While it may surprise some readers of this blog, I actually do have a real job at a large, multinational company headquartered in Sweden. Because of the aforementioned “multinational”-ness, our official corporate language is English, something for which I am truly grateful as it has allowed me to be employed as a communications professional in a country where I am only passably fluent in the native language. (Whoda thunk it?!)
This means that all communication material generated at HQ here in Sweden is created in English first and then translated into as many as a dozen other languages depending on where it’s going to be used. But occasionally it happens that information originating at one of our subsidiaries (in the local language, naturally) needs to be distributed outside of the “home” country and then the process is reversed … except that the need for an English version can sometimes be an after-thought and therefore, a “rush job.”
I suspect this was the situation the other day when my boss (a Swede) asked me to try to “clean up the English” in a document that had obviously been converted directly from Italian with Google Translate … a fantastic tool that I freely admit to using multiple times a week. But as amazing as Google Translate is, it does not handle all languages equally well.
In this particular case the English text did not even make enough sense for me to be able to clean it up (in spite of the fact that I had a general idea of what it was supposed to be about). The document went back and forth between me, my boss and our Italian colleagues several times before we were comfortable that we had the message right. It honestly would have been faster and easier for me to have written the text from scratch.
Later I was cc’d on an e-mail from my boss to the Italian team suggesting that the next time they need a document in English, they should consider looping me in at the beginning of the process, thereby taking advantage of my skills as a “native American.” I’m pretty sure I snorted tea out of my nose when I read it.
It was a completely understandable and fairly hilarious mistake for a non-native English speaker to make, so naturally I had to share the story with Dr. Darling, who has been known to make a malaprop or two. The Swede agreed with me that I should probably have a “native American” name to go along with my Pirate Name (Captain RumJugs McScurvey) and we spent a good chunk of the evening coming up with appropriate-sounding monikers, including “Writes Like the Wind”, “Edits on Eagle’s Wings” and my personal favorite, “Dances With Words.”
But knowing my personality as she does, Dr. Darling is lobbying hard for “Sitting Bull-shit.”