Sunday, 20 January 2013

EU-funded twaddle in a newspaper

It has been a while (almost three years have passed by) since I last cracked down on ghastly use of English (I read it over today and found myself in stitches). Absence of the topic on PES does not directly imply the problem has disappeared. Probably after I began working for a Poland-based company in which English is used every day I simply got accustomed to Poles mangling the language and ceased to find it so appalling. But yesterday I sat back in my armchair, opened the Friday edition of Gazeta Stołeczna to find this…

I felt under my skin this announcement was noteworthy. I took a glance on it, then another one, then read it carefully, grabbed a pen, a minute later I knew I would not resist the temptation to tear it to pieces on the blog.

The heading… The man, how about replacing it with Human capital, fixed expression popular in English that often goes together with investment?

Entity name… What a peculiar word order... Implementing Programmes European. OK, in Polish you can try putting cart before the horse, in English, it is not advisable…

What the Mazovian Unit of Implementing Programmes European wants to publicly announce is squeezed into 81-word long sentence. Yes, one sentence is made up of 81 words, in line with KISS (keep it short and simple) rule. The same message could have been conveyed in 20 words I guess. But stretching it to quadrupled number for sure was meant to stress importance and erudition of the author, hence my scribble: “może k… dłuższe?”. How pompous, how turgid…

Scheduled for realisation. I have had a go at translating the Polish verb realizować twice, here and here. Third time would not be lucky. Observant readers should also note emphasis the author put on consistency – a few lines down they wrote realized. In British English you can use “s” or “z” (the former is preferred), when words end with “ise/ize”, but a good practice is to stick to one of them.

Now section 1 – Support for people … category, including:, 36 words in total. How about getting it across in merely 19 words: “Outplacement programmes for the redundant, to be made redundant or at risk of redundancy for employer-related reasons, including:”. My editorial skills fail here a bit, the to be made redundant, does not sound OK to me. Any better translation of przewidzianych do zwolnienia?

One of bullets in section 1 goes: A project participants subsidized employment with a new employer. Now finally jaw drops open. Hard to turn it around; my proposal is subsidies for employers hiring project participants – can it be any better?

Next bullet and the jaw refuses to move up. It is winter so at least I am not likely to swallow an insect. to launch economic activity sound exactly like rozpocząć działalność gospodarczą, but to start a business sounds natural… And why through using? Nine words after economic activity could be swapped for in form of.

Minimal salary – I know minimal is more similar to Polish word minimalny, but minimum has the same meaning, which should tip the scales for the former if the hapless compiler was weighing up which of the words they should use.

Within the framework, in the field of – are examples of phrases that are not purely incorrect, but in English which favours simplicity they somehow disturb natural flow of communication. Right?

Section 2 and here we go again, this could do with at least a dozen words more, as complexity or Research and analyses is still insufficient.

Januaryr? Spell-checker on?

Deadline for submission of the applications is determined by the date of submission of the application… Does it hang together at all? The intent of the author, as it later turned out, was not to write what the latest date applications can be submitted was, but… that an application is deemed to be submitted exactly when it is submitted to the Agency’s office. O terminie złożenia wniosku decyduje data złożenia wniosku. Really confused now?

Now it has been last straw, let’s speak it out straightforwardly – this announcement is a linguistic piece of shit.

localized”. Maybe it sounds dissimilar to zlokalizowany, but if there is such word in English as located, there is a likelihood that it fits better.

The next paragraph, starting with All entities may be granted – can somebody tell me what the hell they wanted to say? This is a classic example of bureaucratic drivel!

Next sentence is bolded and underlined to bring another uncanny example of word order. No comment.

Here I am running out of patience. Logos at the bottom inform me the advertisement was co-paid from EU funds. This is what zillions of money that feed EU bloated bureaucratic apparatus are spent for – let’s face it, this is, not to mince words, a load of crap.

Devastated by the content of the advertisement, I flipped the page and found… 

a source document in Polish, my native language. It dawned on me, everything cleared up. As usual, garbage in, garbage out. The announcement in Polish is also written in the same official puffed-up style. Load of crap in the target language is just an aftermath of load of crap in the source language.

The story behind it was also probably same as always – an inferior, mediocre clerk thought the less plain and clear the language they use, the more educated they appear. More civilised people prove their superiority by explaining complicated issues in simple words, so that everyone can grasp them. In the kingdom of Polish officialdom it goes the other way round. And then a person who is said to know English best (yes, best, meaning possibly well) in an office was told to translate it into English. It might have not been done that poorly, but the translation could have been checked by a snotty superior of the translator and “improved”. The outcome leaves an educated native speaker at least dazed.

How long before I see decent Polish to English translations? Do not think I am going to take it lying down. On Tuesday I have a day off to drive my grandfather to a doctor in the morning, but I will have a free afternoon and I will take the trouble to call the Mazovian Unit of Implementing Programmes European and tell them politely their investment in The Man fills me with anger and shame. I bet they will not understand, nor care, but such practices should not be put up with!


Michael Dembinski said...

Name and shame, I say! Who was responsible for this total fiasco??

Did you notice, towards the end of December, Gazeta Wyborcza was full of four-page supplements, full of densely-packed, completely incomprehensible jargon about the successes of various EU-funded programmes across our beloved province of Mazowsze? Can't remember a word of what was in them - they must have cost a fortune to print - but the year's end was looming and the money had to be spent!

No wonder David Cameron's angry that the rest of the EU is totally complacent about such wasteful behaviour!!

student SGH said...

Michael, even I find a culprit, I won't put their name on the blog. Potential litigation, even if I was acquitted of charges, is a huge hassle in Poland, I want to spare myself this pleasure.

Were those supplements in English? There's a plenty of EU self-promoting materials that they easily escape my notice.

Waste of money is a different story and a topic for a separate discussion. You've done an excellent but recently, accolades for you. Even if there was no single zloty / Euro spent on it from public purse, I'd still find it appalling!

Follow-up on Tuesday!