Thursday, December 30, 2010

Humour in Translation

My Russian vocabulary has grown leaps and bounds during the process of translating the 20-page survey that I'll be administering to Russian college students as part of my thesis research.  I've spent hours consulting English-Russian and Russian-English dictionaries and thesauri, even Russian business articles and trade magazines, trying to find the best translation for the English expressions and nuances in my survey.  Fortunately, I've enjoyed translating stories and documents ever since my first Spanish class, a decade ago. So although this has been a lengthy and focus-intensive process, it's been fun.

I especially love finding the humour in strange, odd, or otherwise unexpected translations. Hence my past blog posts on "Untranslatable words from around the world," "The German word lippenflattern," "Language shapes how we think," "Words that don't exist in the English language," and "French words that have no direct English translation" -- to name a few.

Today I happened upon Google's translation for the Russian word определенную (say it o-pre-dyel-len-noo-you) that might be the funniest (if not completely accurate) demonstration of Russian's propensity to use many more letters than a situation seems to warrant.
Here's the translation Google Translate gave me for this 12-letter word:


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