Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Signal to noise ratios

The Pakistani cricket team has been banned from speaking English at news conferences during the World Cup. Well, thats surprising; I didn't realize they were speaking English all this time. Less cattily, and more seriously, though the official reason given is that they are likely to be misinterpreted if they use a language they aren't comfortable with, this move appears likely to simply substitute other, more convenient messages. Or just other misleading messages if the translation isn't up to par.

Back in the 1996-97 Australian season, Pakistan won a one-day international against Australia at the Adelaide Oval; Saqlain Mushtaq was the man of the match for his five-fer. At the awards ceremony, Saqlain showed up with an translator: Wasim Akram. In response to Tony Grieg's banal question on how it felt etc, Saqlain replied "Yeh sab Allah talah ki meherbani hai ki humne match jeeta; Wasim bhai neh bahut achi captani ki". Which Wasim translated as "it was a team effort; everyone played well". Saqlain had in fact said "its all God's grace that we won; Brother Wasim captained us very well". A relatively benign mistranslation (and perhaps Akram couldn't be bothered dealing with a pious teammate) but a mistranslation nonetheless.

There is a plus-side to all of this; the potential humor that lies ahead for those that are bilingual and will fall over laughing when they hear the bizarre renderings that lie ahead.

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