Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Intense Oscillation of the External World (Translation Tips from a DVD Manual)

Hard at work translating on Djaul Island (from last year)
(photo courtesy of Inga Glissmann)
Translation looks easy. I mean, what’s so hard about taking a word in one language and just plugging in something reasonably equivalent in another?

Two words, my friend: Instruction manuals.

Three of the questions that we ask when we are evaluating the quality of a good translation are, is it clear (easily understood)? Is it accurate (communicates all the information the original did)? And, is it natural (sounds like a native speaker)? If any answer is no, then its back to the drawing board until the translation can pass muster; otherwise it’s poor quality can result in confused meaning and reluctant use. Creating this kind of quality translation (especially when you’re dealing with something as complex as God’s Word) can take decades of blood, sweat, and tears and a huge team of native speakers who are willing to draft, check, and recheck the work.

Instruction manuals, on the other hand, rarely go through such a rigorous translation process--and the result can be hysterical. After all, just take a look at some of our favourite quotes from our new DVD player’s manual (our old one bit the dust a few months back and so we recently purchased one made in a nearby Asian country). And, I highly doubt the original had any sort of words or concepts like justification or sanctification or grace...

(Thanks to Rebekah for gathering these together!)

p.1 - "To Customer: You are so intelligent to purchase our products."

p.3 - "Caution: In the case that liquid has flown into this unit, do shut off this unit and consult with the local distributor. Or danger like fire or electric shock may happen."

p.3 - "You'd better not place pesticide, cosmetics, or medicine on or aside this unit."

p.3 - "It is forbidden to pull the power cord or other parts by force."

p.3 - "Please don't let the dvd player to be water dropped or water spattered."

p.10 - Description of the mute button function: "Press this button on the remote control, the picture is playing without sound output, and press this button again, it would recover the normal playing."

p.27 - "Kodak Picture: Are you regret of one photo taken in childhood being old and are you regret of one precious photo was lost? And now, you are not in trouble of it. This machine has the strong functions of e-album. It may clone the photo into the disc turning in your corners. Then you may enjoy your life without any trouble back at the damage and loss of any photo."

p.28 - "The Intelligence Software Escalates: 1. Place into the promotion disc. The DVD machine could promote when it is playing. 2. During escalating, the TV screen demonstrates the promotion course. 3. The successful queen of promotion, the pallet automation are out of warehouse."

p.28 - "Await the opportune moment function: Press the remote control in power source button, does not have the dish or under dead stop condition period of time, this machine may enter the readiness for action, the readiness for action by lowest consumes obtains the quickest system reaction time. This machine is at the energy conservation condition under there for action."

p.28 - "The electron is anti-knock: Adopt the dyadic memory playing form, making the plate machine anti-interference ability strengthen several times. Accept intense oscillation of the external world even if under broadcasting state, movie still not affecting a video disk broadcasts effect, reaches the real seismic resistance function."

pp.31-32 - This is the troubleshooting guide. The column on the left is called "Trouble." The column on the right is called "Cause and shooting."

(Isn't this great? Next time we have an earthquake, I'm calling it an "intense oscillation of the external world"!)