Wednesday, 2 December 2009

English as a challenge...

Today, after a longish getting-round period, I started my exploration of Jacek Koba’s “Tip of the Week”. The book is written in an amusing and witty style and as one of its reviewers (an university professor) said is compiled in a bit chaotic way. However, the very impression of dealing with something written seemingly without rhyme or reason makes the whole experience even more amusing and unlike the quoted professor asserted, it is of much more than little educational value. I will try to write a short review, in the second half of the month, as soon as I go over it.

In first chapter the author addresses what he calls “do’s and don’ts of communication” (which in fact are rather the latter). One of the given advice follows: “If a word in your native language sounds vaguely foreign, for example, koncepcja, kumulować, konsekwentny, perspektywy, etc., you can safely assume that that’s what it will sound like in English, and that all speakers of English as a second language will understand it too, that is, conception, cumulate, consequent, perspectives, etc.” I could follow up with this list and add to it words such as: premia – premium, ekspertyza – expertise, ewidencja – evidence, prowizja – provision, okazja – occasion (there is a context in which this translation is correct, but how about “I bought these trousers for mere fifty zlotys – that was a real occasion.”, or “Last Monday I had the occasion to watch a new film.”?), windykacja – vindication, adekwatny – adequate, lektura – lecture, and so on… I could go on at the problem of false friends endlessly, as it is as old as hills, but it’s not the point now.

I would have even totally forgotten about it, if I had not run across the timetable below, hung next to the dean’s office in my school. Sorry for the quality of the photo, maybe one day I’ll try to carry my camera round.

Session. Dear native speakers of English who don’t know Polish and read this post – do you know what it means? In Polish the word sesja denotes the period of two weeks at the end of term, when the exams are held. I translate it “examination period”. I have looked it up in my monolingual Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary and in a few online monolingual ones and none of them gives the definition of the word “session” as an examination period, but they offer in unison another definition: “The part of a year or of a day during which a school holds classes.” Classes, not exams, and this is used in Scottish and American English. I had not known that meaning until today, but for the more proficient English students it can be misleading. The rest of them will be enlightened by their fellow students and thus they’ll find out what “session” is.

Then my eyes moved upwards and collided with the note below.

My face fell, my jaw dropped open, I felt dizzy, passed out and then was brought round by a sexy nurse… Well, actually my face fell and I only ended up wondering how many errors can be squeezed into one sentence.

Didn’t I noticed everything wrong?

Dodatkowy termin realizacji szkoleń BHP i bibliotecznego został przesunięty do 30 listopada...

The deadline for receiving occupational health and safety training and library training was extended by 30 November? One could insist that "term" refers to the period of time from 1st to 30th November and they transformed the Polish version in such way, but it still sounds clumsy, even if it is correct. But comprehensible? Lost in translation? Who? They or me?

And the phrase in the bracket which I will not dare to quote is the most glaring error I have seen in my school.

I called on dean’s office to report the blatant misuse of English, but I was fobbed off by the lady behind the counter who told me my complaint was irrelevant, as on 2nd December the note was already outdated. But at least she promised to remove it from the noticeboard.

Maybe we shouldn’t bother and stay complacent with our imperfect English? I recounted the story to my father after I had come home and he asked why had I decided to wrangle with the undereducated fishwives. Maybe it is better to let it go downhill, even bearing in mind my school has pretences to be one of the leading schools of economics in the EU?

I feel confused…


Island1 said...

I was going to comment on this post but I didn't done it yet.

student SGH said...

why didn't you felt free to have spoke your mind in this day?