fbpx

Translating Obama

Russians may have a bit of a different understanding of what Barack Obama said during his inaugural speech.  From the Moscow Times:

One problem for translators was the list of American values Obama called upon Americans to return to — “hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism.” They were variously rendered as: трудолюбие и честность, отвага и справедливость, терпимость и интерес к миру, преданность и патриотизм (diligence and honesty, courage and justice, tolerance and interest in the world, devotion and patriotism); and работа и честность, смелость, ответственность, лояльность и патриотизм (work and honesty, courage, responsibility, loyalty and patriotism). Not quite a perfect match.

In another passage, one translator had some problems with English verb forms and may not have known American society very well. Obama said, “A man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant,” which came out in Russian: человек, отец которого приехал в эту страну и которому ещё 60 лет назад не разрешили бы работать в ресторане (a man whose father came to this country and who even 60 years ago would not have been allowed to work in a restaurant). Americans know that he could have gotten a job there; he just couldn’t have sat at the counter.