The British government had the summary of its “Brexit” white paper translated into all other 23 EU official languages, however, it brought a lot of ridicule.
When the British government published its “White Paper” with the latest proposals for negotiations with the European Union, someone in the government bureaucracy got an idea. They thought that the 100-page paper should be accessible not only in English, but also in all the other 23 official languages of the EU. This was intended to bring sympathy points with the other partners in the EU.
Opinion: Brits are so bad at languages, we couldn’t even translate the Brexit white paper properly – it’s an embarrassment #Languages #Brexit #embarrassing https://t.co/sUi9xVDeQi pic.twitter.com/5y7hrBLAKk
— BLS (@bls_translation) August 2, 2018
What was meant well, did not end well, because the translation was met with ridicule. The German text, for example, was labeled “Deutsche” instead of “Deutsch.” The French translation for “a principled Brexit” was translated to “Brexit vertueux” and so on.
The Brexit Ministry promised corrections. At the same time it was emphasized that the small bumps are by no means decisive for the substance of the text.
But something else was decisive – the impression of incompetence. A German-speaking reader put it in a nutshell: “The translations were done by someone who learned German fairly well at school, but nothing more.”
7/ I would like to end this with a quote from Helmut Schmidt that will be on many politicians’ minds when they read the German version of the #Brexit White Paper: People who suffer from visions should go and see a doctor. /end pic.twitter.com/dLMaKfxvup
— Axel Antoni (@antoni_UK) July 19, 2018
The lack of foreign language skills is nothing new in the British administration. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, only 60 percent of staff in British embassies have “sufficient” local language skills. However, an institution like the British Foreign Office is expected to have specialists there who really know other languages - or who at least will get the texts edited by native speakers.
Translated from German: nzz.ch