Sunday, August 23, 2009

When it is lost in translation...

I guess one of the fun things about living in a place where you have to learn another language is when you see the things that are quite different between your mother tongue and the language you are learning... Here the local language is called Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian depending on which part of the country you are in or to whom you are speaking. In Zenica I was learning "Bosnian" but when I talked about it to my landlords it was "Croatian" (they were Bosnian Croats!). When I moved up here to Banja Luka in the Serb republic, it became Serbian...

Serbian and Croatian are distinguishable by the different scripts, ie Serbian tends to use cyrillic (like Greek or Russian) and Croatian uses the latinic (like English). There are some other distinctions, but they are pretty much the same language...It is just political really. Before the war in the former-Yugoslavia, they all spoke the "Serbo-Croat" language.

There is an interesting story about negotiations that happened during the war. They were held, I think, in Geneva at the UN buildings and they had those little earpiece translation thingies. You could chose which language you were going to listen to. So 1 was English, 2 French, etc. 4 was Serbian, 5 was Bosnian and 6 was Croatian, but they just had one translator for all 3 of those numbers!

Now, the local language is idiomatic, like English, and some of the sayings are just great, but maybe get a bit lost in translation: For example:
-left hand, right pocket (this one took me a while - it is talking about thievery where the left hand of the thief goes into the right pocket of the victim!)
-who doesn't have it in their head, has it in their legs (this is definitely MY saying - if you forget something you will have to run around more!)
-the dog doesn't bark for the village, but for itself (everyone is out for themselves!)
-you give him your pinky finger he takes your whole arm (give him a little and he takes the whole lot)
-their tongue is faster than their mind (another one for me... :-))

And Ljilja has a couple of her own which are really cute:
-I would go for a run, but I don't have anyone to run after... (her excuse for not exercising!)
-Come to yourself, if you have someone to come to... (or pull yourself together if you can!)
They sound much better in the local language of course!!

For Ljilja's birthday, we were at a fancy restaurant near Jajce, which obviously catered for a lot of foreigners as the menu was also in German and English. Some of the translations were quite funny... see if you would like to eat: lake trout on fire, luttuce, griled beff stake or paper salad! And the meals all came with contributions of race or chips. Yip, something definitely got lost in translation there!!!


Delaina said...

I know! There's a chiropractic/ massage place around here that I keep trying to take a picture of- but the owner gives me strange looks through the window. The sign says, "Relax and Reflesh"! Another common mistake in menus is "Flesh Salad". Yumm...

Shilo said...

Those were so fun! I loved reading them!
Hope you're having a great weekend!

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