Sunday, May 31, 2020

Ave, Charles!

Charles writes an educational post on the perils of linguistic and cultural incompetence, which can lead to poorly translated news items. In a time of COVID-19, accurate translation is paramount. A quick excerpt:

You may not have read all of the articles I linked to above. That’s fine. I only really want to talk about a very small part of each of those articles, specifically how they reported on the measures announced by Mayor Park. At the very top of the France24 article, in bold, it is written that the mayor “ordered the closure of all clubs and bars.” The original Vox article stated that he “ordered all bars and clubs indefinitely closed.” CNN metonymically noted that “Seoul ordered all clubs and bars to temporarily close.” There are some differences in the choice of wording, most significantly “indefinitely” and “temporarily,” which have very different denotations and connotations, but all three articles agree on the “bars and clubs” (or “clubs and bars”) part. The final Vox article I linked to above, though, is the odd man out, writing instead that “the local government ordered bars and restaurants to be closed” (emphasis mine).

It should be obvious that there is something wrong with that last Vox article. What might be less obvious is that there is, in fact, something wrong with all of the articles; not only have restaurants in Seoul not been ordered to close, but bars have not been ordered to close, either. Furthermore, neither bars nor restaurants have ever been closed at any point during this pandemic. So how did these and other news outlets get it wrong?

Charles is too polite to engage in a frothing rant about the prevalence of fake news, which is partly due to the incurious, superficial, and reality-distorted nature of "journalists," but I'd say that bullshit slips into public discourse via many routes, including linguistic and cultural incompetence. Think deeply and translate well, newsies, although at this point I wouldn't trust any one of you to report my own name to me.


John Mac said...

Yeah, it's a sad and sorry state of affairs. I guess it's an old saw, but you don't really notice how ignorant the media is until they report on something you are knowledgable about. And when they are consistently wrong about that you can bet it's the same for everything.

I've got a couple of Itaewon bar owner friends on Facebook. I had read some of the news reports about the closures and when I inquired about it I was told they had not been ordered to shut down. Some did voluntarily for a couple of days to clean and disinfect. The real problem for them now is that Itaewon is like a ghost town. I just saw this morning that my old favorite hangout, Shenanigans, has reduced their hours and is now closed two days a week.

Charles said...

That was my version of a frothing rant. I try to sublimate my frustration into something that I wouldn't mind students reading.

Charles said...

John: Yeah, there's no doubt things are rough for a lot of places; there certainly aren't as many people out as there used to be. That being said, I think Itaewon has been hit the hardest--other areas seem to be busier, although still not up to normal capacity. I am trying to do my part and patronize my favorite places, even if it means heading out on the subway bemasked.