Friday, 29 May 2009

W proszku?

The frivolous translation of a perverse title of the article from the latest issue of The Economist. At first glance, after whizzing through the first few lines I had the impression they’re disputing Poland’s contribution to bringing down the communism. To my surprise the article doesn’t deal with the issue – there’s a short outline of the last decade of communist rule in Poland, starting from the strikes in 1980, resulting in the semi-free elections in 1989. Further on, the author draws a bleak picture of the current situation on Polish political scene – leaders of two post-Solidarity parties embroiled in endless quarrelling, spoiled celebrations of the twentieth anniversary of the breakthrough elections… Did we squander our legacy of freeing from the authoritarian rule – certainly not, probably we just got a bit lost. Political leaders have scales on their eyes on their chase of popularity, everybody tries to prove their importance, accentuate their merits. Some beneficiaries of the transition act these days in an perplexing way – Lech Wałęsa supports euro-skeptical party, being booed and called an agent on the rally, unionists from “Solidarność” trade union claim their rights to the legacy of big social movement, whereas all they have in common with “Solidarity” from the eighties is the name. Shipyard workers, employees of the factory which was the cradle of opposition against communism want to be treated like in the central-planned economy where the unviable enterprises were artificially kept up. Some of those things are beyond my comprehension, partly due to my young age and inexperience, partly due to the fact I was born in the time when the communism was in its ultimate irrevocable decline.

We can’t fail to put the fall of communism into a broader perspective – the system has run out of its internal capacities – its built-in inefficiency has brought about the inexorable breakdown. That refers to the entire communist bloc – Soviet Authorities have repealed the Brezhnev doctrine for mostly economic reasons. Economic underlying wasn’t of no account when it came to Poland. Party’s officials decided to reach an agreement with opposition when the country’s economy was in a downfall – in a way they wanted the share (or shift?) the responsibility of a faltering economy. That was the economic factor I guess, not social. Indeed, some strikes broke out in 1988 but Polish society was in a malaise after the gray decade of the eighties – carnival of Solidarity, martial law, gradual decay of the system. Was it a miracle that in 1989 something lifted Poles up from the apathy?

And what comes now – after twenty years a correspondent of a most respectable English-language weekly magazine sees the spats between prime minister, president, unionists and a projected turnout of about sixteen per cent in the forthcoming elections.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

A survey…

which I was asked to fill in. Half of my kingdom to the one who’ll tell why was it given out to the students in the private language school… I don’t even know for whom it is, I won’t ask anybody to help me answer these few simple questions. As a typical fault-finder (treat it with a pinch of salt :-) I’m looking for the flaw of Polish schooling system as a whole, when it comes to language teaching.
My first suggestion after few years of learning – teachers, textbook authors and other experts blend British and American English, consequently the language student use is often a mixture of those two types. I personally stick to the BrE, finding all American modifications like “realize” (although it’s correct in BrE as well), “color”, etc. dirty, hideous, oversimplified, nevertheless I use words characteristic for AmE instead of British equivalents, cause I was taught so, now I have to kick that habit…
Original British genteel English has its virtue, but in the Internet prevails the AmE…

Monday, 25 May 2009

Primary colours...

In the run-up to the elections to the European Parliament I pause for a while to turn back, gaze into the past, dwell upon the present and try to foresee the future.

Ode to Joy – the final part of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the lyrics written by Frederick Schiller, in 1971 adopted as the anthem of the European Union. My reference to it is partly a belated marking of the fifth anniversary of Poland’s accession to the European Union, partly a short exploration of a translation case study. The whole poem, here in German and English, consists of 108 lines, I’ll confine it to eight first, the most known ones.

Original in German
Freude, schöner Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium!
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, Dein Heiligtum.
Deine Zauber binden wieder,
Was die Mode streng geteilt,
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo Dein sanfter Flügel weilt.

English translation 1
Joy, beautiful sparkle of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium!
We enter, fire-drunk,
Heavenly one, your shrine.
Your magic again binds
What custom has firmly parted.
All men become brothers
Where your tender wing lingers.

English translation 2
Joyful spark of hope and glory
Unity with the divine
Drunken under fire, goddess
We approach thy holy Shrine
Thy magic shall unite, ever,
Those nations that which were not
Every mortal becomes one
and your rule shall not be forgot

Both renditions above were found on wikipedia. Both might give a significant contribution to the attempts of answering the question of the gist of translation. The first one is a rather strict, but non-poetic, the second departs a bit from the original, but the author broke rhymes and more or less retained the original message. However, the first four lines are to my mind incomparably better than the last four – had the inspiration forsaken the translator? I’m probably the last person who’d take up translating poetry, but maybe as the examinations are over I’ll break my back over it…
The Polish version, by Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński, as for me outshines the English one.

Polish translation
O Radości, iskro bogów,
Kwiecie elizejskich pól
Swięta, na twym świętym progu
Staje nasz natchniony chór
Jasność twoja wszystko zaćmi
Złączy, co rozdzielił los.
Wszyscy ludzie będą braćmi
Tam, gdzie twój przemówi głos.

After a series of heated discussions I made up my mind on whom should I vote for. I’ll back somebody who has already spent some time in Brussels, knows the onions and won’t bring shame on Poland. For the hesitant ones I suggest looking in on the website Kandydaci 2009 which includes the information about some of the runners, based on the questionnaires they had filled in. Believe them or not, the site however may be the evidence in case they fail to keep their promises…
And another topical oddity – a new spot of Law and Justice – “Show the government a yellow card” (original title: “Daj rządowi żółtą kartkę”) – a quintessence of populism, along with the catchword “ciemny lud to kupi” (meaning more or less “dumb people will fall for it”). Our government is indeed not flawless, but put a blame for the
a) roadworks (during Lech Kaczyński’s mayor term Warsaw wasn’t clogged up, cause streets weren’t dug up and under repair – nothing happened),
b) inflation (the rising prices are the typical effect of the last phase of boom, if the economy is not cooled down early enough by raising interest rates),
c) and problem many Poles face – difficulties with paying off the (mortgage) loans (banks are independent institutions, they are only subject to the Supervisory Body, the construction boom began during Law and Justice parliamentary term, deputy Kurski would probably complacently put it down to the economic policy of Law and Justice, LaD would probably be proud of their accomplishments, heedless of ramifications, i.e. too many loans denominated in foreign currencies which in long term might be a time bomb!)
is a misconstruction.

…of the European Communities seems to be up in the air… They were devised after WW2 to unite Europe and most of all to prevent the reprise of war carnage. At least the part of Europe lying west from the iron curtain was meant to evolve into more or less uniform entity… Time has borne out some of the pre-assumptions, some were brought down by the cruel reality along the way. Poland draws benefits from the membership in the EU, but it doesn’t mean we should forget about all the downsides of that mighty, bureaucratic structure. I’m not thinking now about our shipyards, but I recall the absurdities of such as curvy cucumbers, crooked carrots, numerous limits, standards (they’re partly legitimate). Further on I see the bigger fault, one English commentator described it “Drifting apart”. Indeed EU with its structures drift apart from its citizens. EU with its sprawling bureaucracy has become a bundle of organisations which appear to be created chiefly for themselves, just for fun of the thousands of officials holding onto their stools there there. Piles of paper, tones of documents – decrees, directives, circulars, bills – for whom – in my eyes more and more just for itself? If the process is not ceased, the costs of keeping the whole machine running might exceed the advantages and who’ll be then to switch it off and what are going to do then? The first warning signs were given by the French and the Dutch who rejected the European constitution in June 2005, later on (in June 2008) by citizens of Ireland who rebuffed the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum. They gave voice and expressed their anxiety about the shape of things going on, the growing, maybe even yawning gap between EU officials and common people – in fact EU authorities have lost their common touch (had they ever have it?) and started playing at important men in tailor-made suits…

Maybe I gripe about all those minor in fact absurdities - I’m far cry from euroscepticism – I’m trying to analyse the flip side of the coin…

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Riddles all around...

I crawled another round through the English websites of Polish banks, x-rayed all the strange, misleading false friends and other hilarious or sometimes horrifying examples or work of art. My friends says these are either translation agencies or employees. The former implies standards of linguistic education in Poland are deplorable, the latter illustrates how terrible can be the outcomes of company’s attempts to trim the costs – at all costs… As long as the latter brings a disgraceful testimony of the company, the former gives the reason for concern…

The Magazine didn’t come out today or maybe I just didn’t rummage the whole EMPiK in Marszałkowska meticulously enough. Thank God they don’t owe me any money. Director’s phone is off the hook…

The examination period is imminent… I’d better get down to work. The next post will appear as soon as the inspiration comes back to me…

Monday, 18 May 2009

An astonishing day…

In the morning firstly I was bowled over by the hoarding of Wojciech Olejniczak – leader of Warsaw list of runners to European Parliament. His big, smiling face brought back his infamous speech during ECOSY conference from March 2007…

Apart from some reasons why I wouldn’t vote for him, there is a crucial one...

Soon after I was once again, waylaid by another canned man, this time trying hard to find a sponsor to stand him a pack of cigarettes… All the passers-by were insensitive to his suffering, finally somebody called him names, then another woman treated with him presidential “spieprzaj dziadu”, refraining from using Jolanta Fedak’s spie…

The next bout of linguistic confusion came in the afternoon. After Friday, when WIG 20 was consolidating (WIG 20 konsoliduje się w piątek), today, the index moved in the sideways trend (WIG 20 porusza się w trendzie bocznym). Both mysterious phrases mean exactly the same – WIG 20 levels off. I only mull over one question – am I so narrow-minded that I goggle my eyes when I see such headlines or do the analysts who write those SE comments have some problems with expressing themselves? I know there’s a specific lingo used in the industry but should it be used on the website aimed at laymen?

Sunday, 17 May 2009

One quarter on...

This might be the appropriate moment for the first summary… Three months past have passed since I made up my mind and started blogging. Set up on the spur of the moment, the day when indices of Warsaw Stock Exchange and Zloty hit their lows (of course it doesn’t signify I gave a cue to bottom out), initially run in both Polish and English has gradually evolved into English-written blog with some Polish interludes… By choosing non-native writing language I certainly missed my target audience (fellow SGH students) – slightly disappointing, but now there’s no other way but to soldier on… Within three month I produced 43 posts, with time straying further and further away from the key three subject matters given in the title, tilting towards the issues of education, particularly language schooling, translations etc., and it’s going to remain on that course… And unavoidably the “absurd” (originally put as a Polish noun, now fulfilling a role of English adjective) will be still the highest ranked tag. I’m not going to follow some of your suggestion to write shorter posts. My longest ones are for me the least exhaustive and the ones in which I managed only to touch upon the key observations. In the future I’ll be trying to lean rather towards quality than quantity and publish well-thought-out and thought-provoking features. The number of visitors have who popped in since 21 April, when I installed the tracking device exceeded 110, daily readership ranges from 0 to 10. There are lots of one-off, incidental visit from almost all continents, but some readers got into the swing and keep track of my scribble…
I’ll be doing my level best, I promise :)

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Freaks of the dicts – linguistic confusion all the way!

Equipped in three-volume Polish monolingual dictionary (Słownik Języka Polskiego), a bit outdated, published in the middle 80’s and my beloved English monolingual dictionary (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary), 2006 edition, I set out to track down the words, which “wipe the smile off translators’ faces”. I’ve compiled the list of 11 words or phrases and two “industry supplement” – an analysis of the English versions of the websites of Polish mobile telecom operators and banks.
Disclaimer: I’d like to stipulate that all my ideas below might not be correct, might need amendment or consultation and should be treated as constructive criticism.

1) W RAMACH – an expression overused in Polish these days. Poles love putting everything they can into a “framework” – w ramach projektu, w ramach organizacji, w ramach programu, w ramach funduszy, w ramach tradycji, w ramach działania, w ramach odchudzania, w ramach umowy, w ramach kontraktu, one can enumerate endlessly. In the terms and conditions / terms of use (regulaminy) on the website of my mobile operator the phrase “w ramach” can be find almost in every clause. The Polish dictionary defines it as “ograniczony zakres, zasięg czegoś ustalonego, przyjętego, granice” – this definition (I left out other meaning, e.g. frames of the painting, etc.) which surely does not cover the current use of the phrase “w ramach”, but justifies the phrase that can be found in older dictionaries “within the confines of” – it squares with the definition from Polish dictionary! Current use of the phrase should, in my opinion be translated as “within”, “under”, or “in”, depending on the context – because in some cases compiler used “w ramach” when they had had no better idea of formulating their thoughts…

2) RUCH WAHADŁOWY – referring to the temporary traffic arrangement. There are probably so many translations as many translators tackled the phrase. “Contraflow” doesn’t fully fit, with both its meanings from BrE and AmE. Shuttle run / traffic? Any other ideas?

3) REALIZOWAĆ – just like “w ramach” strays from its dictionary definition. In many cases might be translated into “realise”, but depending on the context words that can be used to render the meaning are: implement (if we refer to the future), execute, carry out (present), accomplish (past), and possibly a few more. Watch out folks, realise in English means also “upłynniać”. My jaw dropped a few weeks ago when I beheld a phase “liquidate the assets” as the translation of “upłynniać aktywa” (realise the assets) – liquidate makes sense, but means something different…

4) AKTUALNY – in many poor (Net) dictionaries still translated as actual (horrific!), depending on the context – present, current, up-to-date, but how should I ask in English “czy to ogłoszenie / oferta, itd. jest nadal aktualne”?

5) OBOWIĄZUJĄCY – most often translated as “in force”, “binding”, these phrases are not out of place, although for mean something slightly different, but why does almost every dictionary omit the word “effective”?

6) GROZIĆ – in a legal language – how to translate “mordercy grozi 25 lat więzieni”? “Twenty five years of imprisonment are threatening the murderer” – sounds more than awkwardly, “The murderer is under threat of twenty five years of imprisonment” denotes something different once again. Maybe transform it into: “murder carries a sentence of twenty five years of imprisonment”? Who’s to dispel my doubts?

7) PGR (abbreviation for “Państwowe Gospodarstwo Rolne”). Why does nobody use the term „collective farm”, but several other phrases, including “state owned farm”, “state land farm”, “state agricultural farm”? The English surely new the crazy ideas of collectivisation in the countries of communist bloc, so they must have come up with their own name for PGRs or could also used original names…

8) PAKIET – confuses translators hired by mobile telecom operators, mostly translated as “bundle”, I’d suggest “package”, or “pack”, “pakiet” is an invention of Polish operators trying to rip-off customers by offering them “bundles of 3700 minutes to Orange and landlines valid for nine days, seventeen hours and eight minutes for only 16,99 zł + VAT, to activate the bundle dial *123*88*11*2#, to check the balance dial *106*5#, bundle can’t be combined with bundles “500,000 messages within Orange”, “free weekends calls (between 1 a.m. and 2 p.m.)” and can not be activated from your top-up benefits. Orange – take a hike!

9) EKSPERTYZA – why do so many dictionaries translate it as “expertise” – the next false friend or am I so poorly educated no to know that “expertise” has another meaning than “proficiency”, “experience”, etc.? I don’t know which of the alternative equiavalents (expert’s report / opinion, evaluation, assessment) is the most appropriate, depends on the context once again I’d say.

10) REWALORYZACJA – the most common translation is “revaluation”, which for me, economist, stands for “ponowna wycena”, so shouldn’t the phrase “coroczna rewaloryzacja emerytur” be translated as “annual pension increment”?

11) AGD (abbreviation for “Artykuły Gospodarstwa Domowego”), dictionaries don’t include the phrase “white goods”, it seems to be more suitable than “household appliances / commodities (!)) – I don’t know, I got lost in the maze I had built with my own hands…

Undoubtedly languages permanently evolve, their users continually create new expressions, change meanings of the words, apply them in new contexts, etc. Dictionaries should keep up with this evolution, that evolution requires constant upgrades, revisions, adjustments.

People often poke fun at the infamous Great Dictionary by professor Jan Stanisławski, infamous for its literal translations of collocations and lack of upgrade. I’ve never seen it on my own, but my most knowledgeable English teacher would say: “On no account should you buy Stanisławski’s dictionary, unless you have some money to throw around”…

Is there any recommendable PL->EN dictionary at all? The ideal one should be compiled by the clued-up natives, whereas editorial teams of the dictionaries published hitherto consisted mostly of Poles, a Pole has always been a chief editor…

To my bewilderment I discovered that out of 4 Polish mobile operators only one has a well-developed English version of its website. Play doesn’t have any, Orange has some information for visitors who use its network as a roaming one, Plus provides extract of its website’s content. Only PTC got it right (partly). The English version of Heyah website is impressing, but the section “for visitors” of Era website has let me down – are the strange phrases like “fixed line” (landline), “promotion” (bargain, special offers, perks – false friend), “recharges” (top-ups).

In case of banks I noticed that translators were probably attempting to convert the content word for word. The English versions were perhaps prepared by either linguists with little notion of banking, or by bankers over-relying on dictionaries.

My piece of advice for the ones translating specialised text – your task is much easier than twenty years ago – in the era of Internet the best and most simple way to get the English equivalent of specialised terms is to refer to the websites of enterprises operating in the same industry. If I were to translate (I almost certainly never will – maybe it’s even better – I’m just an economist!) the website of a mobile operator or a bank the first thing I’d do would be studying thoroughly the web pages of as many mobile telecom operators or banks from English-speaking countries as possible.
The next my piece of advice would be to avoid intricate translations. We, Poles, by using too many words, building complex sentences, are trying to prove our wisdom – the more convoluted the text is, the more educated the reader is. The most eye-popping it is in academic textbook, which are generally full of “viel gesprochen, nichts gesagt” (literally – spoken a lot, but nothing said), as the German say – in case of books authors write a lot, but from my experience I can say that the content of 600 pages long wordy book could be fit into 200 pages long, concise book. But academic workers are verbose, or just the publisher pay them depending on the number of pages they’ve produced…

The conclusion “too few natives around” seems to be painfully true. With our rehearsed English we (Poles) will never match up to them.

To conclude, there are too few people who can eat the humble pie. If I’m wrong – challenge me, I’ll concede my mistake…

Monday, 11 May 2009

The power of good deeds / knutterfrei...

Good deeds matter. But kind-heartedness doesn’t pay off – today I was struck by the straightforward request of hangover-struggling cadger… (the ending went astray…)

Knutterfrei = “crease-resistant” in English and “niemnący (się)” in Polish. Such strange word came out during last final exam in German held in my school. Students weren’t expected to understand it, but to use (= know it actively) it in a letter of complaint. I’m just looking forward to getting a similar task on my examination. Hopefully the examiners will hit upon something less complicated – ripped stain-proof tablecloths, scratched lacquer on two-burner primus stove, defective hole-punchers or improper type of dispatched semi-conductors.
If I had been to translate “niemnący” before today, I’d have converted it into self-invented something like “incrumpleable” or “uncreaseable”. Now it’s much less probable that I’ll make a fool of myself and I know one more terrifically useful word. And after all I see the difference between “crease” and “crumple”, although it’s still rather vague…

Take care!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Czyżby to już szczyt? / The ultimate peak?

Translation into English under the Polish version

Nie napiszę czego, można się domyślić. W zeszłe wakacje, podczas praktyk przekonałem się do Radia Złote Przeboje (dawniej Radio Pogoda, w Warszawie 100,1 FM). W granej tam muzyce przeważają starsze piosenki, poczucie humoru podczas programów jest na pewno wyższe niż w innych stacjach, ale w niedzielę tego radia nie da się słuchać! Przynajmniej między dziesiątą a trzynastą, kiedy ta stacja nadaje program „Między Słowami”, jak jego autorka twierdzi, jej audycja pokazuje „w inteligentny i niebanalny sposób rzeczywistość z perspektywy kobiet”. Ten pierwszy epitet jest najbardziej uderzający i zarazem najbardziej nietrafny. Poziom dyskusji jest porównywalny mniej więcej z rynsztokową prasą typu „Fakt” – gospodyni programu wraz ze swoimi gośćmi – panią Joanną Nojszewską z magazynu „Malemen”, ewentualnie z towarzyszeniem jakiegoś pana psychologa z Szkoły Wyższej Psychologii Społecznej, operują polszczyzną bardziej łamaną niż moją, wplatając w nią jeszcze bardziej łamaną niż moja angielszczyznę.
W dzisiejszym odcinku zatytułowanym „Co kobiety zniechęca do seksu?” (Po polsku pytanie by brzmiało chyba „co zniechęca kobiety do seksu?” perły polskiego dziennikarstwa doszły do następujących wniosków:
- przeciętny stosunek trwa w Polsce siedem minut – zdecydowanie za krótko!!!
- mąż jednej z przyjaciółek jednej z pań w trakcie krótkiego „odwalania roboty” przerwał i krzyknął „zapomniałem zapłacić raty za samochód” i popsuł całą zabawę!!!
- uwodzenie partnera przed ślubem ustępuje miejsca małżeńskiego wykonywaniu obowiązków
- a tak w ogóle, to panie redaktorki same za dużo o seksie nie wiedzą, więc powinny się udać po radę do czternastolatek włóczących się po dyskotekach, bo one są lepiej zaznajomione z tematem.
Taki właśnie obraz medialnej papki wyłania się w tę majową niedzielę. Ludzie chcą oglądać „Tańce z gwiazdami” i inne show tego typu. Ludzie chcą głupawej Kasi Cichopek, gwiazdy jednego sezonu, chichoczącej i gadającej bez ładu i składu. Gdy ona zniknie, pojawi się następna.
Wróciwszy z przejażdżki rowerowej zmieniam stację na Polskie Radio 1, na południową debatę. Dziś zamiast dziennikarzy gośćmi byli kandydaci do parlamentu europejskiego. Moją uwagę przykuli panowie Dariusz Grabowski z ugrupowania „Libertas” i Marek Jurek z „Prawicy Rzeczpospolitej”. Wypowiedzi obu były czystym popisem populizmu. Pierwszy stwierdził, że polskie stocznie były zlikwidowane w imię interesów politycznych grup nacisku i po to żeby Europejskie grupy nacisku czerpały z tego zyski. Ciekawe dlaczego nikt nie wspomniał, że stocznie przetrwały tylko dzięki pomocy państwa (czyli de facto podatników), że były to zakłady zacofane, stosujące przestarzałe technologie, mogą budować tylko jeden typ statków i z powodu dotacji rządowych lepsze zakłady w UE nie były w stanie konkurować, chociaż były wydajniejsze i nowocześniejsze. Jeśli chodzi o pana Jurka, nawiążę tylko do jednej wypowiedzi (niestety nie słyszałem jej bezpośrednio, ale z relacji ojca, mam nadzieję, że nic nie przeinaczył), ale za to takiej, która mi mowę odebrała – mianowicie pomysłu aby obniżyć stopę referencyjną poniżej zera, aby rozruszać gospodarkę – wtedy ludzie będą brali kredyty i na przykład jeśli ktoś pożyczy 100.000 zł, za rok będzie musiał oddać np. 97.000 zł. Zostawię sam pomysł bez komentarza. Mogę tylko dorzucić swoje trzy grosze, tj.
1) stóp procentowych można obniżyć poniżej zera
2) jeśli by się nawet dało, ludzie zabraliby pieniądze z banku, bo bardziej opłacalne byłoby trzymanie ich w skarpecie, a bez depozytów banki nie miałyby z czego udzielać kredytów
3) taki ruch rozkręciłby błyskawicznie hiperinflację.
Błagam, błagam Was na kolanach, idźcie na wybory, nie dajmy populistom zdobyć mandatów w Parlamencie Europejskim...

Aktualizacja i sprostowanie: pan Marek Jurek uważa że stopa referencyjna powinna być jak najniższa, w celu wspierania rodzimej przedsiębiorczości. Co i tak budzi sprzeciw każdego zwolennika twardej polityki pieniężnej, w tym mój. Przepraszam Czytelników za wprowadzenie w błąd...

The peak of... you should know of what… Last holiday, as I had an internship I took to the “Radio Złote Przeboje” (Gold Songs Radio), (former Radio Pogoda, to find it in Warsaw tune to 100,1 FM). Oldies prevail in the music played there, in terms of sense of humour it beats off other commercial stations, but on Sunday, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. “Złote Przeboje” is excruciating… That’s when it broadcasts the program “Between the lines”, as said by its host – Marzena Rogalska, it “shows the reality from the women’s perspective in a clever and original way”. The first epithet is the most striking and the most out of place too. The level of discussion is comparable to the gullet press like “Fakt” – the host with her guests – Ms Joanna Nojszewska, editor on “Malemen”, sometimes accompanied by a psychologist from SWPS, speak the broken Polish, interspersing throughout it even pidgin English, much worse than mine ;)
In today’s episode, titled: “What puts women off sex?”, jewels in the crown of Polish journalism came to the following conclusions:
- an average intercourse lasts for only seven minutes – much too short!!!
- a husband of one of the journalists’ friend shouted out “I forgot to pay this month’s instalment for the car”, while doing donkey work – and thus spoiled the atmosphere!!!
- premarital seducing gives way to doing marital duties
- by and large, our dear journalists know too little about sex, so should take advice of 14-year-old teenagers who hang around the night clubs and are much more familiar with the topic.
This is the picture of media pulp that emerges from my feature. Masses want to watch “Dancing with celebrities” and other show like that. Masses want foolish Kasia Cichopek, flash in the pan, giggling and prattling. One day she’ll disappear but will be replaced by another one.
Having come home from the bike ride I turned over to Polish Radio, channel 1 for the midday debate. Instead of commentators, today’s hosts were runners for European Parliament. Mr Dariusz Grabowski from grouping “Libertas” and Marek Jurek from “Prawica Rzeczpospolitej” caught my attention. The utterances of both politicians were feats of sheer populism. The former claimed Polish shipyards were shut down in the name of particular interests of political lobbies and so that they could make profits on this. I wonder why has nobody mentioned that shipyards eked out only thanks to government subsidies (in fact from taxpayers’ purse), that the plants were backward, used obsolete technologies, were capable only of building one type of vessels and owing to subsidies their competitors from EU were unable to compete with them, in spite of their higher efficiency and modern technologies they used. When it comes to Mr Jurek, I’ll refer to only one of his ideas (unfortunately, I haven’t heard it in person, my father reported on it to me, hopefully he didn’t misrepresent anything), which made me speechless – namely the idea to slash the benchmark interest rate below zero, in order to kick-start economy – when people would take out loan and repay less than they had borrowed. Left without comment, if I can stick my oar in it, here it is:
1) interest rates can’t be subzero...
2) if it was even possible, depositors would take away their money from the banks, keeping it under the mattress would be more profitable, without deposits banks wouldn’t have funds to grant loans
3) such move would fuel the hyperinflation immediately…
I’m begging you, begging on my knees – cast a ballot, don’t let the populists win the seats in European Parliament…

Update and correction: Mr Marek Jurek says teh benchmark rate should be kept as low as possible, in order to ease the pains of domestic entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, it's still beyond pale for everyone who opts for tight monetary policy, including me. I apologise to all the readers for misleading...

Saturday, 9 May 2009


Grass grows under my feet, I’m lying about and feel disturbingly comfortable with it. Has Bartek altered. I usually feel like lazing away at this season the year – after an exhausting day (morning dose of English classes, then proofreading of translated report and wrestling with groundless reservations made by the client) one has a right to sit back on their terrace and catch the rays of sun shining directly from the west, at the angle of 30 degrees – almost perpendicularly to my face.
The only thing I miss is the wireless Internet, the dream of sitting in the garden with the computer on my lap won’t be realised this year – the contract on Neostrada with TP S.A. expires in September, so the chances are rather faint – but the patience is a virtue, so…
The only thing that wound me up today was the e-mail I found late afternoon in my mailbox.

Dear friend:
Dziękujemy za czytanie listu. Mam nadzieję, że poniższe informacje będą pomocne.
Zrobiliśmy handlu zagranicznym od wielu lat na całym świecie i zdobyła pewne udziałów w rynku oraz znakomite reputation. We Jesteśmy firmą sprzedaży elektroniki: telefony komórkowe, LCDTV, Laptop, Motocykle, cyfrowe wideo, Mp4/Mp3, GPS, PS3
Zapewniamy doskonałą jakość i cena wyzwanie. będzie więcej niespodzianek czeka na Ciebie. Dla rodziny, dla przyjaciół, dla siebie, aby wybrać jeden najlepszy prezent, o pamiętnych doświadczeń.
Jeśli masz cennego czasu, odwiedź naszą stronę internetową:
Strona WWW:

Who the hell sells out the e-mail addresses so that the e-mail users are later on swamp with the spam? However, with my antivirus set on maximum protection I took a risk of entering their website. The content wasn’t blocked, the shop actually existed, page might be used for phishing or other type of deception…

All the electronic translators are still far cry from perfection – the outcome is so broken Polish that everybody would easily make out the link diverts to the shady business’ website.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Mr Crisis, how are you keeping?

Regrettably, Mr Crisis doesn’t have any embodiment and I can’t ask him about his mood. Maybe in the real economy things are getting better, but in the wellspring of the current crisis, namely in banking sector I spot something what I’d call a relapse…

Facts and figures:
1) According to the latest projections of Ministry of Finance and chief economists of leading banks, the year-on-year inflation rate in April crept up to 3,8 – 3,9 per cent.
2) The interest rates on the inter-bank market were rising steadily in April, in the first days of May they shot up.
3) Without any effort one can find a 3M bank deposit with an interest rate of 6 per cent.

1) With the central bank’s benchmark rate at 3,75 per cent, one would say simplifying (the rates do not refer to the same time period) that we move towards a situation when the real interest rates drop below zero!
2) The central bank’s rates have nothing to do with the real costs of financing for banks, the discrepancy between them is swelling (today 67 base points), the inter-bank market rates are drifting from the outer space, where they were sent by decisions of Monetary Policy Council, towards the Earth, I guess.
3) Yesterday I paid some of my savings in 3M deposit with the annual interest rate of 6 per cent, whereas yesterday’s 3M WIBOR amounted to 4,38 per cent. Neglecting the fact that settlements between banks are made two days after concluding the transaction, bank paid for my deposit roughly WIBOR + 1,62 percentage points. If the same bank granted in, let’s say, 2006 a mortgage with the interest rate calculated at WIBOR + 1,50 percentage points, bank is nowhere else but in dire straits. Evidently, it’s a big simplification, bank will eventually be in the black – it’ll shift the costs on other clients, excluding me, banking charges do not apply to me ;)

1) By cutting interest rates central banks probably won’t stimulate the economy, but MPC would probably keep loosening monetary policy just to shun accusations of lack of reaction to deteriorating economic indicators. If we can’t revive the flabby economy, let’s make the effort to curb the inflation, which threatens our savings.
2) The crisis came over once again, now it’s about time we sought after an expedient to relieve the pain.
3) Hikes in banking charges are inevitable in a situation banks pay over the odds for the deposits.

Now up to you… Having any ideas how to restore the balance and not to let the bloodstream of the economy go under?

My own proposal is to push the central bank’s interest rates up, gently, by 25 base points, so that the benchmark rate jumps up to round 4 per cent. Of course you can do me down, call me a lunatic, accuse me of signing a death warrant… Alright, I’ll concede if you prove me wrong, but firstly I’ll hold out for the justification.

Beware! There might be a catch…

Feel invited to the discussion!
Czyli zapraszam do dyskusji!

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Politically involved songs / Utwory politycznie zaangażowane / Looking into the past

Probably everybody would agree popular music went on the dogs. Songs with corny, not to say dull lyrics like “I love you baby, love me tonight” top the charts. Most of them do not convey any, even the most simply message. That’s why I’m searching for the songs related to the breakthrough or just ordinary political events, in general related to politics. I came up with fifteen examples and divided them into three groups…

The order is random, do not treat it as a ranking!

I. U2 (my favourite band) songs

1) Sunday Bloody Sunday /1983/ (referring to the Bloody Sunday in Derry, 1972)

Broken bottles under children's feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end street
But I won't heed the battle call
It puts my back up
Puts my back up against the wall

2) Red Hill Mining Town /1987/ (inspired by the miners' strikes in the UK, in 1984 and 1985, after Margaret Thatcher’s government decided to close down the unprofitable mines)

We'll scorch the earth
Set fire to the sky
We stoop so low to reach so high

3) Please /1997/ (about unrest in North Ireland)

So you never knew love until you crossed the line of grace
And you never felt wanted till you had someone slap your face
So you never felt alive until you almost wasted away

4) In God’s Country /1987/ – a depressing and full of metaphors picture of Reagan’s America

Sleep comes like a god’s country
Sad eyes crooked god’s country

5) New Year’s Day /1983/ - the only one song of U2 referring to Poland (inspired by the martial law)

Under a blood red sky
A crowd has gathered in black and white
Arms entwined, the chosen few
The newspapers says, says
Say it's true it's true...
And we can break through
Though torn in two
We can be one

II. Other songs in English

1) The Scorpions – Wind of change /1990/ (pulling down the Berlin Wall, transformation in former communist bloc)

I follow the Moskva,
Down the Gorky Park,
Listening to the wind of change

2) The Hooters – 500 Miles /1989/ (the massacre on Tianannmen Square on 4th June, 1989)

A hundred tanks along the square,
One man stands and stops them never
Some day soon, the tide will turn, and I’ll be free

3) Elton John’s – Goodbye England’s Rose /1997/ (written for the funeral of Princess Diana)

Goodbye England's rose
May you ever grow in our hearts
You were the grace that placed itself
Where lives were torn apart…

4) Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A. (said to refer to the aftermaths of Vietnam war on American Society’s mentality, but I’m not sure, than used in electoral campaign, but whose?)

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I'm ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain't got nowhere to go

5) Bob Dylan – Blowin’ in the wind /1963/ (the anthem of pacifists, posing a string of questions about human existence)

Yes, 'n how many deaths will it take, 'til he knows,
That too many people have died ?
Yes, 'n how many years can some people exist,
Before they're allowed to be free ?
Yes, 'n how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending, he just didn't see ?

III. Utwory po polsku

1) Krystyna Prońko – Psalm stojących w kolejce /1980/ - jeden z nieformalnych hymnów „Solidarności”

Bądź jak kamień, stój, wytrzymaj,
Kiedyś te kamienie drgną,
I polecą jak lawina przez noc, przez noc, przez noc...

2) Lombard – Przeżyj to sam /ok. 1984/, utwór dość dobrze oddaje społeczne nastroje w połowie lat 80-tych, już po zniesieniu stanu wojennego, ale w codziennej szarości i beznadziei.

Przeżyj to sam,
Nie zamieniaj serca w twardy głaz,
Póki jeszcze serce masz...

3) Lady Pank – Mniej niż zero /1986/ - odwołanie do zabójstwa Grzgorza Przemyka, w maju 1983 roku

Twoje miejsce na ziemi tłumaczy
Zaliczona matura na pięć...

4) Obywatel G.C. – Nie pytaj o Polskę /1988/ - może już bez komentarza

nie pytaj mnie
co ciągle widzę w niej
nie pytaj mnie dlaczego w innej nie
nie pytaj mnie
dlaczego ciągle chcę
zasypiać w niej i budzić się

5) Pudelsi – Wolność słowa /2002/ - żeby było z przymrużeniem oka

And now getting off the track...
The next celebrations of 3rd May Anniversary of Passing Constitution bring to mind infinite wave of questions… Are we really entitled to take pride in that anniversary? Indeed, it was one of the first constitutions in the world, an upshot of concerted effort of the country’s elite. But this country had deserved the fate it met. From the its golden age, when Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania covered almost one million square kilometres area it slid into dismay and was eventually wiped off the Europe’s map. That was the fault of Polish nobility that had seen the golden freedom as the virtue of the land they inhabited. In fact, the golden freedom was nothing else but backwardness, partiality, pursuit of one’s interests, heedless of the others. In the West countries were getting richer by accumulating their income. We impoverished ourselves by squandering our wealth. Our Western neighbours were building factories, our barns were empty, but the nobility would throw lavish feasts… Under those circumstances, when Poland was in decay, partitions were inexorable… And the 3rd May Constitution was just the last gasp of crumbling state…

Would you add any other songs to that list?
Comment in both English and Polish are welcome
Zarówno komentarze po polsku, jak i po angielsku są mile widziane