All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Living the nightmare

Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516)Image by Hunter333 via Flickr
A friend has asked me to look over a document translated from French to English on behalf of a friend of hers and, although I have given up on all this stuff, I agree.

After all, it's Sunday and as I am not allowed to vote for the so and sos who will be throwing my money away on wild projects like building skating rinks at a time of economic armageddon, I am confined to the house, so I might as well.

It downloads....just the English version.

I am old enough to remember Japanese imports arriving together with the helpful translation of how to assemble or to use same, which made you think that either Japanese translators were not up to much, or else that disgruntled ex POWs were doing their best to scuttle the Japanese export drive.
Since father, many of whose friends had gone into the bag at Singapore, never to emerge, would have nothing Japanese in the house, my knowledge was acquired at the houses of friends whose fathers - considerably younger than mine - were to be found wrestling with parts and instructions which seemed to have absolutely no correlation.

I learned several new and interesting words at these moments.
Especially from Rhonwen's father.
He used the same ones when finding us descending the main staircase at speed on a silver tray which was designated for the drawing room.

Well, Rhonwen's father's vocabulary would have been useful to describe my reaction to the translation before me.
By long acquaintance with French documents, I grasped what it was supposed to be about, but there was no way I would have guessed otherwise.

I 'phoned my friend.

Where was the original?

With the translator.

Could I see it?

Umm..she'd see...

Well, that was on Sunday and on Monday she rang back.

Her friend's translator wouldn't let her have the original back until she had been paid for the translation.

So how come the translation was in her hands but not the original?

Well, she needed that for her bank in the U.K. urgently, so the translator let her have that, but not the original.

And has she sent that to her bank?

Yes, but that was when she realised she didn't understand it.

It sounds a bit weird. When I use official translators, they send me the whole shebang together with a bill.

Oh, she didn't use an official translator. She got an English woman who teaches French to do it.

What, someone who teaches French in France? How did she manage to get a job?

Oh no, not in school...she teaches French to other English.

The scales fell from my eyes...yet another case of the blind leading the blind and expecting compensation for use of the white stick.

Further enquiry revealed that my friend's friend had aired her problem at a get together of British immigrants and had been told that Mrs. X would see to it for her.

Mrs. X did indeed see to it. She made a dreadful hash of the translation, assured the friend that the only reason she didn't understand it was because it was a legal document and presented a bill of eye watering proportions.

No, Mrs. X does not work on the black...she is a declared auto entrepreneur, though I would have thought that translation demands a bit more than just stating that you do it for money...translation, that is.

I use official translators when I am forced to do so by French regulations - usually for stupid things like a birth certificate which has to have been obtained no longer than three months before it is required for whatever beaurocratic process demands it.
You're only born once, so why can't the original certificate be used?
Because in France, at every step of the way, someone has to be paid.

However, occasionally I need something more complicated to be officially translated and in my experience they have done a good job at quite reasonable rates - but I don't use agencies where the boss creams off the profits and the translators get a poor deal.

Mrs. X is demanding a hell of a lot more than I think a real translator would ask, and she is hanging on to the original until the friend's friend divvies up.

My friend has rung again.

Her friend has paid up and had her document returned.
She complained that it was impossible to understand it and been told yet again that it was a legal document so she wouldn't be able to understand any language.
You need, it seems, the superior intelligence of Mrs. X for that.

She then said that it wasn't just her. I had said it was incomprehensible too.

That was when the solids hit the fan.

Why had she gone to me? Didn't she know what a trouble maker I was? Didn't she know that I was more French than the French (!) and out to make sure no one British could get any work? Goodness, the trouble I had caused for poor Brits just trying to scratch a living over the years..... And who was I anyway to say whether a translation was any good!

The upshot of all that was that my friend has been upbraided by her friend for getting me to look over the translation and thus putting her...friend of hot water with the local Brits.

And that is why I don't do these sort of favours any more. Election day must have gone to my head.
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