Planet Earth – Those of you who’ve read along know I have a pet peeve when it comes to menu translations. If you’re going to go to the effort to translate your menu into another language, have someone who speaks both do the translation. I didn’t personally encounter either of these, though after fits of laughing, I pass along links to two sites that were forwarded to me today – strange how these things come in at the same time…
The problem, I think, is one of either the traditional way of doing this – someone sits down with a dictionary and picks out a definition that they like from the list of possibilities, without having a clue – so many words can be translated as so many things. Or, in this day and age of the internet, someone uses an online service like Babelfish and hopes for the best – in that case, a computer picks the translation it likes best. As a mini-experiment, I took my last menu from one of my dinners and ran it through various online dictionaries from the Spanish to the English, until I came up with some fun and creative translations – it really wasn’t much work to mistranslate my menu! Admittedly, “llajwa” is a quechua term, not Spanish, but even it has it’s own variant translation used in political circles.
Here was the original printed menu text:
Pechugas en Adobo de Citricos, Remolachas al horno, Puré de Papas y Cebollas
Tarta de Manzana
What it should translate as:
Chicken breasts in a citrus marinade, Roasted beets, Puréed potatoes and onions
And the internet dictionary and online sources version:
I marinate in citric audacity, sugar beets from the kiln, thick soup from the hole and bulbs
Cake in a city block
I think I’m ready to go out and translate some menus now. Then I may just go marinate in my citric audacity.
[December 2016: Google has announced that its Translate service is now an “Artificial Intelligence” and that the translations are far more context oriented and correct. And several folk who’ve reviewed the translations seem to think so too. I’ve noticed that the little option I have over there in the second column to change the language does far better in Spanish than it used to. So, how does Translate handle things these days?
Scallops a la Llajwa with Tomatillos and Tomates Dried, Compote of Verdeos and Shallots
Breasts in Citrus Adobo, Baked Beets, Mashed Potatoes and Onions
I’d say that’s significantly better, though interesting that it seems to have forgotten the word “verdeos” meaning green onions.]