Re: Appalling English

Subject: Re: Appalling English
From: Maaike Groenewege <mgr -at- mediasys -dot- nl>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 2000 10:18:01 +0100

Hi all,

I strikes me that regularly, translation issues on this list end up in
discussions about which language is most difficult to learn, how well
non-native people speak English and how badly native English speakers master
other languages.

Is this really relevant? The original posting was about language (mis)used
as a means to create a fashionable impression, not about language as a
communications tool (something which occurs here in the Netherlands quite a
lot too; especially on clothes you can read the most idiot English phrases).

When it comes to real translation and communication issues, I think there's
two points to consider: is translation economically feasible (this has
already been discussed in a previous posting), and does my audience need a

I've written English manuals for a Dutch audience and they were very happy
with it. Why? Because they were software programmers and got their education
in English, read English reference books, and wrote their code using English
conventions. Giving them a Dutch manual would only have caused them trouble,
because they would have had to translate all the Dutch technical terms back
into English.

On the other hand, I wouldn't dream of writing in English for an end user of
our software; contrary to what's been said in a previous post, lots of
people have a hard time understanding even basic English over here.

I guess that what I'm trying to say is that sweeping statements and popular
myths about the language knowledge of an entire population/country/continent
are not very helpful in resolving translation issues, even though they're
fun to read. Just like any other TW issue, it does help to find out who your
readers are and what their cultural, educational and linguistic background

Best regards,

Maaike Groenewege
Technical writer
Mediasystemen b.v., a Triple P company
The Netherlands

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