Log In

Come Join Us!

Are you an
Engineering professional?
Join Eng-Tips Forums!
  • Talk With Other Members
  • Be Notified Of Responses
    To Your Posts
  • Keyword Search
  • One-Click Access To Your
    Favorite Forums
  • Automated Signatures
    On Your Posts
  • Best Of All, It's Free!

*Eng-Tips's functionality depends on members receiving e-mail. By joining you are opting in to receive e-mail.

Posting Guidelines

Promoting, selling, recruiting, coursework and thesis posting is forbidden.


Translation oddities?

Translation oddities?

English is not my wife's first language, in fact it comes in at a poor fourth or fifth; she is fluent in German having lived for much of her life in Berlin.

But, there are some oddities which I cannot eradicate from her English.  
Yes, apparently it is my job to correct her English, no matter what traumas this produces. I have been quite adept at learning her version of English so I often fail to note and correct the errors. This is also because she lacks consistency; if I interrupt her in full flow to correct some minor aberration I am not Mr. Nice Husband but some pedantic male chauvinist oaf always finding fault.
On the other hand, when some one else looks blank and asks her to repeat something it is my fault because I have not been helping her improve her English.  

This is a gargantuan task because, as a recent study has shown, on average women speak three times as much as men and we are way way beyond average here.
The average is 7000 words a day for men (possibly this many because it includes some time at work talking to other men) and 21000 for women, what my wife gets through just for breakfast.

Like most husband/wife dialogues, all I usually need to do is say "Yes Dear" and "Uh huh" at various intervals to show I am awake and paying attention and thus I guess that enough repetitions soon add up to 7000 words.
I have no idea what the 21000 words consist of except I am pretty sure there will be numerous repetitions of "Are you listening to me?" (the automatic "yes dear" always takes care of this one except sometimes she will ask me what I think. This isn't because she cares what I think, it is only her way of testing if I really have been listening. Naturally, when caught out this way, the next 3-4000 words are as familiar to her as to me and I doubt either of us is actually listening. Many a long car journey can be passed in this manner.

One never ending game is helping her spell when she is in mid-email. This is a priority task and the words "Just a minute Dear" are usually guaranteed to provoke some over the top reaction which usually ends up with me agreeing to us going out for dinner or her buying a new pair of shoes. This is probably because we used to have dial-up internet for some time and she would edit on line producing a once a month rant from me (before I learned better) when the phone bill would arrive. The peace that broad band brought I have never satisfactorily explained, especially as she is happy to believe she has so thoroughly trounced me on the phone bill issue that I don't like to disillusion her, especially as the money saved would be then spent on shoes. Besides, I am not sure I have enough remaining life expectancy to devote to the task of explaining something she will never willingly understand.

"i" and "e" are a common problem individually and in combination, both with spelling and pronunciation.

Every time she needs help with spelling I will say "F", "L", "I", "E" and "S"

(Big Bill doesn't like "fleis".
Please, please, PLEASE: don't ask why I don't explain how spell-checker works. I tried this one time and we nearly got divorced so I paid up and sent her to evening classes. If they didn't explain they must have had good reasons. Besides, she doesn't actually want to spell correctly, just to eliminate all those red squiggly lines and the moment she discovers the "add word" feature her dictionary will flood the hard disc with all possible permutations of every word and I'll have to buy her a computer with more memory than the CIA needs).

We will get the "I" fine but at the "E" we always go through a routine of me saying "E" and she asking "Is that eeh-punkt or eeh-Eberhart?"
Eeh-punkt is "i" of course.

If I get smart or lippy or impatient because we repeat this several times until Big Bill is happy, I'm in trouble and can and have spent the rest of the day in the dog-house (being let out only to take her to some expensive restaurant).
This is not helped by the fact she has hand corrected her keyboard to overwrite each key with farsi symbols often obscuring the original alphabet and so we have many typos on route to an acceptable spelling.

If you have gathered that I have some reservations about Big Bill's spell checker or grammar checker, then hear my wife after she has struggled to respell some German place name some forty times and can never get the UK spell checker to approve the spelling.
Remember, the dog house looms and I could spend the rest of my days explaining the limitations of the spell check dictionaries or I could get a life. If Big Bill were to appear in person he would need to do so in full body armour. In our house Big Bill's mansion is where the devil will go when he dies.

The real problem is the pronunciation of some words. This starts with the German pronunciation of the letters "w" and "v". So far as my German language skills allow me to say, there is no "w" sound in German.

Wein is pronounced vine.

Vier (4) is pronounced "fear" .

(Note that the ei and ie sounds are always the wrong way round for English.)

Hence the well known TV/Film comedy phrase "Vee Haf vays to make you talk." in any scene featuring a German soldier.
Now the oddity: say the following sentence in Native English:

"Please open the window and close the vent."

She will say:

"Please open the vindow and close the went."

Note that I show her saying "the" and not "zee". She has mastered that "th" sound in all its variants, it is just this new "w" sound that irritates the hell out of me. It doesn't exist in German and here she is translating the V into W.

But she is not alone, I have noted a similar tendency in other native German speakers.

Anyone else noted this or have any similar "show and tells" for other "native language into English" oddities?


RE: Translation oddities?

english = Fried Rice, Japanese = Fly'd Lice
And who was the cruel son of a gun that named the Philippine  Islands where the people there have no ‘F’ sound. So now two Philippino pilots become a pair of pliers.

The best way to test something is to squeeze it, slowly, until it breaks!

RE: Translation oddities?

i know where you're coming from ... i've lived in the northern hemispehere longer than i did in the south, where i was born (Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie ...). but i still pronounce my vowels the ozie (right?) way.  after a bunch of trial and error, i've found that i have to say "hoch" when i see a "hawk" in order not to get laughed at by She-who-must-be-obeyed or by the blighted-northern-hemisphere-sprogs ... we've agreed on BoP (bird of prey) to resolve this word.

now, if she'd only respond to "shiela" the right way ...

RE: Translation oddities?

I'm another one with a wife who's native language is not English.  It's Mandarin, so her native tongue simply has no commonality with English.

Like JMW, I probably no longer hear many of her particular oddities in diction, although there are a few that still stick out.

There is a selective "silent W", most commonly applied when the "W" is followed by a vowel.  So, for example "wood"  is pronounced "ood".

Like many native Mandarin speakers, certain phoneme patterns give her particular difficulty.  "Boulevard" is a particularly good example.  She just can't say it, it inevitably comes out as "bloo-var".

The Chinese also have the "R"-"L" difficulty of course.

Inexplicably, the Taiwanese choose to honor President Roosevelt by naming a street in Taipei for him.  "Roosevelt Boulevard".  

At the office, one of the assistant's native language is Portuguese. On of our client's is Indian.  My assistant simply CANNOT pronounce his name.  The sound that comes out when she tries is akin to a cat trying to cough up a fur ball.

RE: Translation oddities?

I find that my Germans also have difficulty with "th" and "d".  From a Nick Cave cover of a Dylan song:

Don't you know that death is not the end.


Don't you know dat deaf is not de ent.

It turns a sombre song into a funny one for me.

- Steve

RE: Translation oddities?

Get hold of a copy of "Origins and Development of the English Language" by Thomas Pyles and give it to your wife. Tell her her to study the parts that are devoted to Old English. If your wife could obtain a similar publication that deals with the origins and development of the German language, written in German of course, you could study the parts that deal with Old German. If YOU are willing to learn something, instead of just teaching, YOU may start to see the similarities between the two languages.  With that knowledge you may be able to develop an understanding of the difficulties your wife faces mastering all of the intricacies of such a complex language as modern English.
An alternative would be for you to hire a tutor for your wife which could take you off the hook. If the tutor turns out to be someone that listens to your wife, responds to her questions in a sincere and forthright manner and does not ridicule her attempts to master the language then you might be looking for a new wife. If this is the case, hopefully you will choose one that only speaks English.
Good luck.

RE: Translation oddities?

I am just amused and amazed...why does this matter? Specially, when one is your spouse? Why make it a point of aggravation? As long as they are likeable otherwise.

Would you be trying to correct a client of yours who is about to sign lucrative deal who does not speak your native language well? So why pick on spouses?

English is not the first language of either me or my wife, I dont have much problem with english although have some accent, but my wife is no way fluent in english.  I have done reasonably well in my career. But her job involves talking to a lot of clients in the USA and overseas. You would think she would not last there too long. The fact she is one of the most likable person there. Got promotios etc., no complaints. Her boss would gladly correct her emails, even. The bottom line is she gets the job done without alienating clients who actally has to pay the bills!! It is entirely possible that had she been fluent in english, she could have made a few more bucks, I don't think that matters to much.

On the other hand, I know of a few native americans with no handicap in English who are hated by the people who deal with them because they are just hard to deal with.  This could be true for anyone with any language skills. Morale of the story? What matters is who you are and how you deal with the people. Mastery of a certain language is not what make you successful or likeable.

Certainly I have corrected her a few times, but never made a point of it. Nor do I really care.

RE: Translation oddities?

i think your viewpoint is based on not being an engilish native. two points come to mind ...
maybe you wouldn't feel the same if it was your native tongue that someone was butchering ?, but more ...
what if your spouse was trying to learn your native tongue, and was relying on your knowledge to learn it ?
i recognise the lose-lose that jmw is in ... being too picky and not picky enough.  

RE: Translation oddities?


I guess everyone has their own method of judging people and situations and its their own problem.

I was only trying to highlight the fact that persons, who married to someone who may not be fluent in english (or any other for that matter)obviously and rightly saw many other things that they liked about that person and what made them likeable to begin with. Obviously, english speaking was not one of them nor it did matter. So why pick on them now?

Also who is to say that in order to converse with people you must know their language to perfection? Language is only a means of communication, people seeking prefection are only to end up with heartburn as you and few others have.

What makes you think that English is the only right way to speak?? It may be your view, and many may share but the fact is that is not the truth.

I was only trying to highlight the fact that persons, who married to someone who may not be fluent in english (or any other for hat matter)

Do you expect to learn fluent chiense or french (if you are not one) before visting china, or france etc??

Probably you do not have any idea how much butchering native english speking people do!!!

70% of amercians cannot pronounce Iraq correctely, including some news anchors! But it does not irritates me, I only give them bebefit of doubt of not knowing something that they are not faimiliar with.

Almost everyweek I run into people who cannot pronounce my name correctly. Am I supposed to get furstrated at them?

After 60 plus years of independence, India is still cleaning up names of the places, cities and towns that English bucthered. For exmaple Mumbai to Bombay etc.

I also have a feeling, much of the furstration of people like you come from not knowing any other language other than english. Instead of admiring people who know more than you do, trying to riducule them only shows inaptness of respecting others.

RE: Translation oddities?

I think that is Bombay to Mumbai....

But please guys, don't get too worked up about this.
It was morning, the caffeine was just beginning to work its daily magic and I was feeling good. I could have just given the sentences to illustrate the German problem with the English "W" sound but I felt it would be nice to share some background and maybe generate some humour to start the day.

I love language stories and my wife is the source of a great many of them; we both enjoy them.

I should say that this is something I have inherited and some of the best stories are from my grandfather who was the essence of the typical British Civil Servant of the time. However, while his name was William Henry Meyer, he was the eldest son of Wilhelm Heinrich Meyer.

Ask a UK citizen if he is British and he may say he is Scottish, Welsh or Irish and often they may reply that they are English but many will say instead that they are British.
To be British is, to my mind, nothing to do with ethnicity or heredity but is a state of mind and culture. Hence, in the short time my wife has lived in England she is in many respects very British. Anyone can be British.

So here is one of our favourites which we both tell and which illustrates this quite nicely:

We went to Turkey on holiday and flew out on a flight with a Turkish crew. My wife spent the whole journey chatting one of the stewardess's and as we arrived in Dalaman they switched to English and the stewardess then asked her which part of Turkey she came from... I say this not just to illustrate that her Turkish is good enough for her to be thought a native speaker, which she is not, but to show that  she is fluent. I hoped this would be an advantage.

The day of our return we arrived at the airport and there I am at the check-in desk with my wife fiddling about in her handbag for something.
"Do you have any seats with leg room?" I ask politely.
The girl looks at me blankly, evidently she speaks no English. I try again without success.
I turn to my wife and say "Help me out here can you?"
My wife looks up, turns to the girl and says:
The girl looked resentfully at her and handed over our boarding passes without another word.
We move off.
"What?" my wife asks irritably not understanding why I am suddenly so grumpy.
"It would have helped if you had asked her in Turkish." I said.

Incidentally, I was surprised to hear my brother in law answer the phone in his office one day and say "Hallo, Benny speaking."
"Benny?" I asked. "Yes," he said, "people have trouble pronouncing my name."
It is apparently quite a common thing. My wife's cousin calls himself Patrice (a sort of French version of Patrick I guess) but while it isn't English, it causes no trouble for the average Brit to say Patrice though they'd butcher his real name.

I sometimes wonder if those officials at Ellis Island were smarter than we thought or not.
In the US many people are now taking back their original unpronounceable family names in place of the Anglicised versions their parents or grandparents were given when arriving in the US or which they took voluntarily to help them be more readily accepted (there is some doubt about the extent of the Ellis Island story, especially as most arrivals didn't arrive that way).


RE: Translation oddities?

One of my co-workers ("N") had an interesting exchange with a Korean client a while ago.  It was based on a misunderstanding of wht was actually said, so I'll spell it in the manner it was heard rather than what was actually said:

Client: Pulls N to one side and tells him: "My wife, she f**ks!"

N: "Really, err, that's nice."

Client: "Oh yes, she really f**ks!"

N:  Getting embarassed, tries to change subject.

Client:  "You know, pointy ears, big tail."

N: "Ah, fox.  Phew."

- Steve

RE: Translation oddities?

On babel fish, original sentence:

"Your engineering skill represents the paragon of talent."

To Russian:

"???? ????????? ??????????? ???????????? ??????? ?????????????."

Then back to English:

"Your skill of engineering presents the paragon of talent."

Then to Spanish:

'Su habilidad de la ingeniería presenta el modelo del talento.'

Then to French:

"Son habilité de l'ingénierie présente le modèle du talent."

And back to English:

"Its ability of engineering presents the model of the talent."

Babelfish actually seemed to keep the meaning of the sentence.  A lot better than back in the day.

Matt Lorono
CAD Engineer/ECN Analyst
Silicon Valley, CA
Lorono's SolidWorks Resources
Co-moderator of Solidworks Yahoo! Group
and Mechnical.Engineering Yahoo! Group

RE: Translation oddities?

Amusing thread. But we shouldn't take this so seriously, like a cultural war.  I think languages are just the outer layers of people. At last, no matter where we are in the world, all of us like a coffee in the morning, pay our bills, etc.
I speak fluent Spanish and basic German. English is way the easiest to learn: soft words, no complex conjugations, etc.  I understand why these languages are so hard for English speakers, because of their harsh pronunciation and their endless list of verbal forms.

When you hear germans talking, and their somewhat ‘aggressive’ accent, you can hardly tell if when they are arguing or joking.  
At first sight, German and Spanish may be as similar as a square and a circle, though it was fairly easy for me to get the German accent, as both languages share that same ‘rude’ pronunciation.

One day I found on YouTube how some US guys heard a Spanish conversation: It was like saying “bleridebloriparabloripelibropelirabe”.  I just laughed…no comments :D
For Spanish words finishing in ‘O’, many English speakers tend to shift it for ‘OW’, so it’s quite funny to hear all local nouns by phone, just like hearing “San Franciscow”, “Ohiow”, “Coloradow”.  My own name sounds like this: “Gone-sah-loh”, but I often hear “Gownzelow” by phone  :D

The R is an international issue.  Asian clients tend to say R like L, also in Spanish. Even English speakers have a hard time with the Spanish R, just getting some kind of lazy, sleepy R.  But when someone says “Minnesota”, it sounds exactly as to say “MinesoRa” in Spanish.

PS: The right translation of "Your engineering skill represents the paragon of talent." to Spanish should be “Su habilidad de Ingeniería representa un modelo de talento”.  I’m afraid that the BabelFish output for Spanish actually means: “Your ability of the engineering introduces the model of the talent” :D

Good Luck!

RE: Translation oddities?

Don't need to go too far for missing R.

Bostonians (and the vicinity) completely ignores the pronounciation of R!! or replace it with H.

There is no mirror but mirro.

There is no car but cah

The Chowder is Chaudah!

RE: Translation oddities?

A friend used to work behind the bar in a place with a lot of Vietnamese. They used to come up and ask for a coke and pronounce it as if it didnt have the e on the end

RE: Translation oddities?

Note that Japanese do not say:  Maaahzdah or Neeesarn.   Similarly, Brits don't say Jagwhar.

(Italians don't say Eyetalian or paahsta)

- Steve

RE: Translation oddities?

Back on track of translation oddities:

I have in my pantry a bag of some sort of Japanese snack.  Some sort of puffed rice thing.

The flavor, as advertised right there on the front of the bag is

"Dressing Flavor!"

RE: Translation oddities?

I was talking about some technical details with a UK client by phone. She (kindly) offered switching to Spanish. I said OK.
In Spanish 'mensaje' means message, while 'masaje' means can imagine the end.  She had forwarded an email he just received, and wanted to confirm if I also had received it:
'Recibió mi masaje?' (Did you receive my massage?)


RE: Translation oddities?

My clients usually just give me headaches!

RE: Translation oddities?

Amusing article JMW, we've all been there, you don't even need to throw another language into the ix to always be in the wrong in my experiance!
Are you familiar with the work of the author Mil Milington?
He seems to be permanently stuck in a similar lose-lose situation with his German partner, which manifests itself into an occasional mailing list to vent his frustrations. I think some of them can still be found at Very amusing and well worth a look.

RE: Translation oddities?

American english speakers are tending to use the Spanish R sound for the letter T in the middle of words.  Most of us don't realize we do it.  Little (lit-t'l) becomes Li-R'l.

This is similar shift as the Spanish LL (similar to the hard Y sound in English) is being pronounced as an English J sound by Latin American spanish speakers.  Though, this shift is more recognized these days than the shift in the American english T.  I have found that some Latin American spanish speakers cannot hear the different between the Y and J sounds.

Matt Lorono
CAD Engineer/ECN Analyst
Silicon Valley, CA
Lorono's SolidWorks Resources
Co-moderator of Solidworks Yahoo! Group
and Mechnical.Engineering Yahoo! Group

RE: Translation oddities?

Yeah, what an easy life that Mil character has.
I suspect he hasn't had the continual worry I have about my wife and authority figures... armed to the teeth or not.


RE: Translation oddities?

no, you've got that backwards - spanish speakers are using the sound of "tter" to replace two Rs...  "perro" becomes "pettero."

The only way I can imagine pronouncing your example LiRL is "li-ral."  Is that how you wanted it to come out?  I can't say I've ever heard someone pronounce the word that way.  More often "liddle" if the T goes soft.

RE: Translation oddities?


I just picked up a new stove-top espresso maker from Ikea.

Made in China, instructions printed in thirteen languages.

In the English section, what from content could only be "stove" is consistently referred to as "hob".

RE: Translation oddities?

"Hob" is a frequently used English word for the hot surface on a cooker.  Likewise, "kettle" is a standalone electric device for boiling water.  If you put your kettle on the hob it would melt and catch fire.

- Steve

RE: Translation oddities?

Since I am from El Paso, I guess I just never noticed a problem with English/Spanish.  However, my step mom was from Aguas and she pronounced 'little' as 'litty'. Anytime little came up she always said "litty bitty"...Never could change that.  I never heard of Spanish speakers converting "O" to "OW" that's new to me, as is "pettero".  It's always been "perro" as far as I know.

Another noteworthy effort---Many years ago we had a Mexican maid, live in, for some time and I made the effort to "teach" her to at least understand English...Herculean effort!  It was impossible to teach her English when she did not even read/understand correct Spanish.  Tough to say, but perhaps other Spanish speakers can understand the level of illiteracy in some of the Mexican immigrants.  By the time she left us, she could read basic Spanish and understand spoken least a litty bit! ;o)


RE: Translation oddities?


So what do you call the thing that you put the water in to put on the hob to boil it?

I fail to see why it needs a different name for when it sits on an oven and when it plugs into the wall.

RE: Translation oddities?

csd72, It's not just me.  I'm not trying to argue.  If you use the word "kettle" in the UK, people will imagine a white plastic thing with a plug on it.  All homes have one; people only use the hob/stove if their electric supply dies or if they are camping.

The term "Electric kettle" has kind of shrunk to "Kettle" here.  So I don't think we really have a specific word for a kettle that isn't electric any more.

- Steve

RE: Translation oddities?


Just listen to a news broadcast on Fox or CNN.  You will hear the Spanish R or a missing sound for almost every mid-word T.  Mountain is pronounced as Moun'n.  Little is always LiRel.  It sounds like a "d" to us because we don't have the Spanish R sound in our language.  But to a native Spanish speaker, it is a distinct single R role.  One friend of mine related that when she was learning English, she was confused at the colliquial pronunciation of words like little because of this.  It didn't make sense to her as to why the teacher was throughing the R in the middle of the word that had two T's.

Also, I don't know anyone that is replacing the Spanish R for a T sound in any language.  Certainly not spanish speakers from Latin America.  Where you are seeing this?

Matt Lorono
CAD Engineer/ECN Analyst
Silicon Valley, CA
Lorono's SolidWorks Resources
Co-moderator of Solidworks Yahoo! Group
and Mechnical.Engineering Yahoo! Group

RE: Translation oddities?

oops, didn't answer the question.

We'd probably still call it a "kettle", but it's very rare we'd ever use a "thing that you put the water in to put on the hob to boil it".

- Steve

RE: Translation oddities?

Sompting, last I heard my mum & dad had given up on electric kettles and gone back to the hob/stove top version.

They still call it a kettle.

I agree though that most tea kettles in the UK are the electric variety.

Not sure about fish kettles etc.

KENAT, probably the least qualified checker you'll ever meet...

RE: Translation oddities?

I once bought an ‘Asian’ MP3 player 1 yr ago.  The user manual looked like written by children:
"Try to not keep this device functioning for too many minutes, because it would drain the batteries very fastly".  Soon I realized I couldn't play more than 10 tracks with the same battery.  Bad device… bad documentation...bad buying cheap stuff :)

I laughed a lot with multicultural humor (of course, with a level of respect), though I think most of the educated and well-paid people of the world have very few reasons for leaving their country. Unfortunately for Latin America, NA often meets the worst of their people, with a lack of education or language skills enough for getting a job or a VISA. Thus, assuming that Latin America is just like their immigrants is like assuming all US-citizens are just like Homer Simpson :D

Good topic. Good Luck!

RE: Translation oddities?

Regarding 'hob'. My mother referred exclusively to the two cast iron devices that could be rotated into the firebox area of the coal fire that we had in our living room as the 'hobs'. The idea was to put the tea kettle or any other pot that needed to be kept warm onto the 'hob' and rotate it so that it was above the hot coals. However, this narrow definition may have been just her interpretation and not a generally used one.

RE: Translation oddities?

A couple of things that had me baffled for a while in Russia recently were 'BMV' (the car) and VVF (the conservation group).

I've always thought of the 'hobs' as the 'steps' of firebricks on each side of the fireplace, presumably useful for putting things such as kettles on. "Hard as the hobs of hell" is one of Mother's favorite sayings.

RE: Translation oddities?

A fairly typical email from one of our interns (names changed to protect the guilty):


Hi "Manufacturing Engineering Manager/ECO process owner",

"Electrical Engineer X" want to release these two parts from microscope head and bridge box, these two part are like set and they do not cooperative with older versions.
Should we change number of head and bridge box or goes only for new rev?

"Intern Y"

We've had interns from various countries, mostly Germany but also Bosnia (via Germany) and Poland.  Very few of them have had good written English, even those who spoke it well.  Some of them have got to a reasonable level by the time they leave (~ 6 months) but this guys actually been here longer and still has trouble.  

It's especially interesting when management have them write procedures/assembly instructions etc.  We had some here for only 3 months doing assembly instruction, for a shop floor mostly staffed by Hispanics many of whom have English as a second language.  Now, we emphasize pictures for this type of thing but still, it's going to be interesting when the product in question goes to full production.

Don't misunderstand me, my written French was never good and their English is far better than anything I ever achieved in ‘Francais’. However, it really isn't good enough for some of the tasks they are given by management.  I’ve grown sick and tired of pointing this out.  

I suppose though given the poor standard of English by many permanent staff here they don’t do so bad after all.  (I know the grammar etc. on some of my posts is poor but trust me, by the standards around here I’m pretty good.)

jmw, my wife is a shoe diva too, I feel your pain.

KENAT, probably the least qualified checker you'll ever meet...

RE: Translation oddities?

Actually the Russians got the car right - BMW is a German acronym and should be pronounced the German way.
Funny things happen when you transcribe from one alphabet to another. I heard of Garibaldi renamed Haribaldi in Russia and Porsche become Forsche in Israel.

RE: Translation oddities?

When the French sing Happy Birthday in English they usually cannot detect that there are two different tones for "to" and "you" in the line ...
Happy Birthday to you.

Either they don't hear the drop in pitch or cannot reproduce it.

RE: Translation oddities?

I was formerly working in a Latin-American company supplying telemetry equipment for some copper mining companies, so we were regularly in contact with Asian and US electronic providers. In a few words, the ‘backbone’ of the business relied mostly on foreign trade.   
Amazingly, I saw very few people able to talk by phone in English with a foreign client/provider, so when I took the job I could see a lot of problems with communications: emails were responded 1 day later (after being translated for someone who knew some tech. English), or tortuous (yawning) phone conferences of 2+ hrs., where the simplest tech details required several minutes of repeating words, choosing simpler synonyms, etc.

I just remember some funny conferences, with the bunch of managers and engineers listening to the hands-free speaker. It looked like the scientists from the movie “Close Encounters”, trying to decode the music tones from the alien ship :)
Eventually I was put in charge of these affairs, and helped on cleaning the mess, realizing that language oddities may be also disastrous for international companies.

That's it.

RE: Translation oddities?

GonzaloEE - that sounds so familiar.  Everytime I've had to have a phone call with tech support in Asia it's like you describe.  The combination of language difficulties and cultural differences make it a nightmare.  I've even had the same trouble in the US as some of our tech support don't seem to have English as their first language.

If I ever have to speak to French tech support though I should be good to go with my great Frenchwinky smile

KENAT, probably the least qualified checker you'll ever meet...

RE: Translation oddities?

"good to go"

Somebody's been in America too long!!

- Steve

RE: Translation oddities?

Almost certainly.

My new car has an Engine with a capacity more than 3 times that of my last car in the UK.

I realized at that point that I had been assimilatedwinky smile.

KENAT, probably the least qualified checker you'll ever meet...

RE: Translation oddities?

When I lived in America (10+ years ago), the phrase that made me shudder was "all set".  I don't think I heard it once over the last couple of weeks when I was there.  "good to go" seems to have replaced it.

So whats the difference in specific power (kW/l) or perhaps that should be horsepower/cube.

- Steve

RE: Translation oddities?


Lack of communication with only two or three different native tongues in the room is trivial.


Japanese contractor, with a Hispanic project manager.  German sub-contractor with team members from Germany, France, Bosnia and Russia.

USA based client, but team members from India, Egypt, Columbia, Italy and Poland.

RE: Translation oddities?

I now have 250 gee-gees out of nominal 3.5L Dodge Charger (wifes choice, I was gonna get something fuel efficient).  250/3.5 = 71

My last car in UK was a Saxo Desire X reg 2001.  I think it had the 1.1 so 59 horseys 59/1.1 = 54

KENAT, probably the least qualified checker you'll ever meet...

RE: Translation oddities?

Not bad.  The last car I drove in the USA was 210/4 = 52.5 (sorry about the terrible mixed units, just following form), lower even than your Citroen.

- Steve

RE: Translation oddities?

Mint, that sounds like a typical day at my office.

Sompting, I was surprised too when I worked it out.  The Saxo always seemed pretty nippy.

KENAT, probably the least qualified checker you'll ever meet...

RE: Translation oddities?

Amusing thread, best confusion for language translations. Bahasa (Indonesian or Malay) for water is air (pronounced aiere, or something like that) on a P&ID title it can get real interesting!

Mark Hutton

RE: Translation oddities?

Same here last year: Chilean manager, freelance firmware programmers from India, Romania and Chile, US contractor for hardware manufacturing/prototyping, and one UK client.  Besides dealing with Spanish and English flavours from 3 continents, there are some ‘interesting’ issues regarding the cultural background of each engineer.  Though we may agree on Ohm’s Law, It’s a little harder to get an agreement on things like committing with schedule, willing to meet deadlines, and all these ‘default settings’ we expect from colleagues to keep the project rolling.

I must confess I had a hard time with the Chilean programmer. Though very professional and showing  good know-how about the project, he was always too late with times and schedules, hard to find by phone or email (emails were answered even 3 days later!!!).  The Indian programmer was paid a % in advance, but after several days with no response to my emails or Skype calls, I finally got him online and complained for his unprofessional behaviour.  I was astonished when he replied “you are not very professional, you are always thinking of business and cost, but never engineering”… (So what’s engineering?)  :P

The Romanian guy was very professional though a bit bossy and argumentative. All tech. details were endlessly discussed as he always wanted to do things his way, never the client’s way. I’ve found that several programmers act just like that: sure of their knowledge, they feel free to claim some control over the project advance.  Of course, I must also deal with the British client, with all the manager’s toolbox for renegotiating the project schedule, including the smiling explanations and creative compensations, add-ons, etc.  But it’s just my job, no complaints.   When the H/W stage started, I’ll post my opinions on the US contractor ;)

Apologies to all readers from the mentioned countries: I’m just talking about single individuals, all with proven experience in their areas of knowledge. I’m won’t try any cultural theory well above my humble manager’s position :D

Good thread, keep it up!

RE: Translation oddities?

Er, woman journalist and woman researcher.
Far be it from me to question if this is a self-serving article, but.....


RE: Translation oddities?

Oh, did I read the wrong article?

And yes, I'd dearly love to be an MCP but I have a hard time doing so consistently.

My original report came via the BBC so I guess it is probably wrong. Does that satisfy? I hadn't meant it as a serious dogmatic axiomatic viewpoint, I just thought it was a fun comment to have heard on the radio, BBC at that. But of we are going to take such comments seriously I guess I'd better get researching.

But let's see, your link took me to an article:
The Last Word: Men Talk as Much as Women

which has the byline:

By Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Staff Writer

Jeanna is not a guys name, not where I live, and staff writer says journalist to me.

Now she then refers to a book which contains the exact data I heard reported (sexist me for repeating it) and then quotes:
"The author of the book, Louann Brizendine of the University of California, San Francisco, said she later found out those numbers were based on an “unreliable” study."

For me the name "Louann" and the feminine adjective suggest the "authority" was a woman.

I didn't bother to read down and count who was who. I don't take such things that seriously to begin with.

But do I believe men and women are different? You bet. Does that make me sexist? Probably and I hope so, under my definition.

But do I want to become embroiled in some PC nonesense and name calling? No thank you.

Gee you folks get picky. Better go read the thread about office politics..... and the advice given there... this is part of my office here.


RE: Translation oddities?

I got a good laugh out of those articles. Basically tward the end they admit it was a pointless study “Thus, the data fail to reveal a reliable sex difference in daily word use.” (Are Women Really More Talkative Than Men?)
Reading thought this article, there are some many variables that can effect the amount a person talks. For one, was the sample of middle class offices workers which talk on the phone a lot and actually don’t like talking?  

jmw, excellent rant!!!

To me such “researchers” in the pursuit of PC’ness and proving the “chauvinist” wrong, inherently are sexist and annoying.  

Why can’t people just accept women are women, and men are men!   

RE: Translation oddities?

Why is it that studies that further the stereotype of the chatty woman are gladly trotted out as scientific evidence, while studies that show that said attitude is a load of crap are dismissed as PC?

Accepting that "women are women and men are men" means accepting whatever wrong attitudes people may hold about the capabilities of women and men.  Wasn't that long ago that women weren't considered to be capable of being engineers--and there's still debate, in countries where men still dominate technical fields, whether that might yet be true.  Many people respond to the question "why are these fields so male-dominated?" with, basically, "women are women and men are men, and the system is not broken"--and yet there are countries in which technical fields are NOT dominated by men.

Denying that sexism exists doesn't make it any less real, and neither do defensive cries of "PC!"


Eng-Tips policies:  FAQ731-376: Forum Policies

RE: Translation oddities?


Wow… its Friday, relax.

1) First off, just using the “women are women, and men are men” my point does, doesn’t not provide and information point toward sexist assumptions.  

Then you manage to manipulate this into a paragraph basically saying “women don’t belong in technical fields.”

2) I first start by pointing out “Reading thought this article, there are some many variables that can effect (correction: affect) the amount a person talks.”

I sited a man example because I am male, but it could be a women also, with the point being that a lot of the studies for man and women, don’t prove anything because there are a large number of social and economical issues that effect the everyday life leading up to the point to the test.  

3) The second point being “To me such “researchers” in the pursuit of PC’ness and proving the “chauvinist” wrong, inherently are sexist and annoying.”  

Basically, when you read into such research, it is not uncommon to find sexist assumptions made by the researcher which negates their whole point.  As an engineer, its easy to know a whole test can be pointless or “prove” whatever they want, depending on how it is conducted ( and WHERE THE MONEY IS COMING FROM). This is really annoying!

4) Finally, Back to my statement “why can’t people just accept women are women, and men are men! “

Basically a nice way of saying, why don’t all the idiots out there just accept people are people, and society requires the positive attributes of women and men.

Hope you have a sunny weekend

RE: Translation oddities?

Er, just one point Gymmeh, when you get married you get to share the positive and negative aspects; no cherry picking.

Ergo, a large part of my life is now loitering in the car waiting for herself to get ready, or loitering outside shoe shops or pharmacies and don't tell me men and women are the same, if they were, I wouldn't have got married.

Talking about the proportion of my life now spent doing nothing but waiting, one winters day I stepped out of the house, laptop in hand, and my feet shot out from under me. My reflex (part of the induction course at my company must have included a subliminal session from IT) was to keep my laptop from hitting the deck. My whole weight then came onto one arm and I broke my arm at wrist and elbow.
I crawled back to the house and attracted my wife's attention.
"I think I've broken my arm." I said.
She took hold of my arm and wiggled it, summoning up memories of her days as a nurse.
"Looks like it." she said surprisingly unconcerned (I'd woken her up again) and then rigged a sling for it. (two out of three scarves rejected as the wrong colour).
She looked at me. "There." she said.
"Can you drive me to casualty please?".
"Oh, O.K.," she said, "just let me get ready."

Foolish, I know, but I thought she'd throw some clothes on and be right out but instead it was 30-40 minutes of waiting in the car later when she appears fully made up to take me to hospital. I would guess there were no more than the usual five changes of outfit that precede any excursion out of the house.

I wouldn't change my wife for anyone.



RE: Translation oddities?

jmw - your original post - a classic!! My wife is Indonesian - English is her third language and when we met she spoke maybe 10 words of English and me 10 of Indonesian.  Still we learned - but spelling is without question the biggest problem.  Even after 20 years, when I spell, say fries, I have to say i like India and e like elephant - in Indonesia it would be spelled f r e a s .  On prounciation, when we first moved to Canada, we stayed at a friends house.  My wife and I soon visited my parents for the first time and my wife told them we stayed at "house Peter" - but of course, the pronunciation was a bit off and they both wondered why she was in the hospital!!  But I love it - other than spelling the same word 10 times a day!  

RE: Translation oddities?

Got to love them!

Actually, I have just recognised something quite alarming, not only am I increasingly adept at understanding my wife's English, I am actually becoming quite fluent in it myself. Every so often I get a funny look from a native speaker and then I realise I have been using an oddly half German sentence construction with the poor verb floating around somewhere but not where it is supposed to be or I'll realise I have adopted a sort of "'Allo, 'Allo" style of speaking.


RE: Translation oddities?

Vee haf vays and means...

My wife is a US citizen, I as most of you may be aware am originally from England.

We have fun on pronunciation.

She and and our son take great delight on occasion in pointing out my pronunciation oddities.

When we first got together we had even more fun.

Before I moved out to the states I lived out in the countryside and had to walk along a dark (at night anyway) lane to get to the pub.  I spoke to her on the phone just before going to the pub one time and said something about having to find my torch to go to the pub with some visiting friends.

I was unaware that in the US a battery powered light is a 'flash light' not a torch.  A torch is the big flaming stick thing, or the Olympic thing everyones protesting right now.

She had images of me and the others storming the pub like a mob of angry villagers in a Frankenstein or Vampire movie, wielding pitchfork and flaming torches!


KENAT, probably the least qualified checker you'll ever meet...

RE: Translation oddities?

Sounds like my old local on a Friday night ... many, many moons ago. <sigh>


RE: Translation oddities?

Just the other day I had a funny one, for those that dont know my wife is Czech.

It was really nice out this weekend, like 80F, and I decided to go for a drive with my wife. When we got in the car my wife said "watch out for the Kitties"

So I started Looking really hard around the car so I could avoid running over any.

Then my wife punched me and said, "why would you do that, you shouldn't be looking so hard, do I not look good to you anymore?..."

Then three scantly dressed 18 year old girls walked by...

RE: Translation oddities?

Funny how they punch you when you're trying to drive or yell look out! suddenly and for no apparent reason.
My wife talks non-stop in the car (and has the radio on full blast - in the car, she has absolute control over the radio and heater controls, I get the TV remote at home, sometimes) and I could be spinning helplessly across the central divide into the oncoming traffic for all she really notices outside the car and in the midst of fighting to regain control she'd be saying petulantly "Are you listening to me?"

"Yes dear." is a conditioned response so I guess she'd never notice any transient perils.

The actual scenario hasn't yet arisen, but if it does, that's exactly what she will do and say.

"Kitties", huh?
I'll remember to keep an eye out next time.
Actually, about all my wife comments on that is outside the car are the young girls going by in the Arctic British weather dressed for the beach at Falaraki (scantily and badly). She is mostly annoyed that she is sitting with the car heater wound up to max and they are outside in the wind apparently unaffected by the cold.

Speaking of which, I remember a refinery project in Southern Siberia where the plant Managers daughter was acting as interpreter. Her English was very good and attractively accented. She was attractive. Her first day she arrived dressed elegantly in her fur coat and hat with a smart dress on and high heeled shoes.
It was 30degress below zero with deep snow and ice all over and we were having trouble keeping our footing with work boots on. We suggested she dress more appropriately for the next day and she turned up in jeans and sneakers.

It didn't help us concentrate any better but at least she was safer. My wife is OK with the group photo outside the instrument shelter for some reason, probably because she doesn't think such a badly dressed "kitty" would hold any allures for her old man.


RE: Translation oddities?

LOL, Great story. I've never had that luck -on the contrary. Some years ago I worked in a short project for a small company, where my boss was the project manager, and  his wife was in charge of sales and HR.
Bad idea: of course, only fat, elder ladies were hired for office positions, while the most gorgeous girls were kept 'on field' most of the time...So all the Engineering guys there had to pay the cost of having a jealous HR manager big smile

RE: Translation oddities?

Re: translation disasters...
I have had a bit of good time reading in this website (link below);- it is quite well known, but maybe there's one...

Red Flag This Post

Please let us know here why this post is inappropriate. Reasons such as off-topic, duplicates, flames, illegal, vulgar, or students posting their homework.

Red Flag Submitted

Thank you for helping keep Eng-Tips Forums free from inappropriate posts.
The Eng-Tips staff will check this out and take appropriate action.

Reply To This Thread

Posting in the Eng-Tips forums is a member-only feature.

Click Here to join Eng-Tips and talk with other members!


Close Box

Join Eng-Tips® Today!

Join your peers on the Internet's largest technical engineering professional community.
It's easy to join and it's free.

Here's Why Members Love Eng-Tips Forums:

Register now while it's still free!

Already a member? Close this window and log in.

Join Us             Close