Forced Entertainment - Tim on Thu, 13 Dec 2001 21:41:10 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> translation

this from today's Guardian.

Rome dispatch 
Lost in translation

Allegations that the Italian government has been economical with the truth
about comical translation blunders on an official website should come as
no surprise, writes Philip Willan

Wednesday December 12, 2001

Silvio Berlusconi has promised to dust the cobwebs from Italy's sclerotic
state bureaucracy. A gifted communicator, successful businessman and
master of modern technologies, to many electors he appeared just the man
for the job.

So it was particularly embarrassing when it emerged last week that the
presentation of his government to the world had been entrusted to a
hamfisted translating machine.

The lapse was discovered by the Rome daily, La Repubblica, which took
delight in exposing the macaronic English translations of ministerial
biographies posted on the official government internet site.

Clearly the uncorrected result of an automatic translation programme, the
texts ranged from the comic to the incomprehensible.

The biography of Lucio Stanca, the minister for innovation and a former
vice-president of IBM, was a typical example.

"Been born to Lucera (Foggia) 20 October 1941. Conjugated and it has two
daughters. In 1965 one has graduated in economy near the University of
Mouthfuls of Milan," it read.

Milan' prestigious Bocconi University had been subjected to a literal
translation of its name - a hacker could not have done more.

Renato Ruggiero, the foreign minister and another fluent English-speaker,
got the same treatment. "In 1977 it has been megaphone of the president of
the European Commission, Roy Jenkins, participating to the jobs that have
carried to the launch of European Monetary Sistema.

"Rocco Buttiglione, a philosophy professor and minister of European
affairs, we learn, studied "under the guide of Prof the Augusto of the
Walnut [a translation of the professor's name, del Noce] and with which a
lasted intellectual society beyond venti years will live."

Only the biography of the prime minister himself appeared in acceptable

"Communication wizards? No, digital illiterates," scoffed the opposition
Olive Tree alliance on its own website.

The government responded with a statement saying the biographies cited by
La Repubblica did not appear on the official government website, but in a
collateral cache that was only accessible to expert navigators.

In practice, it said, La Repubblica had managed to get hold of some test
pages that had never been made available to the public. The truth,
according to La Repubblica, is somewhat different.

The paper was alerted to the crass translations by a reader who had bumped
into them on the government website, while seeking information he needed
for the organisation of an international conference, said Sebastiano
Messina, the author of the article.

Those responsible for the government website removed the English
translation icon from the home page as soon as they were alerted to the
unintentionally humorous biographies, and the texts did then end up in an
inaccessible collateral cache.

Six months after taking office, the modernising, internet-friendly, public
relations-savvy government still has no English CVs of the cabinet
available on its website.

And if what Mr Messina says is true, it has been economical with the truth
about how the macaronic translations found their way into the public

Most Italians would probably accept that politicians have a limited
licence to lie. And Mr Berlusconi has sometimes found himself denying his
amply documented previous statements when it became expedient to disown

The most famous case is that of his unguarded words about the superiority
of western civilisation over Islam, uttered at a press conference in

The prime minister said his words had been twisted by a hostile leftwing
press, and distributed a definitive video version of his statement where
the offending phrase had been excised.

Arab ambassadors and the foreign press corps were among the recipients of
the doctored official version. The censored version recently reappeared in
a current affairs book by Bruno Vespa, a leading television journalist.

When asked about the omission, Mr Vespa explained that he had simply used
the official text sent him by the prime minister's office.

Mr Berlusconi's Mondadori publishing company was publishing the book and
the prime minister was present at the press conference for its launch.

Mr Berlusconi was similarly unfazed on Tuesday when he denied that Italy
had ever sought to eliminate specific crimes from the list prepared by EU
justice ministers for inclusion in the planned Europe-wide arrest warrant.

The world's press had been reporting for the best part of a week that Mr
Berlusconi's government objected to the inclusion of corruption and other
"minor" crimes in the new warrant.

Either Italy's justice minister had run out of control in Brussels or Mr
Berlusconi had changed his mind about what he was prepared to say he

One of the few European leaders to have been convicted of perjury - when
he denied membership of the illegal P2 masonic lodge - Mr Berlusconi
appears to have few qualms about the occasional need to massage the truth.

With the optimism of a media magnate who has made millions through
advertising, he is convinced that an imperfect reality can always be
air-brushed into something better.,7792,617612,00.html

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