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Suffled How it Gush

A little while ago I was sitting in a cafe and I started reading the label on the bottle of water I was drinking - it had been a slow day. The water comes from Tepelene, a town on the way to Gjirokaster where you can stop by the side of the road and refill your bottles from the springs flowing out of the mountain.

The label was in English and Albanian. Tepelene, it claimed was The Water of the Albanian National Football Team. But it was the was the next line that really caught my eye: Suffled how it gush from the source of the woods of Tepelena.

We had a discussion as to what we thought this meant. We decided the meaning was Bottled as it gushes... The Albanian equivalent reads: I mbushur sic del nga burimi i pullit te Tepelenes. But it was too easy to look it up in a dictionary. Besides, Suffled how it gush has a nice ring to it.

This is a fine example of a common phenomenon. The global dominance of English means that the language appears everywhere. Native English speakers like me are not always aware of this, except when we actually look out for it.

The two most common places to see English words and phrases appear to be advertising hoardings and T-shirts. Sometimes the combinations of words on the latter seem to be entirely random and occasionally amusing.

However, it stops being amusing and starts being a problem when the aim is not to be fashionable but to communicate. Often attempts to communicate in English leave English speakers baffled, and one recent example of this is an Albanian tourism guide that I mentioned in an earlier post.

Having gone to a lot of effort and expense to produce the guide, the publishers let themselves down badly by having their English translation done either by someone who does not speak the language fluently or, possibly, by a computer. Here is an example from page 232 in the section on Durres:
The harbor is separated in two parts: the quay of the elaboration of the fairy lines and the sector of the vessels of heavy burden.
Similar examples can be found on almost every page. It's a great shame, because any foreign tourist is going to be reading the English text. Those of us who are native English speakers will understand most of it, but those for whom English is a second language, or who have learned a very formal kind of English will be baffled - or possibly suffled.

So I would just like to say that I have extensive experience of proof-reading and copy-editing and my rates are reasonable. (I realise that this is an open invitation for all of you to find my many mistakes in this and earlier posts, but no-one is paying me to do this.)

If anyone out there is thinking of publishing in English, please spend a little more time and effort getting the English text right. The more polished and professional your product looks the more return you will get for your investment.

Comments

vloraboy said…
You raise a great point. The translation in most cases is extremely LITERAL and it leads to problems like the ones you pointed out. I agree that Albanian companies should be a little more professional when it comes to translating to English. If it's going to be that lame, than please don't even bother translating, because you are only hurting yourself.
Anonymous said…
Hehe! I too have seen the 'suffled at gush' label...and I think it is genius.

Mind you, people for whom English is a first language frequently have such problems expressing themselves too.
aldoPlepi said…
Man, I saw that label too when I last visited in 2003 and forgot to bring one back to the States to show my friends. While on the subject, check out www.engrish.com - thousands more cases from other countries (mostly Asian).
Anonymous said…
Not only the English.

many albanian companies sell products with albanian slogans often filled with mistakes. The thinkg is a lot of this stuf gets printed elsewhere, and the printers don't even speak albanian.

But i agree, proofreading has become critically necesary at this point.
Anonymous said…
I was perplexed by the same as well. I could only think of a grammatical mistake. Perhaps they meant to say "Stuffed with the gushing water straight from the source in the woods of Tepelena."
Anonymous said…
Who cares what it's "supposed to mean"? It was hilarious to read the first time I saw it and everytime I think of driving past the factory in Tepelena I get a chuckle out of having been right there where the "suffling" occured in the presence of natures' gushing. As for people who don't speak English as a native language, it's OK ...... the Brits will learn some day :-)!!!
Bound for Ceiba said…
Hyyyyyyyyyyyysterical!!!

I saw this on my one and only trip to Albania in 2004, but I gotta say, it's not just the Albanians... I spent lots of time in Greece and they tend to have the same problem, if perhaps on a lesser scale.
Anonymous said…
I knew Mexico City, New York City
but never heard of
Bajram Curri City :)

http://www.mfa.gov.al/english/ministri.asp

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