Legal translation and interpreting weblog

Working Languages is by the mysterious CM, who works for the EU as a translator and interpreter, apparently.

In an entry on Eurospeak, for instance, he discusses an individual’s bad English (‘sensibly lower’ instead of ‘appreciably lower’) which enters EU legislation.

13 thoughts on “Legal translation and interpreting weblog

  1. Trevor: First of course, “sensibly lower” is being used in the sense of “appreciably lower”, not “readily appreciable”. But even there, of the first couple of dozen or so Ghits, most refer to the badly translated EU legislation, and others are clearly written by non-natives or heavily influenced by other languages. I simply don’t see how “sensibly lower” can be viewed as acceptable English, especially when compared with the French and German versions. Perhaps “distinctly lower” would be closer to the original. But “sensibly”? Certainly not in the English I’ve been speaking for the past 48 years. It belongs in the same burn-bin as translating “eventuell” as “eventually”.

  2. Agree with RobinB. Another related – and subtler – false friend is important for the FR ‘important’ term, also meaning substantial or large-scale. I have never heard an Eng-lang. radio or TV broadcast or seen a written UK/US journalistic article get the FR term right – always ‘important’ and not major companies or consignments. Surely EU and even ECHR translations must get that one right…

  3. I also have to agree with RobinB; “sensibly lower” does not fit, if measured against the German term “deutlich,” which I would also translate as something like “distinctly” or even “markedly.”
    Why go with a vague term that may be misunderstood, when you could use a easily understandable one?

  4. I thought ‘sensibly lower’ might have worked for Jane Austen, surely?

    It would be good to discuss this on the originating blog, of course, but it looks as if one has to register with Blogspot.

  5. There are loads of examples out there in the work of decent English (and Scottish) writers. For example, Robert Louis Stevenson: Libri found that the minimum winter temperatures were not sensibly lower in Florence, after the Apennines had been denuded of forest, than they had been dadada

    Tongue in cheek, I’d suggest that there is a danger for translators of indulging in crusades to improve the language as opposed to merely getting stuff right.

  6. Hadn’t spotted that you needed to register to comment. That’s now been fixed.

    Trevor(s?): I can only imagine you didn’t read the piece before commenting here.

  7. Can past freelance or inhouse ECJ translators be sued for ‘sensible’ mistakes? The inhouse species are unlikely to have been carrying prof. indemnity insurance.

  8. Trevor: But I do think it’s archaic, or only used in very elevated speech. After all, not everyone is as educated as you and me. Look at the mistake someone made, thinking it meant something different. I do think the person who originated it was acting in ignorance.

  9. Oh, it’s definitely archaic in native speaker usage–I think Henry James was one of its last major fans, and he read way too much French–but there was little old conservative me, thinking that one of the functions of the EU and, by extension, its translators, was to maintain–nay, revive–the great cultural achievements of its component entities. I apologise.

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