase into English, as best I could, assuming they wanted to take a room from their allocation and the hotel is to consider it booked unless they are called and told other wise. I did however advise the hotel to email the tour operator and tell them that she could not understand their English.

Today I was at the same hotel and the cleaner was talking with this same friend on reception. Some Swedish customers had left a drawing on their bed with the word 'bedsheeting' written, and then some strange design. The had drawn a picture of a square with small circles on the top left and right corners and an arrow with the word 'hole.' They had the word 'cover' written randomly on the side.

I offered my translation services. I could not decipher the code, so asked to go and see the bedroom for myself. When I reached the bedroom it made sense (to me.) The customers beds had sheets, blankets and a bedspread. They however wanted a duvet/doonah with a cover on it (the picture of the squares with the holes was of a duvet/doonah cover.) So mystery solved. (And no the hotel does not have duvet/doonahs - if they did then surely they would be on the beds!) I don't know why 1) The Swedish did not ask for this rather then leave some stupid picture on the bed 2) where on earth they learnt the word 'bedsheeting.'

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