Venice Mafia Houses Iranian Lesbian Political Refugee
Yes! It’s true!
It’s all here in this press release from Juris Lavrikovs, Information and Communications Officer of the Brussels-based ILGA-Europe (the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association):
Today the Mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari, issued the following statement:
It is my firm belief to join the international campaign launched to save Pegah Emambakhsh, the Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning in her Country for being a lesbian, who was denied asylum by the British Government and now risks to be expelled from Great Britain in the next few days and to be sent back to Iran, where she is going to meet certain death….
In its recent past Venice has already been a refugee-town for persecuted people, and within this tradition it is ready to host the Iranian woman, at least for the first period of time: the City of Venice, in cooperation with other bodies committed to save Pegah Emambakhsh, places a secure living facility at the woman’s disposal, in one sequestered houses of the local mafia (Mala del Brenta).”
Say what you want about the mafia: If they’re willing to take in lesbian/gay political refugees, they’re OK by me.
Sadly, of course, this is nothing more than a bad translation, the kind of silly, incompetent translation I see with damnable frequency. “Approximate English,” in fact, is fast becoming the lingua franca of Europe, which means that people who speak and write correct English (and who, presumably, thus teach and translate in the same) are being priced out of the market.
[What Cacciari’s statement actually says is that Venice would “… offer safe accommodation to Emambakhsh in one of the housing units the community has reclaimed from the Mala del Brenta criminal organization.” In Italy, real estate confiscated from the mafia is sometimes turned into public housing or community space.]
The most notable issue here, though, is a great mini-lesson in what translation is … and isn’t. It isn’t merely substituting words in one language with related words in another; it’s translating the sense or spirit or intention of a text. Here, putting aside for a moment that anyone might misunderstand the meaning of a word or two, does it make the slightest logical sense that the Venice mafia would offer housing to a lesbian political refugee?
The translator needs to ask him- or herself exactly that kind of question and, in so doing, recognize when there’s a problem with a proposed translation because it simply fails to be rational.
But ILGA produces teratogenic monstrosities of this ilk rather often. If what they send out in their press releases comes from a language I don’t know (and that’s most of them), I obviously can’t judge whether the translation is accurate. I can only judge how lousy the English is, and ILGA’s English is, frequently, lousy.
Don’t think I haven’t written to Juris Lavrikovs about it. I have. And he basically told me to fuck off and die (or, as ILGA might have it, “fuck offing and dead”). He, like so many people who work in English but aren’t native speakers, is actually quite proud of the English he … uses.
Okay. It’s easy to make fun of other people’s bad English. Too easy, in fact. And it’s not like native speakers have a corner on coherent usage. All you have to do is eavesdrop on a group of American students on their summer holiday in Italy:
That museum, you know, was like, you know, so, like, weak, and they wanted, like, eight euros to get in, and Jason was all, like, ‘Oh no you di’n’t, aiighggtt?’ But I was, like, syBAM! Omigod, we’re like, in Italy, okay? I’m so totally going in. I mean, act like a squeeb much?! I so wish I never, like, you know, saw his profile on myspace.
But it’s still irritating. There’s so much crummy translated “Approximate English” out there — on web sites and menus, in tourist materials and brochures, at museums and other public monuments, in legal and commercial information intended for English-speaking foreigners … you’d think a decent translator would be rolling in dough.
But you’d be wrong.
About a month ago, I wrote to the worthies who manage Tiziano Ferro’s web site to suggest that it might be appropriate for someone who actually speaks the language to translate the English version of his web pages. (Samples: “Following the brilliant results achieved at the high school, Tiziano enrolled at the university where he attended two different Faculties” and “During the two following years he enrolled into the Sanremo Song Academy … in 1998 he succeeded in getting one of the 12 finalists.”)
After a long delay, the extremely gallant Fabio Scroccaro, General Manager of World Wide Mind, Ferro’s web service (which is located, naturally, in Milano), wrote me this snotty reply:
Obviously your proposal has failed to arouse the slightest interest.
Expecting someone to respond to a proposal that no one ever asked you for demonstrates alarming rudeness.
Do not write to us again.
Of course I didn’t write again, but I can’t help but be curious: The finalist that Tiziano got in 1998 … was he one of the really cute ones?
Please sign my petition, Professional Standards for Written Translations in English