METM19 Chronicles: Lloyd Bingham

Room 104 was packed to the rafters for Lloyd Bingham’s presentation Translating pseudo-English. The scheduling was perfect: after two intense days of guidelines, grammar, corpus building, editing, post-editing, scientific writing, and statistics we were eager to have some fun with English, and we were not disappointed.

Pseudo English does not refer to those mistranslations we love so much, such as “bath horsemen” for baños caballeros instead of gentlemen’s toilet. Instead, it is the result of non-native speakers applying their native language rules or perceptions to English terms, and coming up with words such as golman (goalkeeper), džezer (jazz musician… jazzer – get it?), beamer (a projector, not a BMW), and an enterprising Dutchman with his mobile pet grooming van who offers to come to your home and do it “doggy style”.

English has become the victim of its own success.

Pseudo English can be very successful at masquerading as English, and can catch even experienced translators unawares. This is particularly true of those of us who live in our source language country and encounter these terms every day; we probably even use them ourselves in conversation. Lloyd gave some interesting tips on common pitfalls and how to avoid them:

1.     Assumptions that terminology is universal across languages

Envoie-moi un SMS. No, we don’t say send me an SMS; we say send me a text or text me.

2.     Non-countable nouns used as countable nouns

Les spams représentent donc environ 90% deséchanges de courriels. Beware, spam is non-countable in English.

3.     Mismatch of connotation

De coach voorziet de challenge van een context die de studenten triggert en inspireert. Don’t be fooled into saying that the coach triggers the students. He motivates them.

Ein Leben mit Autopilot, das auf dem boomenden Smart Home-Markt immer mehr Anhänger findet. Autopilot is for vehicles, but our home can be automated.

4.     Mismatch of register

Realtime grip op transport. A real time grip on transport? No, transport managed in real time.

5.     Tautology/ambiguity

Tontechnik für Showact-und Ansprachen. Show act almost sounds plausible, until you realize that we say entertainment.

Wir haben einen neuen Imagefilm für das neue Automodell produziert. Imagefilm = promotional video.

6.     Corrupted sector-specific terminology (mistransfer)

10% del precio como anticipo mediante confirming con vencimiento a 180 dias desde la aceptación de la factura. Confirming? Surely that’s English. Well no, it means reverse factoring.

Ons selectieproces is inclusief online advertenties en hunting. Shouldn’t that be headhunting?

Lloyd summed up his presentation with 6 learning points:

·       Pseudo English is creative and unpredictable.

·       Dictionaries are useless or unreliable for dealing with it.

·       Identify the type of pseudo English first.

·       Look at the context.

·       Read the target language sentence on its own.

·       When in doubt, ask your client.

All in all, this was a well presented, engaging, and thought-provoking talk.

  This METM19 presentation was chronicled by Jennifer Gray.

Featured photo by Simon Berrill.

5 thoughts on “METM19 Chronicles: Lloyd Bingham

  1. Thanks, Jennifer. This was a session I was really interested in attending but had to skip, so I’m glad to see your write-up here.

  2. Thanks for chronicling Lloyd’s presentation, Jennifer. Like Wendy, I chose to attend another session, so the nudge about not using “SMS” is particularly useful for me. I’m guilty of that one!

  3. I just remembered a controversial (at least in the English-speaking media) use of pseudo-English from Dec 2018, when Angela Merkel referred to ‘ein großen Shitstorm’ in a speech. That’s an interesting example: from the English-speaker perspective it ticks both the mismatch of connotation and the mismatch of register boxes, though in German it lives a different life. Much was written about it at the time, including a nice piece at Language Log:

  4. You’re right, Emma, we’re all sinners when it comes to pseudo English.
    There are so many examples, so. I’ve just created a post asking others to contribute their examples, hope you’ll all join in.

  5. The Swedish LOVE the word “f…..g”. They use it whenever they can . In fact, the Swedish entry for the Eurovision song contest a couple of years ago was a song that repeated over and over again “… you look so f……g beautiful”. The song was voted in by a jury of (Swedish) music experts and by popular vote from hundreds of thousands of Swedes – all oblivious to how inappropriate it was. The Eurovision song contest organisers were horrified and rejected the song, so the line was changed to ” so fricking beautiful”, and everyone was happy.

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