Words… Lost in Translation

Since the dawn of history, translators are everybody’s friends. How can’t they be? It is only a translator who can help a Turk in Africa, an Arab in India, and a French in China. Without translators, there would have never been any communication between different peoples; they would have been lost in translation. However, translators, no Matter how loyal they might be, have some not very loyal friends. In other words, even those good people, called translators, have false friends that may sometimes mislead them into less accurate renditions.

Translators may have many good friends like the greatest “Google search engine”, but they also have some false friends, aka Faux Amis. After the establishment of translation as an academic discipline, linguists have decided to name certain words as faux amis, which are words that are similar in sound, but have totally different meaning.

Therefore, don’t feel so proud if you are called “sensible” in France, because it actually means “sensitive” in French; not “reasonable” as is the case in English. While in Sweden, false friends can be way more tricky. Just beware when you use the word “kiss” in this Scandinavian land, because the same word means “urine” and “kisse”, another friend with a similar sound, means “pussycat”. When it comes to Turkish, just think twice before translating “misir”, because it means corn and Egypt at the same time, and you don’t want your audience to end up eating the land of pharos!

Ironically, the word “translation” itself is lost in translation when it comes to the Arabic language. Arabs use one word “Tarjama” whenever they refer to either translation or interpretation. In many occasions, the Arab audience confuse the two terms together. However, the world luckily still have a great bunch of smart translators who don’t fall easily for such tricky, false friends.