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Lost in translation – part I October 6, 2006

Posted by globalizer in Translation.

When you work with translation for more than 17 years, you inevitably collect a number of amusing anecdotes about mistranslations and other miscommunication related to the transfer of ideas from one natural language to another. My first anecdote in this mini-series shows that you don’t even need two languages to create unintended meaning, however.

A few months ago, I participated in a conference call where a fairly highly placed manager was thanking a large group of people for delivering a major software project on time. This of course involved the usual mention of incredibly hard work, personal sacrifices, etc., but the one thing that stuck in my mind was this gem about the skills that our group possesses:

“You all have a limited skill set, and we in management are well aware of that.”

The intended meaning was presumably – I certainly hope – more along the lines of “you have skills that are in short supply”, and I immediately filed this away as a gem of single-language “translation” problems.


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