Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Lost in Translation

In a work place with 11 different nationalities we are all very aware of the misunderstandings and invisible barriers that crop up due to not having a common first tongue. But it is not at my work place where I have experienced most of my language issues.

From my new favourite comic series, Wasted Talent

Recently, I was down in Småland visiting my parents. My sister and her boyfriend was also there and while we were all (but one) gathered, we decided to drop by Farmor, my grandmother. My dad gives her a call to warn her of our coming and says something in the style of "Ts fästman är också med".
This, which was overheard by the rest of us, created an uproar as the translation means "T's fiancé is also with us" My dad was attacked by all of us of how he could say something that wasn't true to Farmor and why he had to go and do that for.
He tried his best to defend himself,
"It doesn't mean fiancé! It means boyfriend!"
This to no avail as we could quickly prove that it did in fact mean fiancé, Wikipedia, says so. Dad remained quiet the rest of the journey. Once at Farmor's place and comfortably settled, it was felt that we had to explain the misinformation that had been given to Farmor. As the explanation that T had her boyfriend with her and not fiancé was accounted to Farmor, Farmor looked baffled. Dad proceeded to ask her what does "fästman" mean?
"Well, it means a steady boyfriend, of course!"

When growing up, I learned most of my Turkish "on the street" so to speak. This meant that I adopted words and meanings in accordance to where I heard them used. This is usually a good way of learning a language as you get the feel of the language directly. I did experience some slight problems though. How words are used do not always reflect their meaning, especially when it is kids speaking. For most kids this will be corrected, if not at school, then at home. Both these correcting institutes did not come to my aid because a) I spoke Swedish or English with my parents, not Turkish, and b) I was only in Turkish school part time for 5 years.

This interesting way of learning Turkish gave me some problems later on. I remember being shown something really impressive and exclaiming "Oha!", having naturally learnt that this is what to exclaim when something surprises me. The shock on the person's face when I said this! The person lost no time in explaining that this is absolutely not something that should be said by a civilised person. I later looked it up in a dictionary and the translation that came up was "Woah!" or "Stop". This did not seem so bad, so I disregarded the person's warning, assuming that the person was just being a prude. It was not until much later that the true meaning of the word was understood by me.
The word is used for herding animals, usually cows. As with most words that have to do with animals in the Turkish language, the daily use becomes vulgar and a more accurate translation of the word would be "Oh S***!"

Moral of both these stories, don't trust the dictionary.

Comic by Gruhn