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Spot the foreign-language influence

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Anyone translator living in his or her source-language country needs to watch out for source-language interference. Similarly, an author who writes in one language but lives in a country that speaks a different language needs to be wary of interference from the host country’s language.

Today, Google recommended an article to me in which I noticed foreign-language interference almost from the beginning. See if you can spot it too in this article about the level of English in Spain, then click on “Continue reading” to reveal the answers.

  1. [He] makes it appear as if Darth Vader always spoke Spanish rather than the language of Shakespeare.

    As soon as I reached the second paragraph, I read something strange. If you’re not used to hearing speakers of other languages refer to English as “the language of Shakespeare” (usually to avoid repeating the word English), you probably imagined Darth Vader saying “Thy lack of faith I find disturbing” or “Nay, thy father am I”.

    That’s precisely what English-speaking people think of when they hear the expression “the language of Shakespeare”.

    If you don’t believe me, do a Google search and notice what comes up. The posts are not just about the English language. They’re about the English used by Shakespeare or his contemporaries.

    (As an aside, note that, above, I referred to “English-speaking people”, not to “Anglo Saxons”. When native English speakers hear the expression “Anglo Saxons” we start thinking of the Germanic tribes who invaded Great Britain in the 5th century.)

  2. The dubbing plays a large role in Spain…”

    Although the author says “the dubbing”, he’s not referring to a specific instance of dubbing. He’s referring to dubbing in general. The sentence should therefore say “Dubbing plays a large role in Spain”.

    This is source-language interference, since in Spanish, one would have to use the article: “El doblaje tiene un papel importante en España”.

  3. Another issue is the fact Spanish is the fourth most-spoken language in the world after English, Mandarin and Hindu.

    In Spanish, it is normal to use the word hindú to mean Indian. Where the intended meaning is Hindu, Spanish can use the word hinduista. The language

    In English, however, the word Hindu refer to religion, not to nationality.

    Neither English nor Spanish uses Hindu to refer to the Hindi language. However, I’ve still considered this to be source-language interference, as Spaniards commonly mix up the terms hindi, indio and hindú.

How did you get on? Did you spot all three instances? Did you spot any other source-language interference? Do you disagree with any of the three instances I found?

What do you do to avoid source-language interference?

Let me know in the comments!



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