Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lost in Translation

Ever wondered why the foreigners in Hindi films mangle the few Hindi words that they utter ? It’s because that’s how they are taught to utter them. Consider the gems below from a guidebook titled ‘Hindustani for the tourist – A Phonetic Phrase Book for Everyday Use’. Read the phonetic translations out loud to get the full flavour, do not miss the hyphens ‘which show the division of syllables in a word, where you should have a slight pause in your pronounciation’.

‘Kartik’ becomes ‘Car-tick’ ; ‘Kitne’ becomes ‘Kit-nay’.
‘Sawan’ becomes ‘Sah-won’, almost Japanese !
In a throwback to more polite times, “please” is translated as “meherbani karke” (what happened to ‘kripya’?), phonetically as “mayher-baanee kar-kay”.

In the ‘All About Yourself’ section, amongst sentences to befriend the locals are these two, “I am a bachelor” and “I weigh 82 kilos”, important if you are meeting a lot of good-looking young Indian women. Though they might be a bit confused after you utter these sentences, “ Maiyn Coohn-ara hoohn” and “May-rah wazan bay-ah-see kilo high”.

Consider a few sentences to be exchanged with the Dhobi (‘Doe-Bee’).
“Have these cleaned and pressed.” As we would say in Hindi, “Ye dho kar istri karo”. But this is phonetically translated as, “Ye doe kar isstree karo”.
“This is not clean.”
“Yah saaf nahin hai.”
Ya saaf na-heenh high.”
“Press these correctly.”
“Ye theek tarah se istri karo.”
Ye teak tarah se isstree karo,”
Really, ‘teak’ ?!

And which foreigner could survive in India without knowing how to speak to a shoemaker ? Hence the following :
“Can you make a pair of shoes for me ?”
“Tum mere liye joote banaa sakte ho?”
Toom may-ray lee-eh jootay bun-nah suck-tay ho ?”

Sample the howlers below which translate words correctly but get the meaning in this context absolutely wrong :
“Can you make a pair of heels ?”
“Tum eriyan bana sakte ho?”
“Toom ehri-yahn bun-nah suck-tay ho ?”
Some confusion between a shoemaker and a surgeon here !
“Have you got patent leather?”
“Tumhare paas koi achchha chamra hai?”
Toom-ha-ray pass ko-ee atch-chah chum-rah high ?”
Only if the shoe-maker moonlights as a pimp !

From questions included in the list of critical inquiries to be made before checking in at a hotel, one knows what the author of this book thinks of foreigners and their habits :
“Can I dine in shorts at lunch?”
“Main nekar pahan kar dopahar ka khana kha sakta hoon”
Maiyn nicker pahan-ker doe-pahar kah kah-nah kah suck-tah hoon?”
“Where is the bar?”
“Bar kidhar hai?”
“Bar kidder high ?”
“Is there a cabaret?”
“Idhar ‘cabaret’ hai ?”
“Iddar ‘cabaret’ high ?”
“Can I bring ladies to my room?”
“Auraton ko apne kamre mein la sakta hun ?”
“Ow-rut-ohn ko up-nay come-ray mayn lah suck-tah hoohn?”
I know some people describe women as a pain-in-the-ass, but ‘Ow-rut’ !

More of these next week, folks.


Rohini said...

Good post. Have you been reading the English to Hindi translation guide? Why?

Entropy said...

Plead guilty to reading the English to HIndi translation guide.
It is too funny to miss.

A friend of mine found it at a second-hand bookstore and made the mistake of showing it to me. I promptly borrowed it and have been chuckling away ever since (Thanks V).


Anonymous said...

this is super! have to collect all the english to hindi script re-statements and put those down too.
Nitta Travels.

Entropy said...

Hi Naffu,
The Nitta travels gave you away.

Sure you have a list of the funny script-related stuff. Send it across to me once you are back and I will post it here.