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Bad foreign language quotes in novels

 Language Learning Forum : Cultural Experiences in Foreign Languages Post Reply
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Doitsujin
Diglot
Senior Member
Germany
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Speaks: German*, English

 
 Message 1 of 11
10 January 2015 at 9:45am | IP Logged 
I recently read David Ignatius' very bad novel "The Director" (in English) and encountered the following German dialog:

Quote:
“Ich werde jetzt gehen, Stefan, Sie sprechen zu lassen. Ich werde im Erdgeschoss, wenn Sie etwas brauchen. Ich erwarte Sie in über, was, eine Stunde?”

Every one of these short three sentences violates German syntax rules!

Also Arabic language quotes in Middle-East thrillers hardly ever make sense. Sometimes even the names are wrong. For example, many Arabic names are composed of 'Abd (= servant of) and one of the 99 Names of Allah, e.g. 'Abdulkarīm. (The A of the article of Al-Karīm is dropped and replaced with a U.)
Since many authors are not aware of this fact, they often use Abdul as the first name, which Arabs never do.

And if they happen to get the name right, they often pick an unsuitable one. For example in Nelson DeMille's book "The Panther," the main villain is said to have the Arabic name al-Numair. However, al-Numair is the diminutive form of panther. (He should have used the non-diminutive form al-Namīr instead.)

What are your pet peeves when it comes to foreign language references in novels and movies?
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jeff_lindqvist
Diglot
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SwedenRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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Speaks: Swedish*, English
Studies: German, Spanish, Russian, Dutch, Mandarin, Esperanto, Irish, French
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 Message 2 of 11
10 January 2015 at 6:17pm | IP Logged 
Any translated work where language is a major issue and the work is somehow translated; like when the main characters are French (but the book or movie is in English), and all of sudden it occurs that none of them knows English (or suddenly has to interpret into English).

I mean, it's one thing if the common shared language between elves and hobbits (and dwarves and orcs and so on) "appears as" English, but when characters in historical movies (taking place in the real world!) aren't supposed to speak English to each other (even know it), but still do... that makes me cringe every time.
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eyðimörk
Triglot
Senior Member
France
goo.gl/aT4FY7
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Speaks: Swedish*, English, French
Studies: Breton, Italian

 
 Message 3 of 11
10 January 2015 at 7:49pm | IP Logged 
When all of the non-anglophone* characters in a film speak English, because it's a film for an English audience, but they all speak English with an accent or changed rhythm and sometimes throw in random words from the language we're supposed to imagine that they're speaking. I suppose it's supposed to somehow set the mood, but it just comes off as bad story-telling.**


* or whatever language the film is in.
** unless it's a comical feature, see Allo 'Allo!
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Ari
Heptaglot
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Norway
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 Message 4 of 11
10 January 2015 at 8:03pm | IP Logged 
When I'm watching a dubbed movie or TV series, and they are switching to another language, and the other language is dubbed just the same, the only difference being that suddenly there's English subtitles.
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Doitsujin
Diglot
Senior Member
Germany
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1256 posts - 2363 votes 
Speaks: German*, English

 
 Message 5 of 11
10 January 2015 at 9:41pm | IP Logged 
Another thing that I've always found a bit weird is that German soldiers in WW2 movies speak flawless English, but address their superiors using German forms, e.g. Jawohl Herr Kommandant or the Kommandant will see you now.
IMHO, the threat Vee haff VAYS of making hyu tok! is also overrated. :-)
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jeff_lindqvist
Diglot
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 Message 6 of 11
11 January 2015 at 7:54pm | IP Logged 
I don't have a problem with another "working language" even if the story is from another time and place (the Bible, WW2, Scandinavia, outer space) - if I had, I wouldn't read any translations.

It's when say, musketeers eavesdrop on a group, and happily identify them as French (although everyone has been speaking English for the entire movie...), when Antonio Banderas's character in the 13th warrior learns Norse and the result is that all are now speaking English to him!

Well, basically what Ari wrote. When the working language continues to be the same language even if the supposed language changes.
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kanewai
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
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 Message 7 of 11
12 January 2015 at 7:48am | IP Logged 
I've been reading Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini, and using the English translation as a
back up, and the dialogue in the English just sounds wrong. It's too stilted, a bit too
pseudo-posh London boarding school.   For example, take this piece from the young narrator
talking on the phone to Micòl, his unrequited love:

"Ahimè!" sospirai. "Comunque, che cosa vuoi dire? Non capisco."

Rideva in silenzio, lo sentivo benissimo.


English version:

"Alas!" I sighed. "Anyway, what are you getting at? I don't understand."

She was silently laughing; I could feel that very well.


Technically this might be a correct translation, but no young person in my lifetime has
ever exclaimed, or sighed, "alas!" And while this is a minor point, I keep finding these
awkward errors in tone throughout most of the books in translation that I read.

Edited by kanewai on 12 January 2015 at 7:48am

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chiara-sai
Triglot
Groupie
United Kingdom
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Speaks: Italian*, EnglishC2, French
Studies: German, Japanese

 
 Message 8 of 11
12 January 2015 at 8:49am | IP Logged 
kanewai wrote:
I've been reading Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini, and using the English translation as a
back up, and the dialogue in the English just sounds wrong. It's too stilted, a bit too
pseudo-posh London boarding school.   For example, take this piece from the young narrator
talking on the phone to Micòl, his unrequited love:

"Ahimè!" sospirai. "Comunque, che cosa vuoi dire? Non capisco."

Rideva in silenzio, lo sentivo benissimo.


English version:

"Alas!" I sighed. "Anyway, what are you getting at? I don't understand."

She was silently laughing; I could feel that very well.


Technically this might be a correct translation, but no young person in my lifetime has
ever exclaimed, or sighed, "alas!" And while this is a minor point, I keep finding these
awkward errors in tone throughout most of the books in translation that I read.


But ‘ahimè’ is also quite outdated in Italian. Also if I’m not mistaken the book is about a rich family living in the
first half of the 20th century, so I would expect the posh and archaic language to be appropriate.


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