Sunday, 24 January 2010

Rozliczać jego mać!

WARNING: Reading this post may be extremely hazardous and may cause a serious mental breakdown, may make you lose your mind or send you to a funnyfarm. Unless you are a PL -> EN translation freak, then you’re quite likely to find the scribble below considerably amusing.

There’s no blogging without pleasure. I decided to write this post to reward myself for passing exam in cost accounting and dedicate it to my lecturer who used the Polish verb rozliczać at least one hundred times during the term. I’m somehow cocksure she won’t find it and read (computer literacy and command of English are essential to access and understand my blog!). Passing this exam might be regarded as an accomplishment, especially when one got a task “rozliczyć koszty” and scratched his head to figure out what it EXACTLY meant. I managed to get it right and apportioned the shared costs to the departments on the basis of the number of workers employed in each of them. I apologise to all fellow students who also found it difficult. I hope I’m not to blame.

For starters, I have to admit I’m not an expert in accounting. I generally don’t like, not to say I hate it and I don’t further my knowledge in it. Moreover, all courses in this field delivered at my school are run in Polish only, with no reference to English terms, what makes my command of accounting lingo limited. Forgive me my incompetence, but don’t expect it will hold me back from writing. This time…

The post you’re reading, in spite of its form, is meant to be semi-academic, so I should give an overview of its subject matter and set a thesis. Alright then. I want to get to grips with translations of Polish verb rozliczać, damned by translators, focusing mainly on the aspects of its use that can be come across in accounting parrot. I’ll omit the uses from common parlance, like the ones that translate into: settle up, pay off, bring sb to account, account for, in the last days of April also file a tax return, as they’re quite easy and don’t cause very serious problems.

My thesis is that the words rozliczać and rozliczenie are overused and misused by the Poles and often they can’t precisely explain its meaning. They have become catch-all words, if you don’t know which verb to use, use rozliczać and watch your interlocutor’s and reader’s face turning red from anger. Many people think it’s intuitive and everybody understands it. Polish verbs like je*ać or pie**olić, used by lower tiers of Polish society also cover many meanings and are intuitive, the more educated fellows have their rozliczać. In between there’s a middle class who have their załatwiać and kombinować.

Let’s set the ball rolling. Before I analyse my cost accounting notes, I’ll give you small warm-up. Here’s the instruction for students published recently by my school (in Polish). In case the link expires I’ll give you a screenshot. I underlined the sentences I’m grappling with.

Before I beheld this guide I had thought I had known all possible uses and misuses of rozliczać. They proved me wrong and I’ll thank them cause that was a good job!

First sentence goes: According to the resolution of SGH senate, passed on 22 July 2009, the second term students must complete only the courses listed in curriculum and plan of Master’s studies at SGH,.

The second one goes: Before you do this, check carefully your timetable and the list of courses you will have to get credits in.

Why the hell they used the verb rozliczać remains a secret. I put this example here because I fear the worst – they might try to translate it into English and the effect might be devastating.
No wonder they have problems with English, if they can’t even express themselves in Polish clearly and correctly.

1. Strata poniesiona w danym okresie może być rozliczana na zyski z pięciu kolejnych okresów sprawozdawczych. = A loss incurred in a given period can be offset against profits made in the next five reporting / accounting periods.

2. Rozliczenia międzyokresowe kosztów bierne i czynne = accruals and prepayments. Still quite simple.

SHOUT: a thought for today. Once again you are provided with a screenshot. The framed maxim reads: “Accounting exists because we must not trust one another”. I blame mistrust for many things in Poland so may it be the scapegoat blamed for the existence of the rozliczać.

3. Prenumarata ”Tygodnika X” jest rozliczana w czasie = The subscription of “X Weekly” is amortised over a period of time.

4. Wskaźnika tego używa się do rozliczania kosztów na komórki przedsiębiorstwa = This ratio is used to allocate the costs to firm’s departments.

SHOUT: Bilans wsadu i uzysku. Sporządź bilans wsadu i uzysku w przedsiębiorstwie przemysłu tłuszczowego, wiedząc, że ilościowe zużycie nasion na jednostkę oleju surowego o 100% zawartości tłuszczu wynosi 23 000 kg, a współczynnik zawartości tłuszczu w nasionach – 45,2%. Normatywny współczynnik zaolejenia śrutu w stosunku do wagi nasion to 1%, a normatywny wskaźnik strat oleju w stosunku do wagi nasion wynosi 0,5%. Dodatkowo uzysk z produkcji w postaci oleju surowego – 10 000 kg. Clues: bilans wsadu i uzysku = input and output balance, normatywny = standard, zaolejenie = oil content. If you know what śrut is, how to solve this problem, or why Poland is plagued by Siberian frost, or have any other useful or useless remarks, please leave a comment.

5. Konto rozliczenie kosztów. This is the really a hard nut to crack. In this example I found it really difficult to comprehend what the ultimate goal of keeping this account was. I don’t even know, if it has any equivalent in International Accounting Standards. I can only tell you its used to aggregate and then to break down the costs into other accounts and this account has to be reconciled at the end of each reporting period. My first white flag here, I won’t dare playing at word-building.

6. Rozliczenie kosztów wydziałowych, działalności na koszty produkcji, na inne wydziały, etc. – Here I can tell you the correct English verb once again seems to be ‘to apportion’, I would consider using ‘to divide’ or ‘to allocate’.

SHOUT: I haven’t realised this obvious fact that takes place every week. The next time I hear the word rozliczać I’ll ask myself: “Wednesday, Thursday, Friday does it mean?”

7. We wzajemnych rozliczeniach jako pierwszy rozlicza się ten wydział, który świadczy najwięcej usług na rzecz innych wydziałów = A department which renders to the other departments services in the highest value should account for its costs as a first one. I’m not satisfied with this piece, it sounds clumsy, like the source sentence in Polish.

8. Koszty zmienne są rozliczane według rzeczywistych rozmiarów produkcji, a koszty stałe są rozliczane według planowych rozmiarów produkcji = Variable costs are calculated on the basis of real output, whereas fixed costs are calculated on the basis of planned output. Hence, we have just discovered the next application of the hapless verb.

In this post I tried to prove that rozliczać is a translatable word. It’s a verb, not a noun. The words that tend not to translate are usually nouns. May radish serve as an example. This vegetable is not known in Japan and Japanese language doesn’t have a name for it. A verb express a certain activity which has to named somehow. As long as you understand the meaning of a word precisely and have a sufficient command of another language, you are able to translate it. Click here to see how the professionals are confused by the word – approximately each fourth query concerns this accursed verb, or noun.

Professional translators have a different perspective. They are graduates of English language or applied linguistics and their insight into the topic they deal with is rarely as good as economist’s, I’d hazard a guess. This gives rise to their confusion and pain which is hardly ever eased by dictionaries or colleagues.

It sometimes occurs to me that the best solution would be to cross out this accursed word from dictionaries and make people forget it. But hang on, it actually has its core meaning, as far as I’m concerned represented by the English verb ‘to settle’. I generally avoid using rozliczać like the plague, but I sometimes use it, but in the correct context only. In other instances I replace it with other verbs to get my message across precisely. This problem can be traced back to Polish and or rather its users, native speakers who nurture inaccuracy and low quality of their language. We should change it, unless we want our language to become a pack of rubbish… Am I oversensitive? Read the official documents. Year by year, they are getting harder to understand, more complicated, not to say convoluted. Those officials who draw up those turgid regulations should be fined and then dismissed. More labour force to build motorways or road sweeping crews would do this country much better than a group of layabout who sit behind their desks and come up with twenty-second use of rozliczać!


adthelad said...

Can't see the problem. As an anglopole 'rozliczać/ rozliczenia' always has the core meaning of 'account/s' and everything connected with that word. I started writing a long response to your blog but gave up. If you're into accounting, (or should I say 'rozliczanie się' i.e. 'settling accounts'), it might be a good idea to have a delve and all will be revealed :)
Simple, isnt it?

student SGH said...

Adthelad, I see the problem and it's been laid out above - people misuse and overuse 'that word'. Even if use it in correct context, other people may not and it causes confusion.

You should have written that response, maybe I could learn from it or we'd have a heated discussion, up to you.

Settling accounts - I'd rather say it in Polish wyrównywać rachunku, rozliczać is less in place - in the context of common parlance. In accounting, when making payments, or settling transaction 'settle an account' is also correct, but given the multitude of meanings and imprecision the issue it's a bit more complex.

And it's not only what you know, or what dictionaries say, the problem is how people use it.

adthelad said...

Aha - it might just be my lack of knowledge with regard to the proper Polish use of the word, hence it doesn't jar with me that much. In most of the English versions you gave some form of the word 'account' fits - "są rozliczani/ będziesz rozliczny" - are/ will be held to account or assessed (not the same as 'must complete' which you say is the right interpretation); 'może być rozliczana' - 'my be accounted' instead of offset.
I understand from your point of view it's not that straight forward and that there are clearer and more prceise ways of expressing yourself in Polish. I get the feeling that a style of english business speak is slipping into the Polish language.