Literal translations and accuracy

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Wed Aug 05 1998 - 00:18:54 EDT

I just had a very interesting experience with a literal translation. I was
invited to speak at a conference in Japan. After accepting the invitation,
I received an English brochure for the conference, with a paragraph telling
me that I should present in Japanese. I thought I should drop out, but
before doing so, I contacted the conference chair and asked if there might
not be interpreters, since I don't speak Japanese.

The chair sent me an email to clarify. The brochure had been translated
directly from a Japanese brochure. They wanted Japanese presenters to
present in their native language, and not attempt to speak in English,
which some presenters might do since some conferences in Japan are held in
English. When this instruction was literally translated into English, it
did not mean at all what the original author intended.

I had a literal translation. As I interpreted it, following the literal
interpretation, it seemed that dropping out of the conference was the
appropriate application. This was not at all what the author intended. I
thought this an interesting object lesson.

Texcel Research

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