Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lost in translation

One thing that's strange about Belgium is that they speak two different languages: Dutch and French. Where I live, in Antwerp, they talk Dutch. On the other side of the country they talk French. The city I work, Brussels, is unique. It's Dutch and French at the same time.

Officially, because wherever I go everybody speaks French. Today I wanted to look for a Dutch book in the bookstore but one bookstore had French books only and in a really big one there was only a sad little corner with Dutch books. I'd better spend my time looking for the book in Antwerp. I could have known that. To me, Brussels is French and that's that.

I don't have a lot of problems with it because I want to learn French and the best way to do that is to talk French to the people around you. But it gets difficult when the French speakers try to talk in a different language. The problem is that most of them aren't able to. In the trains the people who are checking the tickets always speak perfectly Dutch. But for some reason through the loudspeakers I always hear some retarded woman who speaks Dutch with such a French accent that it's impossible to decipher what she says.
And even in business situations it can get quite complicated. It happens very often that directions to retouchers, photographers, directors and illustrators get lost in translation. Big misunderstandings make my work really difficult.

Today I had a presentation from a woman who spoke English quite well. But still, there were a lot of spelling mistakes in her Powerpoint. I know that my English is not always flawless, but if I would make a presentation for an advertising agency, I'd make sure that at least somebody takes a second look at the spelling.

Brussels is the modern story of the tower of Babel. But I keep remembering myself that I shouldn't blame others for all the confusion. It's time that I seriously start to learn proper French. Slowly I'm learning and in half a year I will be able to understand everybody without any confusion.


Anonymous derekb said...

I tried working with a french speaking copywriter, on an European campaign. More than once he came up with headlines or concept lines in horrible English translated literarily from French. They worked for him, he thought it was funny wordplay but which made no sense whatsoever. Aaargh!

9:18 am  

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