Friday, September 10, 2004

Guide to cross-cultural community

Community building is challenging even with my next door neighbors. A whole new world of difficulty complicates the process when potential community members come from different cultures.

Last week's issue of The Economist has an amusing article about bridging cultural gaps across European Union committee meetings. A number of diplomats have put their struggles to paper in the form of phrase translation handbooks. Never intended for publication, these unofficial handbooks are as much a forum for venting frustration as a guide to translation. But a trusty correspondent at The Economist got his hands on them and shared a few choice phrases.

Dutch Diplomat's Guide to EU English:
What British Diplomat Says == > What the speaker really means.

"I hear what you say." ==> "I disagree and do not want to discuss any further."

"With greatest respect" ==> "I think you are wrong, or a fool."

"By the way/incidentally" ==> "The primary purpose of our discussion is..."

"I'll bear it in mind" ==> "I'll do nothing about it."

"Correct me if I'm wrong." ==> "I'm right. Don't contradict me."

Even juicier is the British Diplomat's Guide to EU French:

Literal translation of French ==> What the speaker really means.

"I will be clear" ==> "I will be rude"

"We need European visibility" ==> "The EU must indulge in some pointless, annoying, and, with luck, damaging international grandstanding."

"We must find a pragmatic solution" ==> "Warning: I am about to propose a highly complex, theoretical, legalistic, and unworkable way forward."

No comments: