Oversittings

If you create a blog for an international film festival, you also want a lot of people from all over the world to understand what you write about the movies, the events and the artists. German, even if it is the biggest language in the European Union by the number of mother tongue speakers, can only reach a limited amount of world’s population.  By now English has become the Lingua franca in international business, so that normally every text only needs to be translated into one language. That makes a lot of things easier.

At the same time you should never underestimate the vagaries of translating, because very easily you can get into unexpected troubles. For example a friend of mine was asked not to long ago in Sweden, if he knew the Swedish national anthem: “Ja, jag vill leva, jag vill dö i norden…” (Yes, I want to live, I want to die in the north…). For sure he learned this sentence before he went on the journey and so he said yes and said: “Jag vill leva, jag vill döda här i norden…” which sounds quite similar, but unfortunately it meant something rather different: I want to live, I want to kill here in the north. Later he told me, he didn’t succeed in making any friends during his trip.

Worse, it seems somehow, is the situation in Denmark though, where even Danes among each other hardly manage to communicate. But here we didn’t want to talk about translations from German to Swedish or from Danish to Danish, but about transferring German texts into English. Also this can be quite difficult: So, what do you do, if it makes total sense to a German if an acrobat makes a double screw in the air? A double twist sounds rather unfamiliar for the German ear. Also the “playjoy” of an actress who enjoys being on stage might be misleading. Some Germans would even ask the Dear Mr. Singingclub for some help.

And the other way around? How do you translate for example ‘queer’ into German? Do you use the German word for dizzy? Or even “to be spoiled”? Unexpected associations might appear in the reader’s mind. And what about “straight“? Maybe you could use the German word for “even“ or “smooth“? But also that could be misleading. Or, as a friend of mine suggested: “Just write boring! It’s the same anyways.“ Well, a German would say that she just wanted to take someone on her arm – instead of pulling a leg –, but on our blog this would be rather politically incorrect – then I wouldn’t be allowed to write anymore and all that would be left for me to say, would be: There we have the salad. So, I guess, I will simply stay lost in translation with my oversittings.

Up to now almost,
Seb

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