Wednesday, 18 February 2009

lost in translation

This morning, at nursery, a classic case of things just not translating very well.

I dropped Luke off first with a cuddle, a kiss and as he was steaming off into the classroom, looking around for who to play with, I said to the teacher in English: 'Here comes Trouble!'

She looked horrified, then worried. 'He isn't trouble!'

Already regretting my choice of words the conversation continued in a mixture of Bosnian and English as I tried to reassure her: 'no no no - it's affectionate. It isn't a bad thing to say!'

'He doesn't have trouble at nursery. He loves it here'

'I know, I know! He must love it here, he looks so happy and is having such fun' (Luke at this point has got hold of a car and with one hand is merrily bashing it on the table making a right old racket whilst stuffing his face with his second breakfast of the day with the other).

'he is always having kisses and cuddles with me and the other teacher and look at all his friends, Toni, Amila. He hasn't got any trouble here'

Really regretting my choice of words now, I try to explain that it doesn't mean anything bad. In fact it actually is a good thing because it means he is confident enough to be a bit naughty which is what toddlers should be.

'so why did you say he was trouble?'

'It's a phrase we use in English, it doesn't mean what it says. It is a good thing.' (Luke by now smearing his breakfast over his hair and starting on his neighbours breakfast)

'Are you having trouble outside of nursery? Any problems with people? You must tell us if you are'

I go back to basics. 'Luke loves the nursery here, he is very happy. I think I just used a phrase that doesn't translate well in Bosnian. He is a very happy boy here and I can see that. I'm sorry for any confusion caused.' (Luke now smearing breakfast over the cupboards and looking every inch a very cheeky toddler who is looking to create all sorts of havoc, which is exactly what a toddler his age should be doing and does show that he is comfortable, happy and confident at nursery).

He isn't trouble. He doesn't have any trouble. He is happy here.

And so on. We went round in circles for a while. I don't think we fully cleared it up. I'm now horrified that they now think that I don't like the nursery, which couldn't be further from the truth. I checked with a translator friend of mine - Bosnian doesn't have an equivalent phrase with the same meaning behind it. In other words, it just doesn't translate.

I think in future I should stick to the simple phrases that mean what they say.

1 comment:

Mummy said...

This made me giggle a lot. I find the amusing misunderstandings between my nanny (who has excellent English but not colloquially so) and I similarly trying.

Now Eve is walking, her father and I affectionately call her "trundles" and our nanny hasn't a clue what it means or why we use it.